CEO Mika Joukio's review

CEO's review

Metsä Board's CEO Mika Joukio comments on the performance of the company.

CEO's comment in January–September 2021 interim report   

“Demand for sustainable fresh fibre paperboards has been strong across all end-uses and all of our market areas. Our profitability has developed very well this year, and the favourable market situation provides us with an excellent start for next year.

In July–September, the delivery volumes of our paperboards declined slightly from the previous quarter, and were 475,000 tonnes. The decline in delivery volumes was partly attributable to the fire at the Husum pulp mill in the summer, causing losses in both paperboard and market pulp production.

Our comparable operating result in July–September was EUR 104 million, or 20.1% of sales. Correspondingly, our comparable operating result in January–September was EUR 295 million. Our profitability improved thanks to the increased prices for paperboards and market pulp, as well as the higher sales volumes of paperboards.

At the same time, our result was burdened by faster than expected cost inflation. In particular, the prices of energy, chemicals and logistics have increased rapidly over recent months. Total costs in 2021 will be significantly higher than they were last year. We expect cost level to remain high also in 2022.

Our interest-bearing net debt was negative at the end of the review period. Our strong financial position creates a solid basis for our sustainable investments in growth and development, of which we have several ongoing and planned. The renewal of the Husum pulp mill will increase our competitiveness and take us closer to our ambitious sustainability targets for a fossil free future. By increasing our folding boxboard and white kraftliner capacity, we are responding to the growing demand of our customers. Our total investments in 2021–2022 will amount to approximately EUR 450–550 million.

Together with our partners, we are continuously developing and testing innovative solutions which support circular economy. During the review period, we announced collaboration with the Finnish startup company The Paper Lid Company. In addition, we’ve launched a 360 service, which benefits our customers across the packaging value chain. Reducing the volume of plastic waste is more important than ever, and this has been visible in the rapidly growing demand for our dispersion barrier coated paperboard, for example. Paperboard packaging made from a renewable material is a good alternative to plastic. They are easy to recycle and can create positive consumer experiences.”

Mika Joukio

 

Review in the 2020 Annual Report: A strong year for Metsä Board

The paperboard market has been strong and the operational efficiency of our mills has been high, even in the challenging year of the coronavirus pandemic. Our strategy to focus on profitable growth in fresh fibre paperboards has proven to work and we are now in an even stronger position to develop our core business.

The past year has been exceptional. In spring, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which are still present, shook the whole world. The top priority in our operations has been to ensure the safety of our employees, prevent the virus from spreading and secure the continuity of our business. I think we have succeeded well in achieving these aims. We have avoided cluster infections and our deliveries have continued without disruption during the pandemic. The annual maintenance shutdowns at our mills were also carried out successfully. The production efficiency of our mills was at a high level and we achieved new production records. I have seen positive attitudes, great teamwork and commitment in daily work – in line with precautionary measures and safety instructions. I would like to express my sincere thanks to our personnel for their excellent performance during these difficult times. 

The coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for pure and safe packaging materials, particularly in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries. Our product portfolio responds well to this demand, and our efficient supply chain has ensured continuous and reliable deliveries to our customers. Our paperboard deliveries in 2020, totalling 1,810,000 tonnes, were at a higher level than in the previous year. This is an excellent achievement considering that our business, and particularly our results early in the year, were burdened the paper industry strike in Finland, which lasted for more than two weeks. Our comparable operating result in 2020 was EUR 221 million and the return on capital employed was 12.2%. Cash flow from operations was strong, EUR 308 million. In accordance with our dividend policy, the Board of Directors proposes a distribution of EUR 0.26 per share. 

WE GAIN A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE BY BEING A FORERUNNER IN SUSTAINABILITY AND COLLABORATING IN INNOVATIONS 

We aim to be a forerunner in sustainability. For us, this means investing in resource efficiency and combating climate change, in sustainable products and the supply chain, and in the sustainable use of forests. We aim for entirely fossil free production and products by 2030. Our sustainability targets have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative, and they meet the strictest requirements of the Paris Agreement, aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In recognition of the control of greenhouse gas emissions and the sustainable use of water resources, Metsä Board was again accepted on to the CDP’s respected Climate A and Water A lists in 2020. In the CDP’s forest programme, we achieved level A-. 

Growing consumption and the increased demand for sustainable packaging solutions are accelerating the need for innovations and close cooperation with customers and technology partners. The new state-of-the-art Excellence Centre in the bioeconomy ecosystem of Äänekoski, which we opened in September, provides an excellent platform for development collaboration. As part of Metsä Group, we participate in large-scale collaboration projects which aim to develop high-volume bioproducts with a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to products currently on the market. An example of this is the 3D fibre product presently under development. 

OUR STRATEGY EMPHASISES CLEAR CHOICES WHICH ENABLE OUR SUSTAINABLE GROWTH 

Our strategy to focus on premium and recyclable fresh fibre paperboards has proven correct, and we will continue to implement it. Customers value our services and the high and consistent quality of our products, based on the excellence of our mills and tailor-made high-quality pulp. Late last year, we announced a cooperation arrangement with the Swedish forest owners’ cooperative Norra Skog, which will enable us to allocate more capital to the The new state-of-theart Excellence Centre in the bioeconomy ecosystem of Äänekoski provides an excellent platform for development collaboration. development of the paperboard business in the coming years. Self-sufficiency in pulp and the stable market situation in the paperboard business support our future investment plans. 

Population growth, urbanisation and climate change continuously set more requirements for packaging in terms of sustainability, recyclability and product safety. I see these as excellent opportunities to develop our business operations, grow profitably and create value for our shareholders. 

Finally, I would like to thank our customers, employees and other partners for their trust and cooperation in 2020. We have a good starting point for 2021 – a favourable market situation, a strong financial position, and safe and sustainable products that meet growing global consumer demand. I am positive and confident about the future.  

Mika Joukio

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