Helen Group’s interim report January–September 2022: Continued investments and product portfolio revision in a turbulent operating environment
- The Group’s net sales grew significantly year on year, totalling EUR 295 million (EUR 195 million).
- Operating profit increased substantially, standing at EUR 58 million (EUR 19 million).
- Heat sales were down by 10% on the previous year, amounting to 606 GWh (672 GWh).
- Total electricity sales grew by 14% to 833 GWh (730 GWh).
- Cooling sales increased by 6% to 88 GWh (83 GWh).
- Electricity distribution in Helsinki fell by 2%, standing at 1,002 GWh (1,021 GWh).
- The Group’s net sales grew significantly year on year, totalling EUR 1,116 million (EUR 827 million).
- Operating profit showed a substantial increase, standing at EUR 111 million (EUR 93 million).
- Heat sales fell by 7% on the previous year, amounting to 4,286 GWh (4,623 GWh).
- Total electricity sales fell by 16% to 3,381 GWh (4,003 GWh).
- Cooling sales were almost the same as in the previous year at 171 GWh (172 GWh).
- Electricity distribution in Helsinki remained almost unchanged, totalling 3,241 GWh (3,249 GWh).
Helen Group´s key figures
|Net Sales, EUR milll.||295||195||52%||1,116||827||35%|
|Operating profit, EUR mill.||58||19||207%||111||93||20%|
|Operating profit, %||19.7||9.8||102%||10.0||11.3||-11%|
|Profit before appropriations, EUR mill.||45||16||178%||93||82||13%|
|Investments, EUR mill.||47||77||-39%||127||175||-27%|
|Equity ratio, %||-||-||-39%||57||76||-25%|
|Return on capital invested, %||-||-||3.6||4.5||-20%|
|Employees as of 30 Sept.||-||-||936||1,020||-6%|
|Balance sheet total, EUR mill.||-||-||3,798||2,795||36%|
CEO Juha-Pekka Wekcström:
“In the third quarter of 2022, crisis resilience became a key theme in the energy sector in many different ways. We showed great crisis resilience in a situation where the energy crisis continued to dominate the markets and even worsened during the quarter. Our comprehensive way of operation, i.e. acting on the market as a buyer and a seller, brought our situation into balance and, for the time being, made it manageable for us. Our margin requirements did not rise to a concerning level.
Despite the challenging operating environment, we continued our investments in carbon-neutral and emission-free energy. We invested more in wind power by purchasing the Juurakko and Karahka wind farms in North Ostrobothnia together with our partner Bank of Åland Wind Power Fund. We reported that we will make significant investments in the heat pump market by establishing a joint venture with LämpöYkkönen Oy, focusing on ground source heat and heat pump solutions. The investment is still waiting for merger control approval by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA).
Due to the market situation, we developed our electricity sales portfolio during the quarter. The role of digital services increased, and we continued their active development in order to serve our customers better in the challenging situation. An example of our digital services is the Oma Helen service where you can monitor your own electricity consumption at the hourly level. The service was taken into use by more than 70,000 new users during the third quarter. The number of our customers remained at a strong level. Our net sales grew considerably due to the high wholesale market price of electricity. However, the rise in production costs is diminishing the profitability of district heat to a significant extent,” says Helen’s CEO Juha-Pekka Weckström.
Key events in July-September
- We reported that we will make significant investments in the heat pump market by establishing a joint venture with LämpöYkkönen Oy, focusing on ground source heat and heat pump solutions. The joint venture will offer customers energy-efficient and carbon-neutral heating and cooling solutions in Helsinki and other parts of Finland. Setting up the joint venture and its related arrangements are still subject to the approval of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) under the rules of merger control.
- We reported that we will continue significant investments in renewable energy by joining forces with the Bank of Åland Wind Power Fund to acquire the Juurakko (40 MW) and Karahka (about 150 MW) wind farms in North Ostrobothnia from the VSB Group. Located in Kalajoki (Juurakko) and in Oulainen (Karahka), the wind farms will have a total of 32 turbines. The Juurakko wind farm is scheduled for completion during 2022. The construction work at Karahka will start in autumn 2022, and the wind farm is scheduled for completion at the end of 2024. Helen is the majority shareholder of the wind farms.
- We reported that we have agreed on the utilisation of waste heat produced in a data centre with Elisa, a forerunner in data communication and digital services and 5G. According to the agreement, waste heat recovered in the cooling process of Elisa’s data centre in Pasila is transferred for heating homes and business premises in the area. The circular economy cooperation is based on an open district heating network. An open, i.e. two-way, district heating network means a heating network where the customers can both buy heat and sell the heat they produce to the energy company.
- We announced that the seawater heat recovery project has moved to the development phase when the agreement on the matter was signed with our alliance partners ACCIONA and YIT. The seawater heat recovery project consists of two parts, the seawater system and the Salmisaari heat pump plant. The seawater system, which will now be developed together with our alliance partners, includes an estimated 17-km long water intake tunnel.
