In 2019 Ferd Capital continued to focus on investment opportunities that make the most of Ferd’s ability to be flexible, to enter into partnerships and to take a long-term approach.
Ferd Capital achieved a return of 16% in 2019.
Many of the companies in the portfolio delivered good earnings growth.
Toward the end of 2019 Ferd became the new majority shareholder in Simployer AS (formerly Infotjenester AS).
We sold our entire shareholding in Scatec Solar, which had increased strongly in value. In 2019 we increased our ownership interest in the listed company Nilfisk (Denmark).
The macroeconomic development has been turbulent in 2019. Growth weakened in developed markets, while trade wars and Brexit created uncertainty about future prospects. In order to address this, central banks in Europe and the USA cut interest rates. In the financial markets, equities had a very strong year, with the world’s leading indices climbing 25-30%. Norway’s equity market grew strongly as well. It was, however, weaker than the markets around us with an increase of 16%. As a result of these developments, equities are in general trading at high valuations relative to historical levels. The increasing focus on ESG investing was also a central trend in 2019, and this affected the valuation of individual companies and sectors.
In 2019 Ferd Capital continued to focus on investment opportunities that make the most of Ferd’s ability to be flexible and to take a long-term approach. In the market for more traditional transactions we again experienced a high level of competition for new investment opportunities in 2019, and we expect this to continue.
- Aibel achieved a high level of activity and strong project execution in all its business areas, with Njord Bravo and Johan Sverdrup P2 both making an important contribution. In 2019 the company strengthened its position in offshore wind by winning the EPC contracts for the Dolwin 5 and Doggerbank projects. In 2019 Aibel’s total order intake was in excess of NOK 12 billion, as compared to NOK 13 billion in 2018.
- Brav took new steps in 2019 on its journey towards becoming a professional house of brands. Driven by strong growth in its international markets, Brav’s total revenue increased slightly in 2019 compared with 2018, despite turbulent Norwegian and Nordic sports markets. Brav has invested significant resources in digital infrastructure and organisational development in 2019 as well. While this has impacted earnings short-term, it is essential for developing a platform for profitable growth going forward.
- Fürst Medisinsk Laboratorium maintained its market share in 2019 and continued to deliver strong results thanks to its continuous focus on reliable operations and high technical quality in each aspect of production. Good, user-friendly IT systems and an excellent level of service for both existing and new customers are two of Fürst’s competitive advantages. In 2019 Fürst’s development of WebMed, a new electronic patient record system for primary healthcare, which was spun out into a separate company in autumn 2019, took a big step forward. WebMed’s launch is planned for 2020.
- Elopak made good progress in 2019 on its initiatives to deliver growth and increase the efficiency of its operations. The company grew its revenue in North America and in the aseptic milk carton market. A number of the company’s new aseptic filling machines were deployed for use for both juice and milk. Elopak also invested in new resources to strengthen the company’s sustainability work and strategic marketing efforts. Intensive work is being carried out to communicate Elopak’s sustainability profile, as this is an increasing focus for customers, consumers and regulators.
- Fjord Line delivered revenue growth of nearly 5% in 2019. The number of passenger journeys reached a new record of 1.4 million, but there was a marginal decrease in freight units. The company is continuing to deliver strong earnings growth as a result of traffic growth, higher revenue per passenger and its focus on operational efficiency. The company continued to invest in professionalising and digitalising all aspects of its activities in order to improve the customer experience and make its internal work processes more efficient.
- Interwell had a very strong year in 2019. Both its top line and earnings continued the strong growth seen in 2018. This was driven both by the company growing its market share in international markets as well as by the strong growth it achieved from newly developed products on the Norwegian continental shelf. The company continues to exploit its solid platform and technology to grow in geographies in which it already has a presence. It continues to focus on new technology with undiminished strength in order to maintain its strong position in the years ahead.
- Mestergruppen increased its market share in 2019 through organic growth and by completing several strategic acquisitions. Its acquisition of Ski Bygg gave it a stronger position in Eastern Norway, while its acquisition of Nordbohus confirmed its position as the leading operator of house builder chains in Norway. Mestergruppen now also has operations in Sweden thanks to its acquisition of XL-BYGG AB.
- Servi saw market conditions improve in 2019 as a result of higher levels of activity in the offshore and marine segments. The market is showing signs of a further upturn, and this can in turn be seen in Servi’s higher order intake. In 2019 Servi continued to work on adapting its cost base, and it implemented a number of improvement measures to increase its competitiveness, including investing further in servicing and after-sales. The company also focused on increasing the profitability of its deliveries and introduced a new organisational model.
- Mnemonic continued to grow in 2019, particularly in the areas of security threat detection and product sales. In 2019 Mnemonic won important contracts in Norway and Sweden. The company is also investing significantly in building an international position. Demand for services and products related to IT security continues to increase, while at the same time the company is encountering competition for skilled employees. In 2019 Mnemonic moved into new offices and was recognised as the best workplace in its size category in Norway by Great Place to Work.
In 2019 Ferd Capital increased its shareholding in the listed companies Nilfisk and XXL. We realised our entire holding in Scatec Solar for a significant gain in 2019.
In the Private Companies mandate, we acquired 71% of Simployer.
The Special Investments mandate made two investments in 2019, namely in Åkerblå and Therma, both through Broodstock Capital Partners.
Ferd Capital invests through three investment mandates: Private companies, Listed companies and Special Investments. At the end of the year, the Ferd Capital business area consisted of 14 employees who have a broad range of experience from both Ferd and other companies.
Ferd Capital has a portfolio of companies in a range of sectors that we think are well positioned to create value in 2020 and beyond. Ferd also has significant unused investment capacity, and we will emphasise working proactively on new investment opportunities. Our three investment mandates give us a significant degree of flexibility in terms of the types of investment we can make, and we will focus again in 2020 on opportunities where we can make good use of Ferd’s competitive advantages, both in the form of add-on investments to existing portfolio companies and potential new portfolio companies.