Board of Directors’ Report

Development over the year

Operations

BE Group AB (publ), Corp. Reg. No. 556578-4724, which is listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm exchange, is a trading and service company in steel, stainless steel and aluminium. BE Group offers efficient distribution and value-adding production services to customers primarily in the construction and manufacturing industries. In 2020, the Group reported sales of SEK 3.7 billion. BE Group has approximately 630 employees, with Sweden and Finland as its largest markets. The head office is located in Malmö, Sweden. Read more about BE Group at www.begroup.com.

Alternative performance measures

BE Group has defined a number of alternative performance measures. The alternative performance measures that BE Group considers to be significant are underlying operating result, working capital, net debt and capital employed. Under Alternative performance measures, you can read more about how these are calculated.

Market and business environment

In Europe (EU28), 138.8 million tons of raw steel were produced in 2020, according to the World Steel Association, which is the global trade association for the steel mills. This is a decrease by 11.8 percent compared with 2019. At the beginning of 2020 after a weak 2019, the European steel industry was looking forward to a significantly better year with rising forecasts from the automotive industry, among others. This trend was abruptly interrupted at the beginning of March due to the pandemic and large parts of the automotive industry shut down. This caused the steel producers to slow their capacity and the price drop was extensive, but bottomed out in the summer. In the middle of the year, the need for automotive products began to increase in Europe, but the producers were cautious in their capacity expansion. At the end of 2020, the need for steel increased further, and even though production capacity in Europe increased, today we see shortages in several material types, mainly related to the automotive industry. This led to very rapid and large price increases for steel, as well as raw materials at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. The information BE Group has regarding the development of the Swedish distribution market shows a negative market growth of -7.6 percent and on the Finnish market shows a negative market growth of -1.7 percent.

Group structure and organization

The Group consists of two business areas, Sweden & Poland and Finland & Baltics, with a business focus on the Group’s main markets. Parent Company & consolidated items include the Parent Company, Group eliminations and also parts of the Group’s operations undergoing restructuring, BE Group Czech Republic, BE Group Slovakia and RTS Estonia. The restructuring of these operations are in all material aspects completed. BE Group Produktion Eskilstuna has been liquidated during the year.

Net sales and business performance

During the year, consolidated net sales decreased by 16 percent compared to last year, amounting to SEK 3,672 M (4,359). Tonnage in business areas Sweden & Poland decreased by 14 percent compared to last year while Finland & Baltic delivered 5 percent less. Net sales were also negatively impacted by price and mix effects of 5 percent and currency effects of 1 percent. Inventory losses of SEK -17 M (-6) also affected the period.

Gross profit amounted to SEK 548 M (605), with a gross margin of 14.9 percent (13.9). Adjusted for inventory gains and losses, the gross margin increased to 15.3 percent (14.0).

The operating result amounted to SEK 39 M (88) corresponding to an operating marging of 1.1 percent (2.0). Sales and administration expenses were SEK 36 M or 7 percent lower then last year. Adjusted for inventory gains and losses of SEK -17 M (-6) and items affecting comparability of SEK -40 M (-), the underlying operating result increased to SEK 96 M (94). The operating margin increased to 2.6 percent (2.1).

Business area Sweden & Poland

Business Area Sweden & Poland accounted for 48 percent (51) of the Group’s net sales in 2020. The business area includes the Group’s operations in Sweden consisting of BE Group Sverige and Lecor Stålteknik, as well as the Polish operations. Net sales for the year decreased by 19 percent compared to last year, amounting to SEK 1,782 M (2,209). Operating result amounted to SEK -14 M (61) and was negatively impacted by items affecting comparability of SEK -35 M (-) related to the decision to centralize warehousing and production operations in Norrköping and to close the warehouse in Malmö. Adjusted for inventory gains and losses of SEK -11 M (-5) and the items affecting comparability, the underlying operating result amounted to SEK 32 M (67). In the result, intra-group expenses invoiced from the Parent Company have been eliminated except for expenses for IT and business systems.

Business area Finland & Baltics

In 2020, business area Finland & Baltics accounted for 52 percent (49) of the Group’s net sales. The business area consists of the Group’s operations in Finland and the three Baltic States. Net sales decreased by 12 percent compared to last year, amounting to SEK 1,896 M (2,157). The operating result improved to SEK 63 M (53) and was negatively impacted by items affecting comparability of SEK -5 M (-) related to the restructuring of operations in the Baltics. Adjusted for the items affecting comparability and inventory gains and losses of SEK -6 M (0), the underlying operating result increased to SEK 74 M (52). In the result, intra-group expenses invoiced from the Parent Company have been eliminated except for expenses for IT and business systems.