- We reported that we have selected Enersense IN Oy as the supplier of the operation and maintenance tasks and Fimpec Engineering Oy as the supplier of the design, construction and documentation services for the district heating and cooling networks. Adopting the operating model for service procurement is part of the adaptation measures related to the closing of the Hanasaari and Salmisaari coal-fired power plants and the transition towards carbon-neutral energy production in accordance with Helen’s strategy.
- We reported that we will adjust the price of district heat over the next three price periods due to an increase in the cost of raw materials resulting from Russia’s war of aggression. The price of the energy fee of district heat is particularly under pressure: the energy fee consists of the prices of raw materials, energy taxes, emission allowances and electricity consumption. The total price of district heat consists of the seasonal energy fee and the fixed contracted water flow fee.
- We reported that our customers’ interest in monitoring their own energy usage has grown significantly as energy-related issues and energy-saving recommendations hit the headlines. This can be seen, for example, in the increased number of users of the Oma Helen service, which was launched in 2020. By the end of September, as many as 325,000 of our customers had started using the service where they can monitor their energy usage even down to the hourly level, and the numbers are growing constantly. The service had more than 70,000 new users during the third quarter (4–6/2022: 20,000 new users).
- We reported on the impacts of the energy transition on our customers’ consumption. Our customers who have signed up for Exchange Electricity reduced their energy consumption by 15 per cent while the consumption of customers with a fixed-priced electricity contract remained unchanged.
- During the quarter, impacts of the energy crisis were in evidence in our customer service. Our customer service channels were inundated by queries from customers who were concerned about the situation, which resulted in long queues. We made changes to the opening times of our customer service channels and will do our best to help our customers in obtaining information.
Events after the financial period
- On 11 October, we announced that the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) accepted the business transfer where Helen’s operation and maintenance services are transferred to Enersense. In connection with the arrangement, a service agreement was agreed, on the basis of which Helen will purchase the services in question from Enersense IN Oy, which is part of Enersense International Oyj’s Smart Industry business area. The agreement is due to enter into force on 1 November 2022. In April 2022, Helen launched a public tendering process for operation and maintenance services, which was completed in August 2022.
- On 25 October, we reported that Finnish Energy has appointed Helen’s CEO Juha-Pekka Weckström as its new Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Our significant change projects and carbon-neutral production projects are progressing according to plan. We will also continue our investments in order to accelerate the change to carbon-neutral electricity and heat production. Our production structure will change from combined heat and power production to separate production upon the termination of co-generation in Hanasaari and Salmisaari. The main forms of separate production are wind, hydro and nuclear power. The Salmisaari area will continue to be used in energy production.
As our already completed wind power investments are built and completed, we aim to continue investing in wind power. In terms of wind power investments already completed, we are committed to investments worth more than EUR 500 million through our subsidiaries. The role of solar energy has already grown in our business operations, and our goal is to make further investments in solar energy. We will further promote the utilisation of waste heat. Hydrogen will also have an important role in the carbon-neutral society of the future, and we are planning hydrogen-related cooperation agreements. We will promote e-mobility infrastructure by increasing the number of charging points. We aim to open about 65 fast or high-power charging points this year and to have a network of more than 1,000 charging points installed by 2025.
We continue to highlight our reformed and extensive range of heat-related products and services. With the new range, we offer our customers ground source heat as a main heating system in addition to district heat, and even more solutions that increase heating efficiency, such as exhaust air heat pumps and energy renovations.
The commissioning of the modern bioenergy heating plant in Vuosaari is approaching. The seventh heat pump at Katri Vala is making progress and, in terms of the Mustikkamaa cavern heat accumulator, we have reached the heating phase that will be implemented in accordance with the energy market situation. During the last quarter of 2022, we also expect regular electricity generation to start in Olkiluoto 3, in which we have a stake through our partly owned company TVO.
We aim to increase energy self-sufficiency by replacing some of our current production with diverse technology solutions, for example, electric boilers, air-to-water heat pumps, heat recovery from data centres, and various geothermal heat solutions. Cooperation in heat procurement with neighbouring municipalities will be increased. In our opinion, small modular reactors (SMR) are a noteworthy solution as one of the energy sources of the future. Together with the authorities (the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK), we aim to make it possible to reform legislation on the nuclear energy sector and the related licensing, and to accelerate the reform.
Our vision is to be the most customer-focused energy company in the market. In order to reach this target, we continue our efforts to improve the customer experience. The vision aiming for customer orientation requires focusing on digital customer encounters and the digitalisation of the solution business. We will continue to increase our investments in digital services that help our customers, support them in saving energy during the coming winter and also encourage them to become smarter energy users.
We expect market volatility and unpredictability to continue. Fuel procurement from new channels will incur increasing costs. Price fluctuations are further accelerated by the challenging market conditions. This will continue to undermine the predictability of the energy markets. The situation of the electricity retail market will intensify further in the changing market conditions. It can be said that the risks in the energy industry in general will increase further in the future. Helen’s profitability will be reduced further by the high costs of emission allowances and fuels in 2022. For this reason, profit for our district heat will be significantly negative in the short term. Nevertheless, we expect the result for 2022 to reach at least the previous year’s level, largely due to the trend in electricity market prices. However, the current market situation has considerably increased uncertainty with regard to the result.
Helen’s financial statements for 2022 will be published on 28 February 2023.