SATO Corporation’s Financial Statements Bulletin 2023: Challenging year – customer satisfaction improved
9 February 2024
SATO Corporation, Stock Exchange Release 9 February 2024 at 9:00 am
Highlights January–December 2023 (January–December 2022)
The economic occupancy rate decreased and was 94.9% (95.2).
Net sales stood at EUR 288.4 million (291.2).
Net rental income decreased and was EUR 198.7 million (200.4).
Profit before taxes decreased and was EUR -185.8 million (151.9).
The unrealised change in the fair value of investment properties included in the result was EUR -249.3 million (-14.9).
Housing investments amounted to EUR 150.0 million (190.5).
Invested capital was EUR 4,610.4 million (4,626.5).
Return on invested capital was -2.5% (4.3).
Earnings per share were EUR -2.72 (2.13).
The Board of Directors proposes to the Annual General Meeting that dividends shall not be distributed (EUR 0).
Highlights October–December 2023 (October–December 2022)
The economic occupancy rate was 94.8% (95.5).
Net sales were EUR 73.5 million (71.4).
Profit before taxes was EUR -91.6 million (-31.0).
The unrealised change in the fair value of investment properties included in the result was EUR -109.3 million (-58.1).
Investments in rental apartments amounted to EUR 57.3 million (68.4).
Earnings per share were EUR -1.3 (-0.45).
Events after the review period
The company has no events after the review period.
President and CEO Antti Aarnio:
The reporting year 2023 will be remembered by property and apartment rental operators as a year of challenges. The problems faced by the sector during the reporting year also affected SATO and had an impact on the company’s business. The high interest rates and high inflation that continued until the end of the year raised costs and impacted consumers’ purchasing power. Competition continued to be tough on the rental markets and new construction of rental apartments remained brisk, especially in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Despite this, SATO’s financial position remained strong and SATO’s customer experience continued its positive development.
As proof of its owners’ confidence in SATO, a share issue of up to EUR 200 million started up in December, the goal of which is to bolster the company’s equity ratio and balance sheet and to reduce interest-bearing liabilities. The share issue offers us more extensive financing options and strengthens our financial position. The company's majority shareholder, Balder Finska Otas AB (Fastighets AB Balder), has announced that it will support the issue ending on 14 February 2024.
Economic uncertainty continued in Finland in 2023. The high inflation finally turned downward at the end of the year, especially once energy prices fell. However, underlying inflation remained persistently high and exceeded the central banks’ goal of 2%. The European Central Bank continued to raise the key interest rate during the reporting year, as a result of which inflation gradually slowed down throughout Europe. The markets forecasted after all that the peak would be reached in late 2023.
Urbanisation continues, and dense urban living is becoming increasingly popular in Finland. There will continue to be demand for rental apartments in growth centres near good public transport connections and services also in the future. Of the major cities, the Helsinki metropolitan area and Tampere and Turku continue to enjoy robust growth. The Helsinki metropolitan area is expected to grow by over 200,000 new residents by 2040. Close to 80% of the area’s residents already live in one- to two-person households, and the number of small households continues to rise. The proportion of immigrants living in the capital area is predicted to grow from the current 17% to 25% by 2030.
Despite the downturn, plenty of new apartments were under construction, particularly in the Helsinki metropolitan area. A record number (7,000–8,000) of apartments intended solely for rent were completed in the Helsinki metropolitan area during the reporting year. In 2024, approximately another 4,000 rental apartments will be completed.
SATO has focussed its operations on the Helsinki metropolitan area and its surrounding municipalities, and Tampere and Turku. During the reporting year, an era came to an end when we finalised the sale of our Russian business in April. Since the sale, SATO no longer has any business operations in Russia.
During the reporting year, close to a thousand new and about 500 renovated rental apartments were completed for SATO in Espoo, Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and Vantaa. As a result of dramatically increased costs and higher financing prices, we decided in October 2022 that we would not initiate new investments for the time being. In 2024, only just over 400 new and renovated rental homes will be completed for SATO.
High inflation has also impacted consumers’ purchasing power, which, together with a high cost of living, affects the rental apartment markets. The employment situation became weaker in Finland during the reporting year, and the situation is expected to weaken further in 2024. Finns have less and less income to spend, which means that they have to primarily focus on their necessary expenses, such as housing, as their extra leisure spending decreases.
