Serving the same masters while competing: Common ownership of listed companies in Iceland

Ásta Dís Óladóttir, Friðrik Árni Friðriksson, Gylfi Magnússon, Valur Þráinsson


The article analyses common or horizontal ownership of shares on the Icelandic Stock Exchange. We compare this to common ownership of listed shares in the U.S. The situation in Iceland has not been subject to much formal research despite clear signs of concentrated ownership. We look at three Icelandic markets where two or three competing firms all have their shares listed on the stock exchange. The markets are for insurance, telecommunications and real estate. We also look at the holdings of shares by Icelandic pension funds at four points in time, the years 2003, 2007, 2014 and 2016.
Although the stock market has changed considerably in many respects within that timeframe, making direct comparison difficult, we conclude that common ownership was far less prevalent before the crash, both among pension funds and all shareholders. At mid-year 2016, the pension funds dominated holdings of shares in most listed companies in Iceland. The largest pension funds each held shares in almost all listed companies. In the three markets that we analyse the pension funds held over 45% of the shares in real estate companies, 35% in insurance and 50% in telecommunications.
We do not analyse the consequences of this concentrated and common ownership on competition and prices. That remains a subject for further study. Based on the results from research into the effects of common ownership in the U.S. this development should though clearly be a cause for concern.


Common ownership; stock exchange; pension funds; insurance; real estate; telecommunications.

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