The Group's net interest-bearing liabilities decreased to EUR 169.1 (197.9) million, and gearing was 149.0% (162.2%) at the end of the fourth quarter 2020. The Group’s equity ratio was 30.1% (30.1%) at the end of the fourth quarter 2020.
Net financial expenses totaled EUR -4.5 (-2.9) million in January–December 2020. The adjustment of EUR 1.4 million related to Telko’s taxation from 2015 increased financial income during the comparative period. The average rate of interest-bearing liabilities, excluding lease liabilities, was 1.5% (1.4%).
The Group’s liquidity position remained strong. Cash and cash equivalents were EUR 32.3 million at the end of the fourth quarter. Committed revolving credit facilities, totaling EUR 55.0 million, were fully unused, as in the comparative period. EUR 11 million of Aspo’s EUR 80 million commercial paper program was in use (12/2019: EUR 21 million). The efficiency of the Group’s cash management was improved by adopting the Nordic multi-currency cash pool structure during the fourth quarter.
In April, Aspo issued a new hybrid bond of EUR 20 million. The coupon rate of the new bond is 8.75% per annum. The bond has no maturity, but the company is entitled to redeem it in May 2022 at the earliest. At the same time, Aspo repurchased part of its former hybrid bond of EUR 25 million at EUR 18.4 million in accordance with the tender offer regarding the bond. The repurchase was conditional on the issuance of a new hybrid bond. The unpurchased part of the former hybrid bond of EUR 6.6 million was 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.