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SATO increased the supply of rental homes in major growth centres

Jan 28, 2016

A total of 1,200 rental homes under construction

Summary of the financial year 1 Jan - 31 Dec 2015 (1 Jan - 31 Dec 2014)

• Profit before taxes improved by 4.7 (8.1) % from the previous year and stood at EUR 159.4 (152.2) million.
• Change in the fair value of rental homes included in the profit was EUR 62.4 (63.8) million.
• Shareholders’ equity stood at EUR 993.1 (892.2) million, EUR 19.53 (17.55) per share.
• Return on equity was 13.5 (14.0) %.

• Investments in rental homes stood at EUR 250.5 (174.1) million.
• Rental income increased by 2.5 (6.0) % to EUR 249.4 (243.2) million.
• The rental occupancy rate in Finland was 96.4 (97.2) %.

• The Board proposes dividends of EUR 0,50 (dividend 0.20 and capital repayment 0.42) per share.

Saku Sipola, President and CEO:

- SATO has had yet another good year. We made successful rental housing acquisitions, hundreds of new rental homes were completed for us, and we improved our operations in many areas, including letting services and procurement. The profit increased from the previous year, although the weakening Rouble had a negative effect on the profit and the value of housing assets in St. Petersburg.

- In addition to many success stories, there were also challenges during the year. In spite of our efforts, the financial occupancy rate of our rental homes fell short of the previous year’s level. We will reverse this trend in 2016 through various actions and aim to have a SATO that provides an even better service.

- More rental homes will be required in the future. There are several new housing areas currently under construction in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and other major cities. This may create temporary situations of excessive supply in some areas. However, urbanisation will in the long run lead to a situation where supply fails to meet the demand and investments will be required for ensuring the functionality of society, both in terms of housing and infrastructure.

Operating environment
The Finnish economy has not started to grow at the pace of the other eurozone countries as the export volumes have diminished. This was mainly caused by low investment levels of Finland’s most important export countries. In addition, the Finnish economy was affected by the fact that the common will has not been found to carry out the structural changes necessary for kicking off the growth. The Finnish economy has relied on domestic consumer demand.

In 2015, the purchasing power of households remained at the level experienced three years ago. Private consumer demand has picked up slightly in spite of the poor employment situation and higher taxation. However, consumer confidence has remained very low. Due to the weak economic situation, the demand for rental housing is mainly targeted at small inexpensive housing, the supply of which is too limited. As a response to this demand, SATO has developed the SATO StudioHome concept where the initial rent of homes on the planned pilot site is EUR 500 per month.

The interest rates have been close to zero for an exceptionally long period. This has had a positive effect on SATO as its operations are capital-intensive.

The competitive environment of housing rental has changed. Private investors own about half of the approximately 800,000 rental homes in Finland, but the number of professional investors has increased. Of these, the funds investing in housing have increased the supply of rental homes by some 15,000 homes in a short period of time. In addition, pension insurance companies have made direct housing investments when the use of borrowed capital in rental housing investments was allowed by temporary legislation. The increased supply has accelerated occupant turnover, particularly in new residential areas where as many as several hundred rental homes may be completed at the same time. This has somewhat weakened the occupancy rate of SATO. However, more rental homes will be required in the long run as the urbanisation trend strengthens. In addition, the population is growing faster than anticipated due to increasing immigration. In Finland, the number of asylum-seekers was almost ten-fold during the reporting year when compared with the previous year.

The level of housing sales has been exceptionally low for three years, but the prices of housing units have increased moderately.

In line with its strategy, SATO invests in areas where intensifying trends, such as urbanisation, decreasing family sizes and immigration, will in the long run support the increasing demand for rental housing. That is why we continued our strong investment programme, particularly in the Helsinki region, Tampere and Turku. Investments increased from the previous year to EUR 251 (174) million.