Since the Covid years, competition between housing providers has been tight with the extensive offering of apartments exceeding demand. Housing providers have competed over good tenants and, as a result, rent increases have fallen behind real costs. Inflation and rising costs of financing may show up in higher rents when the housing supply decreases.
Regardless of the real estate sector’s challenges, SATO has continued to focus on development work to increase and improve our presence near customers. We have received good feedback on our house experts and service managers who work in our buildings. We have developed and modernised our digital operating environment and operational information systems that enable us to work more efficiently and serve our customers better at all times of the day and night. As a result of our development efforts, our Net Promote Score (NPS) measuring customer satisfaction improved and was 23, and the NPS measuring different customer interactions was 53. Our tenant turnover fell during the reporting year and our economic occupancy rate was 94.9% (95.2).
Sustainability is at the core of our operations. Our task is to meet, in particular, the needs of our residents and personnel. We have also discussed how we could collaborate with cities to improve development work around housing. With regard to our building portfolio, our focus is on achieving carbon neutrality in in-use energy consumption by the end of 2030. We continue to increase the use of geothermal heat and we completed the installation of solar power plants in 24 residential buildings around the Helsinki metropolitan area, Tampere and Turku. The calculated solar power output generated locally at our properties in 2023 corresponds to the annual power consumption of roughly 250 apartments.
We will report in more detail on our sustainability work in our Sustainability Report, which will be published on 16 February.
In January 2023, SATO was awarded the Great Place To Work® certificate and ranked tenth in the list of Finland’s Best Workplaces in the large company category. I am extremely proud and grateful for this recognition as the entire organisation has worked long and hard to develop SATO’s culture. A total of 85% of SATO employees feel that SATO as a whole is a great place to work. Diversity, equality and inclusion are key factors through which we will continue to strengthen our understanding and competence among both our personnel and residents.
This year has taught us a lot. Despite the sector’s challenges, SATO’s objective is to reinforce its foothold in the markets and achieve sustainable growth.
I would like to thank all SATO employees, our partners and the residents living in SATOhomes for our successful co-operation during the past year.
Antti Aarnio, President and CEO
Report of the Board of Directors 1 January–31 December 2022
For SATO, 2023 was marked by a tightened situation in the sector, Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, higher interest rate costs, an inflation-driven rise in costs and the continued high supply of rental housing in relation to housing demand. The sharp rise in energy prices resulting from the war in Ukraine was reflected in the Finnish economy. Although an energy crisis was avoided, economic momentum remained weak throughout the reporting year as a result of prolonged inflation and high interest rates. The Finnish economy remained in a downturn in 2023, and according to the Bank of Finland’s December projection, the gross domestic product contracted by 0.5% in 2023.
In 2023, headline inflation was at a high level, at around 4.4%. Core inflation persistently remained above the two per cent mark, which is why central banks continued their policy to tighten interest rates throughout the year. In late 2023, energy prices fell to a seasonally normal level and inflation began to fall. Consumers’ confidence in their own finances remained low, which translated into cautious spending. The employment rate stopped rising and declined as economic growth stalled. The employment situation is expected to weaken further in 2024. On the other hand, inflation has slowed, interest rate costs are expected to fall and households’ purchasing power is expected to increase. These developments are anticipated to have a positive impact on Finland’s economy.
The housing sector was impacted by economic uncertainty, a high interest rate level and a rise in living costs. The outlook for housing construction darkened to an exceptional degree in 2023 as a result of rising costs and weaker demand. The record-low demand for housing also had a significant impact on housing starts for both owner-occupied and rental apartments. According to the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries, housing starts contracted dramatically in 2023, although previously started projects kept the supply high in the Helsinki metropolitan area during 2023.
Strong demographic growth is expected to continue in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Tampere and Turku, while growth in the whole country will likely start to decline in 2031. The population of the Helsinki metropolitan area is expected to grow by over 200,000 new residents by 2040. Close to 80% of the area’s residents already live in one- to two-person households, and the number of small households continues to rise. The proportion of immigrants living in the capital area is predicted to grow from the current 17% to 25% by 2030. Ageing populations typically move closer to growth centres and the services they offer, and they also increasingly expect housing-related services. The change in the population structure and development in the prices of owner-occupied apartments create a stable foundation for demand for rental housing especially in the capital area and in Tampere and Turku.
