Target is to continue profitable growth
After completing the restructuring, 2017 was Metsä Board’s first full year as a pure-play paperboard company. In line with our strategy, we are focusing on the production of premium lightweight fresh fibre paperboards. Through Husum mill’s new folding boxboard capacity, we are well positioned to meet the growing global demand for fresh fibre paperboards. In 2017, our total paperboard deliveries grew from the previous year, and our profitability improved markedly.
Megatrends support growing demand for fresh fibre paperboard
Demand for packaging materials made from fresh fibre paperboard is supported by strong megatrends, such as population growth and urbanisation, as well as the increasing requirements for recyclable, resource-efficient and safe packaging materials. More and more, fresh fibre paperboard is being used to replace plastic and recycled paperboard, particularly in food and food service packaging.
Demand for fresh fibre paperboards grew globally in 2017, and price levels in local currencies increased. Metsä Board also announced paperboard price increases in 2017.
Metsä Board’s target is profitable growth exceeding the average market growth. In 2017, our paperboard deliveries grew by 15 per cent from the previous year. As expected, Husum’s folding boxboard was the most significant growth factor, but our white kraftliner deliveries were also on a higher level than last year.
Five out of our eight mills, Tako, Husum, Simpele, Kaskinen and Joutseno, set new annual production records. The average price of folding boxboard was burdened by the geographical sales mix of folding boxboard from Husum especially in the first half of the year. However, the situation improved towards the end of the year, and paperboard deliveries to the Americas grew. The strong pulp market and higher-than-expected pulp prices supported our profitability throughout the year.
In April, we started a new extrusion coating line at the Husum mill in Sweden. The line produces PE-coated paperboards suitable for food and food service packaging. We are now well positioned to serve the global food service packaging market through better product availability and competitive quality.
The new bioproduct mill of Metsä Fibre, our associated company, started up in August according to plan, in an excellent market situation. At the end of the year, its production was at a higher level than expected, and its customer deliveries were off to a good start.
Our cash flows from operations grew substantially in 2017, and we have a strong balance sheet. In the autumn, we issued a ten-year bond. The bond was oversubscribed, which reflects the loan market’s strong confidence in Metsä Board’s future.
Responsibility and sustainability at the core of our operations
Sustainability and responsible business operations are integral parts of our operations. Sustainability and responsibility must begin with senior management, to ensure commitment throughout the organisation. In 2017, we again received wide recognition for our sustainability practices, from CDP and EcoVadis, among other parties. Ensuring well-being and safety at work is particularly important for us, and our investment in these aspects has produced visible and tangible results. We have a low employee turnover rate and our accident frequency rate has decreased year on year.
As part of operational development we renewed our key marketing messages and harmonised our product and service portfolio. This strengthens our market position as a company focusing on premium, lightweight paperboards. With our ‘Better with Less’ concept, we aim to promote packaging solutions that create better consumer experiences with less environmental impact. The increasing environmental and product safety requirements and the growing emphasis on the appearance of packaging are driving demand for premium, lightweight, sustainably produced packaging materials. Metsä Board’s paperboards bring all these qualities together. Our products are complemented by three service areas: packaging analysis and design, availability services and technical expertise and R&D. The aim is to jointly with customers develop lighter and more efficient packaging solutions.
A clear direction for the future
Our vision is to be the preferred supplier of premium paperboards creating value for customers globally. This gives us a clear future direction. We want to continue to develop our products and services in line with our customers’ needs, and we want to respond profitably to the growing market demand. Our highly competent employees, clear strategy and strong financial position make me confident in Metsä Board’s future development.
I would like to extend my thanks to our customers, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders for the past year.