The Group’s interest-bearing liabilities decreased to EUR 214.6 million during the first quarter of 2020. Net interest-bearing debt decreased to EUR 187.6 million and gearing fell to 158.5% (12/2019: 162.2%, 3/2019: 181.1%). The Group’s equity ratio at the end of the first quarter was 29.9% (12/2019: 30.1%, 3/2019: 28.3%). Net financial expenses totaled EUR -1.1 (-1.0) million. The average rate of interest-bearing liabilities, excluding lease liabilities, was 1.5% (1.6) during the first quarter of 2020.
The Group’s liquidity position remained strong during the first quarter of 2020. Cash and cash equivalents increased and were EUR 27.0 million at the end of the first quarter. Committed revolving credit facilities, totaling EUR 40.0 million, were fully unused, as in comparative periods. EUR 18 million of Aspo’s EUR 80 million commercial paper program was in use (12/2019: EUR 21 million, 3/2019: EUR 19 million).
In April 2020, it was agreed to postpone the maturities of both the EUR 20 million revolving credit facility maturing in the second half of 2020 and the EUR 25 million bond to the last quarter of 2021.
In April 2020, Aspo issued a new hybrid bond of EUR 20 million with a fixed interest rate of 8.75 percent. The hybrid bond does not have a specified maturity date, but the company is entitled to redeem it for the first time in May 2022. At the same time, Aspo repurchased its hybrid bond of EUR 25 million (with an interest rate of 6.75%) at EUR 18.4 million. The repurchase was conditional on the issuance of a new hybrid bond. The unpurchased part, EUR 6.6 million, will be repaid on May 27, 2020.
In September 2019, Aspo Plc participated in a EUR 40 million group bond guaranteed by Garantia Insurance Company with a loan unit of EUR 15 million. The loan has a maturity of five years and a fixed annual coupon rate of 0.75%. In addition to the coupon rate, Aspo will pay an annual guarantee provision to Garantia. The proceeds from the loan unit will be used to cover the Group’s general financing needs.
In September 2015, Aspo issued a senior unsecured private placement bond of EUR 11 million. The fixed rate bond has a maturity of seven years and it matures on September 29, 2022. The bond lengthened the average maturity of Aspo's debt portfolio. The proceeds from the issue were used for general corporate purposes.