Despite positive internal migration, competition for good tenants remained tight during the reporting year, and rent increases remained moderate. Housing providers have not been able to pass the actual cost rises on to rents. The increased cost level creates pressure to increase rents in the upcoming years.
Economic uncertainty may have a positive impact on the demand for rental apartments. Some of those looking for an owner-occupied apartment may also consider rental housing as an option.
Recovery from the downturn is expected to happen slowly. Prices have risen and consumers’ confidence is weak. The Bank of Finland projected, already in December 2023, that economic growth in 2024 would be negative 0.2%. The employment situation is expected to weaken slightly further in 2024. Economic growth is forecast to improve in 2025, as a result of which the employment situation will also take an upward turn.
SATO is a housing investment company operating in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Tampere and Turku. Our operations are based on our values – Human to human, Be bold, aim high, and Joy of succeeding together.
The company’s strategic priorities are customer experience, sustainability and sustainable housing, and SATO employees. We want to be present in our customers’ daily lives so that we can offer a successful customer experience. We build sustainable homes and take care of them in accordance with the life-cycle principles. SATO is committed to maintaining and constructing the buildings in a financially sound manner. Our employees make these goals possible. Well-being at work, an inspiring employee experience and a coaching management style encourage SATO employees to develop and build the SATO of the future.
We measure our success using strategic indicators. We strive to improve our residents’ net promoter score (NPS), maintain our Investment Grade credit rating and achieve a return on equity in line with the set target.
In the reporting year, our strategy focussed on improving a seamless customer experience, we advanced the realisation of the targets laid down in the sustainability programme for 2023–2026 and took measures to maintain profitability in a challenging market situation.
Net sales and profit
In 2023, consolidated net sales were EUR 288.4 million (291.2).
Operating profit was EUR -113.6 million (198.9). The operating profit without the fair value change of investment properties was EUR 135.7 million (213.8). The change in fair value was EUR 249.3 million (-14.9).
Net financing costs totalled EUR -72.2 million (-47.0).
Profit before taxes was EUR -185.8 million (151.9). Cash flow from operations (free cash flow after taxes excluding changes in fair value) amounted to EUR 32.9 million (141.3).
Earnings per share were EUR -2.72 (2.13).
Financial position and financing
The consolidated balance sheet totalled EUR 5,085.0 million (5,184.7) at the end of December. Equity was EUR 2,435.0 million (2,480.9). Equity per share was EUR 43.01 (43.82).
The Group’s equity ratio was 47.9% (47.8) at the end of the year. EUR 255.0 million in new long-term financing was withdrawn (137.3) and the solvency ratio was 42.4% (40.7) at the end of December.
The Group’s return on equity was -6.3% (5.0). Return on invested capital was -2.5% (4.3).
Cash and cash equivalents at the end of December totalled EUR 7.0 million (60.5). Interest-bearing liabilities at the end of December totalled EUR 2,159.2 million (2,145.7), of which loans subject to market terms accounted for EUR 2,044.0 million (1,991.3). The loan itemisation is in note 25 of the financial statements. At the end of the reporting year, the average loan interest rate was 3.4% (2.3). Net financing costs totalled EUR -72.2 million (-47.0). The average maturity of loans was 2.8 years (3.3).
The calculated impact of changes in the market value of interest hedging on equity was EUR -13.4 million (48.1). The proportion of unsecured loans was 85.4% of all loans. At the end of the year, the proportion of unencumbered assets was 87.7% of the balance sheet.
Issue of shares
Maintenance costs have increased due to persistently high inflation, and the dramatically risen interest rate level has simultaneously led to a significant rise in financing costs. In the current market situation, it has not been possible to pass the costs on to apartment rents in full. Supply has exceeded demand in the Finnish housing market as a result of intense construction activity in recent years.