The good demand for rental homes in St. Petersburg continued, but the level of rents developed more moderately than expected. As a result of the weakening exchange rate of the Rouble, the value in euro of the housing units owned by SATO in St. Petersburg decreased, weakening the financial result of SATO. For the time being, SATO will refrain from making new investment decisions for St. Petersburg.

Net sales and profit
During the reporting year, the Group’s net sales increased by 3.5 percent year-on-year and totalled EUR 323.4 (312.3) million. Of the net sales, rental income accounted for EUR 249.4 (243.2) million. The increases in the number of new housing units and in the level of rents improved the rental income by 2.5 (6.0) percent.

Operating profit increased by 2.7 percent to EUR 196.5 (191.3) million.

Profit before taxes increased by 4.7 (8.1) percent to EUR 159.4 (152.2) million. The increase in profit was brought about by low interest rates, development of rental income and good cost control. The result was affected by a cost provision of EUR 4.4 million made on the basis of a decision by the Court of Appeal on the construction of Asunto Oy Helsingin Tila.

The change in the fair value of rental homes included in the profit was EUR 62.4 (63.8) million. The change was positively affected by the development of housing unit prices and rents, as well as the expiry of restrictions on certain sites, whereas the weakening Rouble had a negative effect. In St. Petersburg, the increase in prices in Roubles increased the value of SATO’s housing assets in Roubles, but in euros the value decreased due to the weakening exchange rate of the Rouble. The changes had a net effect of EUR -5.4 (-38.1) million on SATO’s profit.

Further information on the determination of fair value is in section 13 of the Notes to Financial Statements.

Financial position
On 31 December 2015, the consolidated balance sheet total stood at EUR 2,979.7 (2,801.6) million. Equity was EUR 993.1 (892.2) million. Equity per share was EUR 19.53 (17.55).

The Group's equity ratio was 33.3 (31.8) percent. The minimum target is an equity ratio of 30 percent.

In 2015, the return on equity exceeded the target of 12 percent and was 13.5 (14.0) percent. The return on investment was 7.6 (7.7) percent.

Financing
The financial situation of the Group and the parent company was good throughout the financial period. At the end of the year, the Group had EUR 60.7 (31.8) million in financial assets.

Interest-bearing liabilities at the end of the financial period totalled EUR 1,676.2 (1,584.9) million, of which market based loans accounted for EUR 1,356.5 (1,208.7) million. The loan itemisation is in Note 27 to the Financial Statements. EUR 483.7 million of new long-term financing was raised during the review period. The solvency ratio (debt-to-assets) was 55.3 (56.1) percent at the end of the reporting period. The target is a solvency ratio of less than 70 percent.

In May, Moody’s Investor Service assigned SATO a first-time, long-term issuer credit rating of Baa3 with a stable outlook.

In September, SATO issued an unsecured bond of EUR 300 million. Several Nordic and European investors showed their trust in SATO, and the bond was oversubscribed by a clear margin. The bond has a maturity of five years, and it has a fixed coupon of 2.25 percent. The bond received a credit rating of Baa3 from Moody’s, and it is listed on the Irish stock exchange. The long-term target is to increase the share of unsecured borrowing so that approximately half of the assets are free of collateral commitments.

At the end of the review period, the average interest rate was 2.5 (2.6) percent. In accordance with the Group’s financing policy, efforts will be made to keep the share of fixed rate loans over 60 percent of all loans. On the balance sheet date, the share was 73.7 (67.2) percent.

Net financing costs during the review period totalled EUR 37.0 (39.1) million. The average maturity of market based loans was 5.1 (4.9) years.

During the financial year, the calculated impact of changes in the market value of interest hedges on equity was EUR 2.9 (-15.3) million.

The Group enjoyed a good cash flow during the review period. The cash flow from business operations was enhanced by the fact that operating profit improved by EUR 5.1 million.

Group structure
SATO Corporation is the parent company of SATO Group. At the end of the reporting year, the parent company had in all 14 (7) subsidiaries engaged in business operations.