Parent Company & consolidated items

Parent Company & consolidated items include the Parent Company, Group eliminations and also parts of the Group’s operations undergoing restructuring. The effects regarding IFRS 16 were reported under Parent Company & consolidated items and have not been allocated to the two business areas.

Parent Company

Sales for the Parent Company, BE Group AB (publ), amounted to SEK 79 M (97) during the period and derived from intra-Group services. These intra-Group services mainly include licensing fees regarding the subsidiaries’ use of the BE Group brand and central expenses for IT, Finance and Purchasing, etc. The expenses are distributed and invoiced to all subsidiaries in the Group. In the result follow-up of the business areas, intra-group expenses were eliminated except for expenses for IT and business systems. Out of the total costs for the Parent Company, of SEK 42 M (53), SEK 31 M (39) was distributed to the subsidiaries.

The operating result amounted to SEK 53 M (44). Net financial items amounted to SEK 37 M (-3). The result before tax amounted to SEK 75 M (48) and the result after tax was SEK 73 M (38). At the end of the year, Parent Company equity amounted to SEK 715 M (642). Investments in the Parent Company amounted to SEK 2 M (0). At the end of the year, cash and equivalents in the Parent Company amounted to SEK 152 M (145).

Net financial items and tax

Consolidated net financial items amounted to SEK -28 M (-16) and net interest accounted for SEK -18 M (-22), of which SEK -11 M (-11) is related to leasing according to IFRS 16. Tax amounted to SEK -7 M (-22). Result after tax amounted to SEK 4 M (50) including items affecting comparability of SEK -40 M (-).

Cash flow

Cash flow from operating activities increased to SEK 341 M (200), of which SEK 89 M (78) is an effect of IFRS 16. In addition to this, approximately SEK 30 M refers to a deferral of tax payments. The cash flow from investing activities amounted to SEK -21 M (-37). Cash flow after investments thereby amounted to SEK 320 M (163).

Capital, investments and return

At the end of the period, consolidated working capital amounted to SEK 343 M (549) and average working capital tied-up was 12.8 percent (13.1). Of the year’s investments, totalling SEK 21 M (25), investments in intangible assets accounted for SEK 0 M (-) and investments in tangible assets for SEK 21 M (25). The return on capital employed excl. IFRS 16 decreased in comparison to last year and amounted to 2.3 percent (5.6).

Financial position and liquidity

At the end of the period, consolidated cash and equivalents, including overdraft facilities, were SEK 316 M (318) and consolidated interest-bearing net debt excl. IFRS 16 amounted to SEK 156 M (373). At the end of the period, equity amounted to SEK 905 M (922) and the debt/equity ratio was 17 percent (40).

Employees

BE Group considers the employees to be the Group’s most important resource. They are the face towards customers and suppliers and it is therefore important that everyone who works at BE Group contributes to the company being perceived as an economically, socially and ethically responsible company. It is the people at BE Group who make things happen and make it possible for the company to keep its promises. The corporate culture is based, among other things, on what BE Group has defined as its core values. These values act as guidance in the day-to-day work of everyone within BE Group. They address how the employees behave towards one another, as well as towards customers, suppliers and others with whom they come into contact. These are: Dynamic, Transparent and Sustainable.

The number of employees amounted to 618 compared to 639 at the same time last year and the average number of employees during the year amounted to 633 (652).

Environmental policy and environmental work

BE Group is working with environmental issues as an integrated part of its operations. With its position between steel producers and customers, it is in the area of transport in particular that BE Group is able to help lessen the environmental impact. In addition, BE Group works continuously to improve its own facilities’ energy consumption, emissions and waste management.

Overarching environmental policy

A comprehensive environmental policy forms the basis of BE Group’s environmental work. The policy states that BE Group shall:

  • As a minimum comply with current environmental legislation and requirements from local authorities.
  • Be economical in the use of energy and natural resources.
  • Work to decrease the amount of waste and emissions from the facilities.
  • Identify opportunities to make adjustments benefiting the environment when making investments and changes in processes and facilities.
  • Maintain a high level of awareness on environmental issues through ongoing training.
  • Document and communicate environmental work to employees and provide open and objective information to external stakeholders.