In an effort to improve the company’s financial position, the company’s Board of Directors launched, based on the authorisation granted by the General Meeting in December 2023, a share issue of up to EUR 200.0 million. The share issue is aimed at strengthening the company’s equity ratio and balance sheet and at reducing interest-bearing liabilities. The company’s largest shareholder, Balder Finska Otas AB (Fastighets AB Balder), has announced that it will support the issue ending on 14 February 2024.
SATO Corporation is the parent company of SATO Group. At the end of the reporting year, the parent company had a total of 13 subsidiaries (21) engaged in business operations. Mergers were completed during the year in order to clarify the Group structure.
SATO Corporation’s majority shareholder is Balder Finska Otas AB, whose parent company is Fastighets AB Balder, which is quoted on the Stockholm Stock Exchange.
Our housing business consists of rental activities, customer service, life-cycle management and maintenance. We strive to provide home-seekers with a quick access to a home, a steady cash flow for the Group through effective rental activities and smooth digital services. High-quality property maintenance ensures the comfort of residents and that the apartments stay in good condition and retain their value. Customer focus and good service are the foundation for our interactions with our customers.
During the year under review, apartment rental activities slowed and competition among housing providers tightened especially in growth centres. A large number of new rental apartments were completed in Espoo, Helsinki, Tampere and Turku, giving residents a wider choice.
SATO had approximately 43,000 customers at the end of the year under review. The economic occupancy rate decreased compared to the previous year. Our occupancy rate was 94.9%. We boosted the organisation’s activities by improving the service processes, among other things. We also developed customer experience measurement and reporting. Our goal going forward is to further reinforce our presence in our customers’ daily lives and to offer them the best possible service.
At the end of the year, 67 house experts and 7 team leaders worked in SATO’s house expert organisation. Their primary task is to ensure, together with the maintenance company, that SATO’s buildings are comfortable and well-maintained. The house expert model is now in use to its full extent in the properties wholly owned by SATO in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Tampere and Turku.
We serve our customers through various channels, also during the weekend. In addition to personal service, our customer service can be reached via the chat service at sato.fi/en, where our customers receive help from our service experts and the SATObot, which is on duty 24/7. Multiculturalism is part of our daily life, and we can serve our customers in about 20 languages. We constantly work on improving our digital services together with our customers.
Improved customer service and development measures carried out in different service processes improved the customer experience in many respects. In the beginning of the reporting year, we launched the concept of good encounters for all SATO employees, describing the way we interact with one another, our customers, partners and stakeholders. We want to interact with our customers with the same warmth in both digital channels and face-to-face service situations and settings. We ask our customers for their feedback on how we have succeeded in our interactions through various transactional surveys, and we monitor customer feedback using an indicator measuring interaction.
SATO’s customer experience is made up of multiple factors, such as how well the customer’s home meets their needs, home removal situations and digital and face-to-face interaction with SATO employees. The concept of good encounters serves as a tool for all SATO employees and helps us ensure a familiar and consistent service experience. In 2023, we measured the company’s customer satisfaction using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) index. Our NPS during residency was 23 and the NPS for various transactional situations was 53. The latter is based on feedback from customers in various encounters, such as customer service phone calls, maintenance services provided by house experts, apartment offers and apartment viewings.
Economic occupancy rate was 94.9% on average (95.2). The external tenant turnover rate for rental apartments was 26.8% (28.4). Rental income decreased 1.0% and was EUR 288.4 million (291.2). The average monthly rent of SATO’s rental apartments at the end of the reporting year was EUR 18.07 (17.84) per m2. Net rental income for apartments was EUR 198.7 million (200.4).
On 31 December 2023, SATO owned a total of 25,468 apartments (24,999). During the reporting year, 978 rental apartments (191) were completed for SATO, and a total of 349 rental apartments (1,327) were under construction. The number of divested rental apartments was 530.
EUR 99.1 million (93.9) was spent on repairing and upgrading apartments. During the reporting year, renovation was completed for 545 apartments and renovation was underway in 56 apartments.
On 14 April 2023, we completed the divestment of our Russian business. SATO operated in St. Petersburg as of 2007, and the company owned 522 rental apartments there. After the sale, SATO has no business operations in Russia.