Housing assets and fair value
On 31 December 2015, SATO owned a total of 23,551 (24,173) housing units. The number of housing units decreased by 622 during the year. A total of 1,184 rental homes were acquired or completed. The total number of divested rental homes and shared ownership homes redeemed by the owner occupants was 1,806.

At the end of the reporting year, the fair value of rental homes was EUR 2,752.9 (2,528.0) million and the change in fair value, including the rental homes acquired and divested during the year, was EUR 224.9 (212.0) million. In addition to investments and divestments, the change in value was affected by the development of market prices and rental income, changes in the exchange rate of the Rouble, as well as the expiry of restrictions applicable to certain sites.

Of the value of homes, the Helsinki region accounted for 81 percent, Tampere, Turku, Oulu and Jyväskylä made up 15 percent, and St. Petersburg 4 percent.

Rental home investments and divestments
Investment activities generate growth. The company invests in regions where the demand for rental homes and their expected value increase are deemed best.

During the reporting year, investments to rental homes totalled EUR 250.5 (174.1) million, about 9 percent of the total value of investment homes. In order to rejuvenate the housing unit base, the target is to make on average 70 percent of investments in new buildings. The share of new housing units was EUR 136.7 (117.4) million, about 55 percent of all investments. At the end of the financial year, binding purchase agreements in Finland totalled EUR 148.8 (58.4) million.

During the reporting year, a total of 1,184 (706) rental homes were acquired in Finland, of which 708 (563) in new buildings. A total of 1,204 (571) rental homes were under construction in Finland at the end of the year.

The most significant single investment was the acquisition of 379 rental homes from ICECAPITAL Housing Fund I Ky in August. Most of these homes are located in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. The total purchase price was EUR 68 million.

All in all, 1,743 (444) rental homes with a total value of EUR 95.9 (25.9) million were divested in Finland. The largest individual transactions were the divestment of 760 rental homes in August and the divestment of 268 rental homes in November. The divested homes were mainly located outside SATO’s primary operating area.

EUR 57.3 (49.0) million was spent in Finland on improving the quality of housing units, including the repair and major renovations of properties.

Renting
Effective rental business provides home seekers with quick access to a home and the company with a steadily increasing cash flow. Rental services are mainly provided as SATO’s own operations.

SATO’s economic occupancy rate in Finland was 96.4 (97.2) percent on average. Occupant turnover was 41.1 (37.3) percent on average. The turnover was increased and the occupancy rate decreased by the grown supply of rental homes in SATO’s operating areas and the weak general economic situation.

The average rent per square metre of SATO’s rental homes in Finland was EUR 16.39 (15,57) /m2 per month at the end of the review period.
In line with the guidance provided, the net rental income of housing units increased from the previous year and was EUR 151.8 (148.2) million. Renewal of the housing base with investments, the increase in rent levels, cost-efficient maintenance activities as well as the development of rental activities and customer service contributed to the increase of net rental income.

Property development
The group’s own building plot reserves create a competitive advantage by allowing the development of rental homes best matching the demand.

The book value of owned plot reserves totalled EUR 55.5 (72.0) million at the end of the review period. During the review period, new plots were acquired for EUR 13.3 (5.0) million. In addition, plot reservations were obtained for approximately 27,000 floor square metres, sufficient for building some 400 homes. The book value of plot reserves divested during the year or used for producing homes was EUR 24.0 (14.0) million. Local plan development projects were in progress in several regions including Oulunkylä and Kontula in Helsinki, Soukka, Karakallio and Hannus in Espoo, as well as Martinlaakso and Myyrmäki in Vantaa. Of the local plan development projects in progress, 80,000 floor square metres of permitted building volume for housing is planned for supplementary construction on the company’s own plots, sufficient for 1,100–1,300 homes.

When building new homes, an assessment is made whether the homes are suitable for rental or should they be sold off as owner-occupied homes after completion. During the financial year, a total of 545 (549) rental homes and 153 (223) homes for sale were completed for the Group in Finland. At the end of the year, 52 (94) completed and 55 (94) owner-occupied homes under construction remained unsold at a total purchase value of EUR 48.7 (90.9) million.

