The Group's net interest-bearing liabilities decreased to EUR 167.7 million, and gearing fell to139.0% (158.5) at the end of the first quarter 2021. The Group’s equity ratio was 31.1% ( 29.9) at the end of the first quarter 2021.
Net financial expenses totaled EUR -0.9 (-1.1) million in January–March 2021. The average rate of interest-bearing liabilities, excluding lease liabilities, was 1.5% (1.5).
The Group’s liquidity position remained strong. Cash and cash equivalents were EUR 29.9 million at the end of the first quarter. Committed revolving credit facilities, totaling EUR 55.0 million, were fully unused, as in the comparative period. Of Aspo's EUR 80 million commercial paper program EUR 8 (18) million was in use.
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.