The development of the value of rental apartments is a key factor for SATO. The housing stock is focussed on areas and apartment sizes that are expected to grow in demand in the long term. The allocation of building repairs is based on life-cycle plans and repair need specifications.
The fair value of investment properties on 31 December 2023 totalled EUR 4,885.7 million (5,044.2). The change in the value of investment properties, including investments and divestments in the financial year, was EUR -158.5 million (11.4).
The value of properties funded with ARAVA loans or interest-subsidised loans would be EUR 260 million higher when valuated with income value method.
The external expert JLL Finland Oy (JLL) issues a biannual statement on the valuation methods applied by SATO, the appropriateness of sources of information used and the quality and credibility of the valuation for Finnish investment properties. JLL’s latest statement was issued on the valuation carried out on 31 December 2023. The criteria for the determination of the fair value are presented in the notes to the consolidated financial statements.
The change in value was mainly influenced by the increase in yield requirements.
At the end of the year, the Helsinki metropolitan area’s commuting area accounted for some 86.9%, Tampere for some 7.5% and Turku for 5.6% of the value of apartments.
Investments, divestments and property development
Investment activities are used to manage the housing portfolio and prepare the ground for growth. SATO’s investments in the 2000s in non-subsidised rental apartments total more than EUR 3 billion. SATO acquires and builds entire rental buildings and single rental apartments. Property development allows for new investments in rental apartments. The rental potential and value of rental apartments owned by SATO are developed through repair activities, which help increase comfort and improve energy efficiency.
In response to continued strong urbanisation, SATO invests, in addition to Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, also in their surrounding municipalities and in Tampere, Turku and their surrounding municipalities. Investments in rental apartments were EUR 150.0 million (190.5). Investments in the Helsinki metropolitan area represented 89.1% of all investments in the reporting year. Investments in new apartments represented 46.1% of the investments. In addition, SATO’s binding purchase agreements in Finland on 31 December 2023 totalled EUR 17.4 million (114.3). During the reporting year, 530 rental apartments (2,021) were divested. These totalled EUR 52.6 million (210.6).
The book value of plot reserves totalled EUR 44.3 million (40.8) at the end of the reporting year. The value of new plots acquired by SATO by the end of December 2023 totalled EUR 0.8 million (18.4).
The permitted building volume for approximately 1,200 apartments is being developed for the plots in the company’s housing portfolio. The aim is to utilise the existing infrastructure, create a denser urban structure and bring more residents close to services and good public transport connections.
We engage in urban development together with cities and other operators in the sector. Developing urban districts benefits not only the future residents of new apartments, but also the existing residents, as services improve and the urban environment develops. As a long-term property owner, housing investor and housing provider, SATO has the will to build nice homes, residential areas and pleasant urban areas for decades to come.
During the reporting year, we continued the development of, among other areas, Itäkeskus in Helsinki, Soukka in Espoo and Tohloppi, Tampere. In Helsinki, we are involved in developing the Puotila metro station area and the Puhos and Stoa area into a new centre for East Helsinki. In Espoo’s Soukka, we are developing, together with the city, the Soukka centre area through complementary construction of SATO’s residential buildings located in the immediate vicinity of the metro station.
In the spring, we launched a complementary planning project in Tohloppi, Tampere, aimed at building two new residential buildings owned by SATO in West Tampere. SATO also has several development projects underway in Espoo, Helsinki, Järvenpää, Kirkkonummi, Tampere, Turku and Vantaa.
During the reporting year, plots in areas developed by SATO were sold to construction companies and other partners. This enables the construction of approximately 120 owner-occupied apartments and one grocery store, thus promoting the diverse development of the residential areas.
During the reporting year, close to a thousand new rental apartments were completed for SATO. In the Helsinki metropolitan area, apartments were completed in Espoo (Vermonniitty and Karakallio), in Helsinki (Veräjämäki) and in Vantaa (Hakunila and Keimolanmäki). New rental apartments were also completed in Tampere (Hervantajärvi) and Turku (Skanssi).
We renovate the rental homes and properties we own according to the life-cycle principle. Renovations were completed in more than 500 apartments in Helsinki (Etelä-Haaga, Pitäjänmäki, Kallio, Etu-Töölö and Pohjois-Haaga). In Vantaa, renovations were completed at the property located in Martinlaakso.