BE Group is engaged in operations at two sites in Sweden for which environmental permits are required. In Finland, operations in one site require environmental permits. Group companies have obtained special permits to engage in operations in the countries where such permits are required. All operations within the Group, with the exception of Lecor Stålteknik, are certified under the ISO 14001 environmental management system.

Risks and risk management in BE Group

BE Group’s profits and financial position are affected by a large number of factors. Several of these are beyond the Company’s own control. The Group operates in several countries and is therefore exposed to various risks as a consequence of differences in legislation, regulations and guidelines. Risk management within the Group is guided by established policies and procedures that are revised by the Board of Directors and/or Group Management on an ongoing basis. The most important risks and factors of uncertainty for BE Group can be divided between:

  • Market risks (economic and steel price trend)
  • Operational risks (suppliers, customers, contractual relationships, personnel, product liability, legal and environmental liability)
  • Financial risks (currency risk, interest risk, refinancing risk and credit risk)
  • Sustainability-related risks (environment, health and safety, human rights and corruption)

Market risks

Economic trend

BE Group has a large number of customers in different industries and is therefore affected by the general economic climate. A weak economic trend increases the risk of lower demand for the Group’s products, resulting in lower sales revenues. In addition, a weaker economy can lead to low inventory turnover, falling prices and inventory losses on existing inventories. BE Group’s strategy regarding inventory levels is to warehouse products based on estimated customer demand. The various companies in BE Group strive to maintain a level of inventory turnover suited to the market and local conditions of each company. The operational control of inventory levels is exerted by means of targets for the number of inventory days.

Steel price trend

The steel industry is influenced by economic developments. As a consequence, steel price trends are volatile and are affected by the balance between the production offering and demand for steel at the different points along the value chain. Steel prices affect BE Group such that higher market prices provide a greater contribution towards covering the Group’s costs given a constant gross margin. The steel price trend also affects final sales prices for products held in inventory, which for BE Group entails a financial impact in the form of inventory gains and losses. To limit these inventory effects, BE Group is working actively to reduce the number of inventory days while maintaining its level of service towards customers. Consequently, falling steel prices have a negative impact on BE Group’s operations and earnings, while increased prices have a positive impact.

The table below shows the estimated effect on underlying operating result of changes in steel prices and sold tonnage. The sensitivity analysis is based on the outcome for 2020 and assumes a constant underlying gross margin.

Change Operating result effect
Steelprice +/-5 % +/-20 MSEK
Tonnage +/-5 % +/-22 MSEK

Covid-19

During the year, BE Group has seen a negative impact on business due to Covid-19, although there was some recovery at the end of the year. A number of measures have been implemented to mitigate the effects, such as Government grants, renegotiated agreements and increased control of working capital and costs. BE Group is also looking at other possible savings measures. It is currently not possible to fully quantify the impact that Covid-19 may have on the company. BE Group is monitoring developments closely and is prepared to take further measures to reduce the negative impact on the business. The company acts in accordance with decisions and recommendations from governments and authorities in the respective markets and with the health and well-being of its employees as a top priority.

Operational risks

Suppliers

BE Group’s product range consists of materials from several different suppliers. The Group strives to establish relations with the best steel producers and to maintain sustainable, long-term cooperation. To safeguard access to materials on each individual occasion, the Group seeks to always maintain relations with several suppliers in each product group. Over the year, BE Group has cooperated with more than 500 suppliers. Before establishing new business relationships and entering into agreements, suppliers’ capacity to meet BE Group’s demands in terms of finance, quality, logistics, the environment and other aspects is ascertained.

In BE Group’s assessment, it is not dependent on any single supplier and all major suppliers are considered fully replaceable, so disruption to deliveries by any one of them does therefore not entail long-term consequences for operations. In 2020, the largest single supplier accounted for 19 percent (17) of the Group’s purchases. Combined, the ten largest suppliers accounted for 53 percent (54) of the Group’s total purchasing. BE Group is exposed to the risk that deliveries from suppliers could be substantially delayed in the event of interrupted production, capacity shortage or transport issues, outside the control of BE Group. This can mean loss of income and/or more expensive actions to meet our commitments to customers.