On 31 December 2015, a total of 1,280 (730) homes were under construction in Finland, of which 1,204 (571) were rental homes.

Business operations in St. Petersburg
The housing market of t. Petersburg is of the same size as the Finnish housing market. The expansion of investment activities to St. Petersburg from 2007 increased the opportunities for SATO’s growth. Russia’s share is limited to 10 percent of the Group’s housing assets.

At the end of the reporting period, the fair value of housing assets in St. Petersburg totalled EUR 106.1 (101.7) million, 4 percent of all housing assets held by SATO. The change in value amounted to EUR -5.4 (-38.1) million. The total value of binding purchase agreements was EUR 2.4 (10.7) million at the end of the year. There were a total of 460 (313) completed homes and 74 (217) homes under construction in St. Petersburg.

During the reporting period, the average occupancy rate of houses was 82.7 (92.6) percent. The decrease of occupancy rate from the previous year was due to the fact that 80 homes were completed for rental towards the end of the year.

The inflation rate in Russia was 12.9 (11.4) percent. SATO’s Rouble-denominated rents increased by 3.3 (5.0) percent. Due to the decline in the value of the Rouble, euro-denominated rents decreased, being 12.54 (14.55) €/m2/month at the end of the period under review.

Customer relationships
In order to create a competitive edge, SATO is investing resources in order to improve customer service. The development of customer experience is measured by the Net Promoter Score (NPS). During the reporting period, the NPS was 25 (26). Our target is to have a NPS of 40 by the year 2020.

The quality of rental homes and customer encounters are developed in order to improve the customer experience. In addition, resources are invested in expanding the scope of digital services The competence of personnel working at the customer interface is being constantly enhanced. SATO’s customer service was rated the developer of the year in the Customer’s Voice contest where thirty Finnish contact centres were compared with each other.

Corporate responsibility
Corporate responsibility is part of everyday work at SATO. The corporate responsibility policy is available for viewing at www.sato.fi/corporate-responsibility.

In 2015 SATO participated for the first time in the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) sustainability assessment and was rated in the best category, the Green Star. SATO was rated third among its reference group of European housing investors and fifth among all participating housing investors.

SATO’s low-energy house located in Soukka, Espoo received an honorary mention in the contest for the smartest and most enjoyable house in Finland organised by Green Building Council Finland.

Environmental impacts
Curbing the energy consumption is a key issue in the prevention of adverse environmental impacts caused by housing. In order to support its own and the society’s climate objectives, SATO is committed to VAETS, the energy efficiency agreement between rental home associations, and to a climate partnership with the City of Helsinki. SATO’s short-term goal is to achieve a 15 percent reduction in the specific consumption of heating energy by 2016. This goal was achieved in 2015 already.

SATO has also set longer-term goals for its operations. They take into account the impacts of tightening building regulations, renewal of the housing stock and improvement of energy efficiency. According to these goals, SATO will achieve a 23 percent deduction in the specific consumption of heat and water in the buildings by 2020. The reference year is 2009. The aim is to keep the consumption of electricity at its present level.

During the reporting period, the specific consumption of heating energy decreased by 1.6 percent, while the specific consumption of electricity increased by 0.8 percent from the 2014 level. The specific consumption of water increased by 0.7 percent to 418 l/rm³.

The rated emissions from SATO’s rental homes were 34.0 (36.1) carbon dioxide equivalent kilograms per square metre. The goal is to achieve a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 when compared to the 2013 level.

The environmental programme of the Group, updated during the reporting period, is available for viewing at www.sato.fi/ environmental-programme.

Research and development
The development activities focused on various subjects, including the development of sustainable energy and housing solutions, implementation of the SATO StudioHome model home, standardisation of SATO’s design solutions and expansion of the scope of digital services. A total of EUR 1.0 (0.8) million was spent on R&D, equal to 0.3 percent of net sales.