Housing starts have been at an all-time low in the entire sector. The supply of new rental apartments will strongly decrease over the next few years. In autumn 2022, we decided not to initiate any new investments for the time being. Behind the decision were higher financing costs and the rise in construction and maintenance costs driven by dramatically increased inflation. In 2024, SATO will see the completion of a total of 349 new rental apartments in Tuusula (Hyrylä) and Espoo (Finnoo). Renovations will be completed in a 56-apartment property located in Kallio, Helsinki.
We are committed to improving the energy efficiency of our properties and we are increasing local production of renewable energy at our properties. More information about our energy efficiency work can be found in the sustainability section.
During the reporting year, our sustainability work was governed by SATO’s strategy and our sustainability programme for 2023–2026, according to which our goal is to be a forerunner in sustainable rental housing. The themes of our sustainability programme are sustainable housing (environmental responsibility), the well-being of communities (social responsibility) and profitable business sustainably (financial and administrative responsibility). Our programme’s policies are linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). During the year, we advanced sustainability work in line with the targets in all areas. In line with our sustainability programme, we focussed on the following themes in the area of environmental responsibility: carbon neutrality and energy efficiency, circular economy and biodiversity. SATO’s goal is to be carbon neutral by the end of 2030 when it comes to in-use energy consumption. During the reporting year, we drew up a carbon roadmap, which specifies our interim targets and actions to achieve our carbon neutrality goal. In addition to continuous measures to improve energy efficiency, we invest in locally produced renewable energy. For example, by the end of 2030, we will switch over to geothermal heat in all our homes located in Helsinki wherever possible and where it also makes financial sense. We continuously collaborate with energy suppliers in order to save energy and increase carbon neutral energy solutions, among other things. SATO’s goal is to promote material efficiency and the circular economy both during building use and in new building construction and renovation projects. We participated in the circular economy project of the City of Helsinki, aimed at bringing together construction sector parties to discuss ways to promote circular economy. During the reporting year, we prepared SATO’s first biodiversity roadmap for 2024–2026, which is based on charting the current state and a materiality analysis. Our goal is to slow down biodiversity loss and improve biodiversity in housing development and in the areas where our existing buildings are located. We take biodiversity into consideration in everything we do, initiate actions to improve biodiversity in our properties and develop our competence in biodiversity issues. An external, independent sustainability panel consisting of experts in sustainable production and consumption selected eight of SATO’s renovated buildings for the Ostavastuullisesti.fi website in autumn 2023: Ansaritie 1A and 2–4 (Etelä-Haaga, Helsinki), Graniittitie 8 and 13 (Pihlajamäki, Helsinki), Kannelkuja 6 (Itä-Hakkila, Helsinki), Piispantie 3 and 5 as well as Rikhard Nymanintie 3 (Pitäjänmäki, Helsinki) and Porttikuja 11 (Kontula, Helsinki). For the time being, SATO is the only rental housing provider in the Ostavastuullisesti.fi service. The products or services selected for the website are more sustainable than other available options. We participated for the ninth time in the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) assessment. SATO received three stars on a scale of one to five. SATO’s score in the Standing Investments Benchmark (existing properties) rose to 76 from the 73 points received in the previous year and in the Development Benchmark (construction projects), SATO’s score rose to 79 points from 75 points in the previous year. In its peer group, SATO’s result represents the average of northern European housing investors. SATO’s strengths in the GRESB assessment were, for example, sustainability management, risk management, diverse stakeholder co-operation, a comprehensive health and well-being programme and measures for personnel, and issues related to tenants’ health and safety. Furthermore, based on the GRESB assessment, SATO’s improvement areas are describing processes and documentation related to material selection and monitoring in construction projects in more detail. Some of our sustainable housing measures are described below under “Impacts on the environment and society”. In the area of social responsibility, we focussed not only on supporting our employees’ well-being at work and competence development, but also on improving the comfort and well-being of our residents and promoting diversity and equality. In spring 2023, we launched the concept of good encounters, describing how we interact with other people. The concept creates a consistent approach to all interactions and serves as a tool for SATO employees. Its objective is to ensure that our customers can enjoy a consistent service experience regardless of the situation and the SATO employee and to improve the customer experience, which is a key element of our strategy. The concept was cascaded among SATO employees during spring and early summer, and the related work will continue as an integral part of our daily activities.
