AKI OJANEN, CEO OF ASPO GROUP, COMMENTS ON FULL-YEAR 2019 AND THE FOURTH QUARTER
(published in the Financial Statement Release on February 13, 2020)
“Our expectations for 2019 were exceptionally high in terms of increase in both net sales and operating profit. As the year went on, we were, however, forced to lower our guidance due to operational challenges faced by Telko and weakening market conditions in ESL Shipping’s business. In 2019, our net sales were at a record high of EUR 588 million and our operating profit improved slightly to EUR 21.1 million. Net cash from operating activities developed very positively, reaching a new record of EUR 52.5 million in 2019, of which the positive effect of the adoption of the IFRS 16 standard was approximately EUR 14 million. Strong net cash from operating activities is in a key position in increasing our distributed dividends, reducing our indebtedness and carrying out future investments.
Aspo’s businesses have analyzed the external and internal factors that have slowed the increase in our operating profit, and corrective actions have been taken. We believe that these corrections help us to increase our results to the level enabled by Aspo’s current structure.
In 2019, unexpected industrial stoppages and lower transportation volumes in the steel industry, in particular, had a negative impact on the profitability of our shipping company’s operations and on Aspo’s total results. On the other hand, positive factors were the development of the results of AtoB@C, a shipping company acquired in Sweden, particularly during the final quarter. I am also very satisfied with the operational efficiency and low energy consumption of our LNG-fueled vessels. Unfortunately, other shipping company operations suffered from the exceptionally steep decline in transportation volumes in the steel and energy industries, due to which part of the fleet was kept at port during the final quarter. Considering how challenging the market situation was, ESL Shipping’s operating profit for the final quarter can be regarded as a good achievement.
Telko reached an unusually low operating profit during the final quarter. This was primarily a result of the actions taken by the company’s new management that aim to improve the efficiency of the working capital by optimizing the stock levels and to reduce price and currency risks. The aim of these actions is to ensure that Telko’s profitability improves in 2020.
Leipurin’s operations developed positively during the final quarter of 2019. The net sales and profitability of bakery operations improved, with development being particularly strong in eastern markets, as bakery operations continued to grow and the operating profit rate of entire Leipurin business in eastern markets climbed over 11%.
Although 2019 did not meet our expectations in terms of operating profit, I firmly believe in Aspo’s long-term profitability and the effectiveness of our strategy. Major investments have been made in recent years, and in the near future we will focus on improving our profitability in all our business operations.”