Risk management
Risk management at SATO is based on good governance guidelines as well as on the systematic risk assessment included in the strategy and annual planning process. When required, risk management measures will be initiated for preventing the materialisation of risks or for enhancing the monitoring of a certain area. Internal audits are carried out by an independent party, and the audits are targeted in line with the risk assessments made in the strategy and annual planning process.

During the last few years, SATO’s profit has developed steadily. The reporting practice was amended from 1 January 2014 so that the change in value of investment housing is shown in the income statement. Consequently, the changes in price levels of housing – as well as currency fluctuations regarding the assets in St. Petersburg – may increase the fluctuations of profit.

The most significant risks in the sales and rental of housing are related to economic cycles and fluctuations in demand.

The positive development of the value of housing assets and the rental capacity of homes are secured by focusing on growth centres. The quality of the Group’s housing assets is developed by systematic repair activities. Changes in the energy efficiency and environmental requirements may increase the repair costs of SATO’s investment homes.

The St. Petersburg operations carry both a risk related to the operating environment and a currency risk. The known currency-denominated instalments related to the procurement of sites are hedged in compliance with the Group’s financial policy. A limit has been set for the scale of investments in Russia in relation to the total housing investments of the Group.

In order to secure the continuity of services purchased from partners, the procurement is distributed between several service producers.

In accordance with the Group’s financing policy, efforts will be made to keep the share of fixed rate loans over 60 percent of all loans. The Group has set a target for equity ratio.

The Group’s asset, interruption and liability risks are covered by appropriate insurance policies.
Further information on risk management is available at www.sato.fi/riskmanagement.

Pending legal actions
Actions have been brought and counter-claims have been presented regarding the implementation and invoicing of owner-occupied homes built in Arabianranta, Helsinki. On the basis of the decision of the Court of Appeal, the company has made a cost provision regarding the completion of the Asunto Oy Helsingin Tila building project, reducing the profit for the review period. The company has applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Shares
On 31 December 2015, the share capital of SATO Corporation was EUR 4,442,192.00 and there were 51,001,842 shares. The company has one series of shares. The shares are included in the book-entry securities system maintained by Euroclear Finland Oy. SATO Corporation holds 160,000 treasury shares. That is equivalent to 0.3 percent of all shares.

On 31 December 2015, the Board members, CEO and Deputy CEO of SATO Corporation owned a total of 165,812 shares in the company.

Significant changes in ownership
In April, the Swedish real estate investment company Fastighets AB Balder acquired 21 percent of the shares in SATO Corporation. Balder continued its share purchases during the summer, in addition to which it acquired in December 22.9 percent of SATO’s outstanding shares from Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company. At the end of the year, Balder’s ownership was 53.3 percent.

Personnel
At the end of 2015, the Group had 170 (169) employees. There were 160 (156) permanent employees and 10 (13) employees with a fixed-term contract of employment. During the year, the Group had an average of 172 (165) employees.

A total of 21 summer trainees were recruited in order to improve the employment possibilities of young people. The objective was to provide opportunities for achieving work experience.

Shareholder’s Nomination Committee
The annual general meeting decided to establish a shareholders' Nomination Committee and approved its rules of procedure. The Committee's task is to prepare proposals concerning the Board's composition and the remuneration of its members to the annual general meeting. The Committee convened three times during the report period.

The Board of Directors, CEO and Auditors
Up to the AGM held on 3 March 2015, the Board of Directors of SATO comprised Juha Laaksonen as Chairman, Esa Lager as Deputy Chairman and Andrea Attisani, Timo Hukka, Tarja Pääkkönen, Niina Rajakoski and Ilkka Tomperi as members.

The AGM held on 3 March 2015 confirmed that the Board of Directors of SATO Corporation consists of seven members. Esa Lager was elected Chairman of the Board. Andrea Attisani, Niina Rajakoski, Tarja Pääkkönen and Ilkka Tomperi were elected to continue as members of the Board of Directors. Jukka Hienonen and Timo Stenius were elected as new members. The Board of Directors elected from among its members Jukka Hienonen as the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of SATO Corporation.