Customers

BE Group’s operations are conducted in several different markets and to numerous customer categories. The ten largest customers accounted for 13 percent (13) of total sales in 2020. BE Group has a large number of customers in different industries and consequently, a good risk diversification. The Company actively works to manage credit risks (see Note 31 for further information) by setting credit limits and focusing on collecting overdue receivables.

Increased direct deliveries from steel producers

Users of steel have mainly two sources of purchases: directly from steel producers or from trading and service companies. Traditionally, many large-scale users have bought directly from producers, while small and medium-sized users have often made use of trading and service companies. There is, however, a risk that producers will try to extend their direct sales, reducing the use of trading and service companies as agents.

Contractual relations

The Group is custom to rely primarily on its good and often long-term relations with customers and suppliers, and on the normal practices that have been established between the parties. There are specific agreements with some of BE Group’s larger customers and suppliers.

Human Resources

BE Group depends on competent employees for its future development and success. The ability to recruit, retain and develop qualified employees and to be an attractive employer is important. The effect on the operations could be negative if key personnel leave and suitable successor can not be recruited. BE Group has compiled a number of values that reflect the spirit of the Group and pervade its management. BE Group’s commercial competence is continuously developed through training and recruitment. Training efforts include broad programs aimed at many employees, as well as specialized solutions for individuals.

Product liability

In the event of defect products, some of the products that BE Group sells could cause personal injury or other harm, thereby incurring a risk of claims for damages in accordance with the product liability laws of the country concerned. BE Group has taken out the conventional liability insurance policies on its operations.

Legal

Since BE Group maintains operations in several countries, the Group is exposed to different laws, regulations, agreements and guidelines, as well as to changes in the stipulations within these. Among other things, regulations include trade restrictions, such as customs duties and tariffs, requirements for import and export licenses, restrictions on movements of capital and tax regulations. In all commercial operations, disputes may arise as a consequence of differences of opinion on issues of responsibility and interpretations of contract terms. From a risk perspective, BE Group is not dependent on any individual commercial agreement that could significantly limit the Group’s operations.

Environmental legislation and responsibility for the environment

BE Group’s operations are subject to legislation pertaining to the environment, as well as regulations on emissions to the atmosphere and water, waste management and the workplace environment. BE Group could become liable for environmental damage caused by operations conducted, or that have previously been conducted by the Company. According to Swedish law, certain environmental liability is not subject to limitations of time. It cannot be ruled out that operations such as those that are conducted, or have been conducted, by BE Group could lead to liability for environmental impacts that do not appear until much later.

Financial risks

For an account of financial risks, see Note 31.

Sustainability-related risks

For an account of sustainability-related risks, see the Sustainability Report.

Share-related information

Ownership structure

The BE Group share has been listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm Exchange since the end of 2006. At the end of the financial year, BE Group had 4,371 shareholders, compared to 4,768 at the end of last year. AB Traction and Svedulf Fastighets AB were the two largest owners with 23.7 percent and 23.2 percent of the shares, respectively. Information regarding other major owners is available under The Share. At the end of the year, the proportion of institutional ownership (legal entities) totalled 67.2 percent and foreign ownership was 11.3 percent.

At the end of 2020, the four members of Group Management together held 9,105 shares in BE Group. At the same time, the company’s directors together held 3,145,282 shares, including shares in close association. The disclosures regarding shareholdings in BE Group for the Board of Directors and Group Management refers to own and physically related owned shares, endowment insurance and legally owned shares which directly or indirectly is controlled by the person or its relatives.

BE Group held 26,920 treasury shares at the close of 2020.

Share capital, shares outstanding and rights

The registred share capital amounted to 13,010,124 (13,010,124) common shares on December 31, 2020. Each share has a quotient value of SEK 20.00 (20.00). According to the Articles of Association, minimum share capital in the Company is SEK 150,000,000 and maximum share capital SEK 600,000,000, with a minimum of 10,000,000 and a maximum of 40,000,000 shares. Share capital is determined in Swedish kronor.

All shares convey equal rights to a percentage of the Company’s net assets, profits and any surplus upon liquidation. Each share carries one vote and there is only one class of shares. There is no limit to the number of votes a shareholder may cast at the Annual General Meeting or with respect to transfer of shares. The Company is aware of no agreements between shareholders which may limit the right to transfer shares.

Further information about the BE Group share is provided on www.begroup.com.

