The major part of the 2017/2018 financial year was characterized by stable market conditions. Market instability increased during the final quarter of the year due to escalating trade policy measures, which led to price reductions of about 15 percent for ferrous and non-ferrous scrap. Overall however, market conditions have been good for most of the Stena Metall Group's operations. I am very pleased with how we have continued to strengthen our market positions during the year, thanks to continued improvement work in all parts of the Group. I am particularly pleased with the quality and creativity of our overall business acumen, which created more value-creating business for ourselves, our customers and our other partners.
Stena Recycling shows continued earnings growth. As the Nordic region's leading recycling company, we have gained market shares and continue to invest in new technology, in order to further increase recycling rates. Creating sustainable value for our customers and partners is the core of our business. We are perceiving a growing interest among our major customers and partners to find long-term sustainable and value-creating solutions. Through Stena Resource Management, we carry out focused, collaborative projects that identify new opportunities throughout the value chain. The Design for Recycling service creates dialogue with our customers about increasing the recyclability of their future products.
As a result of increasing collaboration between the Recycling and Electronics Recycling business areas and a development towards a more similar market logic, we decided to integrate Stena Recycling and Stena Technoworld from the start of the current financial year (2018/2019). By doing this, we will increase efficiency and improve what we can offer our customers and partners.
Stena Aluminum's improved performance during the financial year was the result of increases in both sales and a stronger market position.
Stena Stål continues its customer-oriented improvement work, focusing on quality, efficiency and shows satisfying results in line with the previous year.
Stena Components has strengthened its market position during the year. However, the result, which was similar to last year’s, was disappointing.
In a sometimes challenging bunker market, Stena Oil has further consolidated its position as the leading supplier of quality-assured marine fuel in the Scandinavian market.
During the year, Stena Metall Finans has taken a more cautious view of market developments and reduced risks, which resulted in somewhat lower earnings than the previous year. New cash management solutions have been developed and introduced into the internal banking process. The work with risk-balancing and acting as a supporting partner to the business areas, contributed to improved business and financial discipline.
During the year, the Stena Metall Group issued its first green bond, which was listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The bond is linked to investments in the Stena Nordic Recycling Center. The amount is 800 MSEK with a five-year maturity. The issue provoked widespread interest, especially among investors with investment strategies focused on sustainable activities.
Our large network of branches, in close proximity to our customers, provides an ever-stronger foundation for Stena Recycling's good growth. 160 branches of regional and central production units, linked by efficient logistics, continue to create exciting solutions.
We continued our commitment to new recycling solutions
We are very satisfied with the progress of the Stena Nordic Recycling Center (SNRC), which continues to focus on new recycling solutions. The center provides a hub for the industrial recycling infrastructure we have established within the Group and has contributed to significantly increased recycling rates and improved material quality. A number of supplementary investments have been made during the year, including two new plastic recycling processes which will commence production during 2018/2019. In close collaboration with universities and technical colleges, we continue our research into future solutions to recycling challenges including projects concerning plastic and lithium-ion battery recycling. Besides its research work, the Group has developed an offer regarding the safe handling of vehicle batteries, enabling reuse and, as a final step, efficient recycling.
At Stena Nordic Recycling Center, we have also created the Stena Recycling Lab, which is a testing arena for new recycling technology and the development of sustainable products. This meeting place for entrepreneurs, researchers, students and companies serves as a catalyst for innovation and development in the field of recycling.
In line with broader developments in society, we are carrying out digitalization work in all of our companies in order to create even greater value. We are developing and optimizing our IT systems and processes, with the aim of increasing the availability of our products and services and providing support for customer improvement work. Digitalization also streamlines our internal production flows, enhances interactive solutions with our customers and increases the opportunities to create additional value.
I am impressed by the commitment and business acumen shown throughout the Group during the past year. This proves that having the right employees with the right skills is vital to our success and we are continuing to develop training and skill bases in all areas.
Stena Way of Production (SWOP), Stena Way of Branches (SWOB) and Stena Way of Sales (SWOS) are "lean" inspired programs that form an important part of the Group's ongoing improvement work. This methodology is applied throughout the Group and is under constant development. Our commitment to safety is strong and we continue the work towards a safer Stena with full force. It is our assertion that all accidents can be prevented. We also know that safe working environments lead to efficient, high-quality production.
In an unstable world, both the financial and commodity markets have become increasingly uncertain. At present, business conditions are still relatively good, but we are beginning to see signs of a downturn. Volatile volumes and major price fluctuations are recurring challenges that we have to manage. With continued financial discipline, we will focus on areas that we have the ability to influence - there is no part of the Group that cannot be improved. However, if market conditions prevail, it will be difficult to maintain the good results of 2017/18.
Anders Jansson, October 2018, Göteborg.