In October, Board member Niina Rajakoski announced her resignation from Board membership. The Extraordinary GM of SATO Corporation held on 22 October 2015 decided to elect Erik Selin, CEO of Fastighets AB Balder, as the new Board member from that date.

The Board of Directors convened 12 times during 2015. The Board's work is supported by two committees appointed from among the Board members: the Nomination and Remuneration Committee and the Audit Committee.

Erkka Valkila was the CEO of the company until 16 November 2015 when Saku Sipola M.Sc(Tech.) started as the new CEO. Tuula Entelä LL.M., M.Sc(Econ.) is the Deputy CEO.

KPMG Oy Ab, authorised public accountants, have been the company’s auditors, with Lasse Holopainen, APA, acting as the auditor in charge.

Members of the management team
In addition to the CEO, the management team comprised Vice Presidents Tuula Entelä and Pasi Suutari, Director, Customer Relationships and Communications Monica Aro and CFO Esa Neuvonen.

Outlook
In the operating environment, SATO’s business operations are mainly affected by consumer confidence, development of purchasing power, the rent and price development of homes, and the interest rate.

Finnish economic growth and the general climate of confidence are expected to remain poor. Interest rates are expected to remain low, which will have a positive impact on SATO’s financing costs.

Increasing urbanisation and immigration provide good long-term conditions for continued investments in Finland.

New quality requirements have been added for several years now to the rules governing the production of new homes. This has increased the production costs of homes at the same time as purchasing power has weakened. This means that the matching of demand and supply has become more difficult.

SATO's net rental income is expected to remain at the 2015 level. However, rent increases are expected to be more modest than in the previous years.

About 80 percent of SATO's housing assets are located in the Helsinki region, where positive development of prices is expected.

Development of the Russian economy is expected to be negative. About four percent of SATO’s housing assets is located in St. Petersburg. For the time being, SATO will refrain from making new investment decisions.

Proposal of the Board of Directors regarding disposal of profit
On 31 December 2015, the parent company’s distributable assets amounted to EUR 99,711,102.42 of which the net profit for the financial period was EUR 28,710,845.40. The number of company’s outstanding shares entitling to dividends for 2015 is 50,841,842.

According to the company’s dividends policy, the aim is to distribute steady and competitive dividends.
The Board of Directors proposes to the General Meeting of Shareholders that EUR 0.50 (dividend 0.20 and capital repayment 0.42) per share be paid, in total EUR 25,420,921.00 as dividends, and that EUR 3,289,924.40 be transferred to retained earnings.

The dividends will be paid to shareholders who on the record date 7 March 2016 are entered as a shareholder in the company’s list of shares maintained by Euroclear Finland Oy. According to the proposal, the dividends will be paid on 22 March 2016.

No material changes have taken place in the company's financial position after the end of the financial period.

Main shareholders 18 January 2016

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On 18 January 2016, the number of shareholders subscribed in the book-entry system was 84. The turnover of shares during the review period amounted to 55.2 per cent.

Key financial indicators, the Group

 

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Additional information:
Saku Sipola, President & CEO, tel. +358 201 34 4001, mobile +358 40 5515 953
Esa Neuvonen, CFO, tel. +358 201 34 4005, mobile +358 40 5001 003
www.sato.fi

APPENDICES
Financial Statements 2015
Financial Statements 2015 information

SATO is one of Finland's leading rental housing providers. SATO’s aim is to offer comprehensive alternatives in rental housing and an excellent customer experience. All told, SATO holds roughly 23,600 rental homes in Finland’s largest growth centres and in St Petersburg.
In our operations, we promote sustainable development and initiative-taking, and work in open interaction with our stakeholders to create added value. We operate profitably and with a long-term view. We increase the value of our housing property through investments, divestments and repair work.
SATO Group's net sales in 2015 were €323.4 million, operating profit €196.5 million and profit before taxes €159.4 million. SATO's investment properties have a value of roughly €2.8 billion.