Authorization to the Board of Directors

The Annual General Meeting resolved to authorize the Board of Directors, on one or several occasions and not later than the 2021 Annual General Meeting, to make decisions regarding the transfer of treasury shares for the purpose of financing smaller corporate acquisitions. Transfers of at most 26,920 shares, corresponding to the company’s existing holding of treasury shares, may deviate from shareholders’ preferential rights. Transfers may be applied as payment of all or part of the purchase consideration in the acquisition of companies or operations or parts of companies or operations, in which case the payment shall correspond to the assessed market value of the shares. Alongside share transfers, payment may be effectuated through capital contributed in kind or by setting off claims against BE Group. Transfers may also be made on cash payment through sales on the Nasdaq Stockholm Exchange at a price within the price interval registered at any given time – that being the interval between the highest bid price and lowest asking price at the time of sale. The Board of Directors shall have the right to decide on other conditions for the transfer. However, the conditions shall be market-based.

During the year, no treasury shares were transferred and BE Group holds 26,920 treasury shares, corresponding to 0.2 percent of the share capital, which was acquired for a total amount of SEK 21 M.

Dividend and dividend policy

According to BE Group’s dividend policy, the Group will distribute at least 50 percent of profit after tax, over time. BE Groups financial positions and future outlook shall be taken into account in determining the payment of dividends. The Board of Directors proposes that no dividend (-) will be paid for the financial year of 2020.

Corporate governance

The Corporate Governance Report is presented on pages 66-69.

Remuneration principles for senior executives

The annual general meeting 2020 resolved on the guidelines for executive remuneration. The individuals who are members of the group management of BE Group during the period of which these guidelines are in force, fall within the provisions of these guidelines. The guidelines are forward-looking, i.e. they are applicable to remuneration agreed and amendments to remuneration already agreed. These guidelines do not apply to any remuneration decided or approved by the general meeting. The actual remunerations agreed during the year are detailed in Note 3.

The guidelines’ promotion of BE Group’s business strategy, long-term interests and sustainability

BE Group is a trading and service company in the steel and metal industry. Customers mainly operate in the construction and manufacturing industries in Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States, where BE Group is one of the market’s leading actors. With extensive expertise and efficient processes in purchasing, logistics and production, BE Group offers inventory sales, production service and direct deliveries to customers based on their specific needs for steel and metal products. BE Group’s vision is to be the most professional, successful and respected steel service company in the markets where the company is active. A prerequisite for the successful implementation of BE Group’s business strategy and safeguarding of its long-term interests, including its sustainability, is that the company is able to recruit and retain qualified personnel. The objective of BE Group’s guidelines for executive remuneration is therefore to offer competitive remuneration on market terms, so that competent and skillful personnel can be attracted, motivated and retained. These guidelines enable the company to offer the executive management a competitive total remuneration. For more information regarding the company’s business strategy, please see www.begroup.com.

Types of remuneration, etc.

The remuneration shall be on market terms and may consist of the following components: fixed cash salary, variable cash remuneration, pension benefits and other benefits. Additionally, the general meeting may – irrespective of these guidelines – resolve on, among other things, share-related or share price-related remuneration.

Fixed cash salary

The fixed cash salary for the senior executives within BE Group shall be individual and differentiated on the basis of the individual’s responsibility and performance, and shall be determined annually.

Variable cash remuneration

The variable cash remuneration shall be based on predetermined, well-defined and measurable financial criteria for the group and the relevant business area and may amount to not more than fifty (50) percent of the total fixed cash salary during the measurement period for the criteria. The criteria for variable cash remuneration shall mainly relate to the group’s and the business area’s respective underlying operating result and, in addition, individual criteria may be established. The criteria shall be designed so as to contribute to BE Group’s business strategy and long-term interests, including its sustainability, by for example being linked to the business strategy or promoting the senior executive’s long-term development within BE Group. The satisfaction of criteria for awarding variable cash remuneration shall be measured over a period of one year.

Pension benefits

For the CEO and other senior executives, pension benefits shall be premium defined. Variable cash remuneration shall not qualify for pension benefits. The pension premiums for premium defined pension shall amount to not more than 30 percent of the fixed annual cash salary.

Other benefits

Other benefits may include, for example, life insurance, health and medical insurance, company cars and housing allowance. Such benefits may amount to not more than 10 percent of the fixed annual cash salary.

Foreign employments

For employments governed by rules other than Swedish, pension benefits and other benefits may be duly adjusted for compliance with mandatory rules or established local practice, taking into account, to the extent possible, the overall purpose of these guidelines.

