AKI OJANEN, CEO OF ASPO GROUP, COMMENTS ON THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2021
(published in the Interim Report on May 5, 2021)
Aspo achieved strong results during the first quarter of 2021, even though the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a negative impact on the operating conditions of some of our businesses. The Group’s operating profit reached a new record of EUR 7.9 (4.0) million during the first quarter. This significant increase in the operating profit resulted from Telko’s considerably improved profitability, with ESL Shipping’s Q1 results also being the strongest in its history.
Our potential to achieve our financial targets set for 2023 was already reflected strongly in our first quarter’s figures. Our operating profit rate increased to the targeted 6%, our return on equity exceeded the target of 20% and gearing continued to decrease towards the targeted 130%. This trend results from correct choices and the unrelenting fulfillment of our strategy in our businesses.
ESL Shipping is within the scope of tonnage taxation, which is why Aspo’s tax efficiency has improved, driven by the shipping company’s improved results. Aspo’s earnings per share during the first quarter were EUR 0.19, which can be regarded as an excellent start to 2021. Now that the most significant financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are starting to ease off, Aspo’s operating profit for the previous six months has increased to EUR 15.5 (9.4) million, which is a clear indication of our conglomerate’s strong ability to overcome crises and to recover quickly, and also of our profit-making potential. The Group’s previous significant investments and business transactions also enable our strong development in the future.
The market situation continued to improve during the first quarter. The rapid recovery of international markets has raised raw material prices unusually quickly and even resulted in problems with availability. Shipping freight rates, important for Aspo, have improved, and especially the freight rates of the largest vessel category have recovered to a good level. However, the future development of prices and the availability of raw materials are still difficult to predict at present regarding the fall and the rest of the year.
Even though markets have already started to recover, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic can still be seen strongly in many of our operating countries. During the first quarter, movement restrictions increased particularly in the Baltic and Finnish markets. In Scandinavia, the situation has largely remained unchanged, while restrictions and lockdowns have been lifted in Russia and eastern markets. We succeeded well in eastern markets, with profitability improving even further in the market area. Eastern markets continue to be a strategically important market area and a source of organic growth for Aspo.