Criteria for awarding variable cash remuneration, etc.

The remuneration committee shall prepare, monitor and evaluate matters regarding variable cash remuneration. After the measurement period for the criteria for awarding variable cash remuneration has ended, it shall be determined to which extent the criteria have been satisfied. Evaluations regarding fulfilment of financial criteria shall be based on established financial information for the relevant period. Remuneration to the CEO shall be resolved by the Board of Directors. Remuneration to other senior executives shall be resolved by the CEO, after consulting the remuneration committee.

Variable cash remuneration can be paid after the measurement period has ended or be subject to deferred payment. The Board of Directors shall have the possibility, under applicable law or contractual provisions, to in whole or in part reclaim variable remuneration paid on incorrect grounds (claw-back).

Employment term and termination of employment

The notice period may not exceed twelve months if notice of termination of employment is made by the company. Fixed cash salary during the period of notice and severance pay may together not exceed an amount equivalent to the fixed cash salary for twelve months for the CEO and other senior executives. The period of notice may not exceed six months without any right to severance pay when termination is made by the executive.

Salary and employment conditions for employees

In the preparation of the Board of Directors’ proposal for these remuneration guidelines, salary and employment conditions for employees of the company have been taken into account by including information on the employees’ total income, the components of the remuneration and increase and growth rate over time, in the remuneration committee’s and the Board of Directors’ basis of decision when evaluating whether the guidelines and the limitations set out herein are reasonable.

The decision making process to determine, review and implement the guidelines

The Board of Directors has established a remuneration committee. The committee’s tasks include preparing the Board of Directors’ decision to propose guidelines for executive remuneration. The Board of Directors shall prepare a proposal for new guidelines at least every fourth year and submit it to the general meeting. The guidelines shall be in force until new guidelines are adopted by the general meeting. The remuneration committee shall also monitor and evaluate programs for variable remuneration for the executive management, the application of the guidelines for executive remuneration as well as the current remuneration structures and compensation levels in the company. The members of the remuneration committee are independent of the company and its executive management. The CEO and other members of the executive management do not participate in the Board of Directors’ processing of and resolutions regarding remuneration-related matters in so far as they are affected by such matters.

Derogation from the guidelines

The Board of Directors may temporarily resolve to derogate from the guidelines, in whole or in part, if in a specific case there is special cause for the derogation and a derogation is necessary to serve the company’s long-term interests, including its sustainability, or to ensure the company’s financial viability. As set out above, the remuneration committee’s tasks include preparing the Board of Directors’ resolutions in remuneration-related matters. This includes any resolutions to derogate from the guidelines.

Provisions of the Articles of Association on appointment and discharge of directors and amendment of the Articles of Association

There are no provisions in the Articles of Association on appointment and discharge of directors and amendment of the Articles of Association. In accordance with the provisions in the Companies Act, directors are elected by the Annual General Meeting for the period extending until the close of the first Annual General Meeting after that at which they were elected, and amendments to the Articles of Association are determined by the Annual General Meeting in accordance with the regulations set out in the Companies Act.

Contingent liabilities

Consolidated contingent liabilities amounted to SEK 6 M (13).

Significant events during the financial year

The full scope and duration of the on-going pandemic are not yet known, which means that it is not possible to fully quantify its future impact on BE Group. The uncertain market situation has led BE Group to take several measures necessary to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. This primarily concerned the operations in Sweden and the company made use of Government grants, such as the introduction of short-term lay-offs, for example. Government grants linked to Covid-19 contributed around SEK 10 M during the year. These grants are recognized as cost-reductions of the items the grants pertains to. As a precautionary measure, the company has also applied for and been granted a deferral of tax payments of approximately SEK 30 M during the year.

BE Group is monitoring the development closely and is prepared to take further steps to reduce the negative impact on the business. The company acts in accordance with decisions and recommendations from governments and authorities in the respective markets and with the health and well-being of its employees as a top priority.

Significant events after the end of the financial year

No significant events have taken place after the end of the period.

Accounting principles

As of January 2005, the consolidated accounts are prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), as adopted by the European Commission for application within the European Union. A more detailed explanation of accounting principles is available under “Accounting principles”.

Appropriation of earnings

The Board of Directors’ proposal for the appropriation of earnings is detailed under Appropriation of Earnings and in note 24.