During the reporting year, we initiated diversity, equity and inclusion work (DEI) at SATO. Our goal is to increase and reinforce SATO employees’ understanding of the topic to even better understand our diverse customer base, promote our personnel’s well-being and achieve better results together. We started the work by conducting a self-evaluation of diversity management and by providing coaching to the Corporate Management Group, supervisors and SATO employees with a interest in DEI work. We launched a DEI plan in a diversity coaching session for the entire personnel in November 2023, conducted theme discussions during the rest of the year in each team and started in-depth supervisor coaching. We will continue building understanding through coaching sessions and discussions also in 2024. We will also, among other things, look into our HR practices, renew our recruitment process to increase diversity and develop indicators for assessing and monitoring the DEI work. In the area of administrative and financial responsibility, we continued to develop consistent and transparent ways of working during the reporting year. In the reporting year, we started the identification and description of our core processes. We completed a compliance charting and renewed our Code of Ethics for employees and co-operation partners. We updated the framework for green financing, which is focussed on energy-efficient properties and improving their energy efficiency. We expanded the remuneration criteria to cover, in addition to customer experience and economic occupancy rate, also sustainability by making the realisation of the annual targets specified in the sustainability programme part of the remuneration paid to all SATO employees.
SATO has a First Whistle channel in place, through which SATO employees and external stakeholders can confidentially report detected or suspected misconduct or other inappropriate conduct.
We report on our sustainability annually in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) reporting guidelines, and the environmental sustainability and procurement figures presented in the report have been verified by an independent third party, i.e. KPMG Oy Ab. During the reporting year, we continued collaboration with the non-profit organisation No Fixed Abode and the Rehabilitation Foundation in their project to help participants in the project find the two essentials of life – a home and a job. By the end of 2023, 10 people who had participated in the project were living in a SATOhome.
In 2020, we committed to reporting in accordance with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework. In the framework, the risks are divided into four main categories: transition risks, acute and chronic physical risks and social risks. During the reporting year, risks caused by climate change were part of SATO’s general risk assessment that is conducted internally each year. Climate-related risks and opportunities and their impact on the company’s operations were addressed in the Corporate Management Group and reported to the Board of Directors twice during the reporting year.
The Corporate Governance Statement, SATO’s Code of Ethics and the Group’s sustainability programme are available at sato.fi/en.
Impacts on the environment and society
According to the Ministry of the Environment, construction and buildings cause approximately one third of Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Our most significant climate impacts arise from energy consumption during residency and the construction and repair of our homes. Mitigating climate change and responding to it are at the core of our sustainability work. We aim to reduce the emissions caused by our operations, and our goal is to reach carbon neutrality for in-use energy consumption by the end of 2030.
Our objective is to systematically reduce the negative impacts of our operations on the environment. We reduce the load on the environment by regularly and proactively taking care of and repairing homes and properties according to the life-cycle principle, and by building properties primarily in existing urban environments and near good public transport connections.
The design of SATO’s new rental apartments always takes into account energy efficiency and solutions that will last for decades. In new properties, SATO’s goal is energy class A (energy performance indicator 75 or below), which is significantly better than that required by the building code (energy performance indicator 90). All of the buildings that were completed during the reporting year were energy class A. In 2023, we did not start any new construction projects.
During the reporting year, we continued to invest in energy efficiency improvements in SATOhomes in connection with renovations. In renovations, our goal is to improve energy efficiency by some 30% compared to earlier. A total of 545 homes were renovated in 2023.
We are committed to the Energy Efficiency Agreement targets for the property sector, aiming for a reduction in the total consumption of electricity and heat of 10.5% from the 2015 baseline by 2025. The use of renewable energy in heating significantly reduces the in-use emissions of homes. Our goal is for 80% of our energy consumption to be renewable or carbon neutral by the end of 2026. We increase local energy production and always look into the possibility of using geothermal heat and other locally produced energy and heat recovery. We implement these wherever possible and where it also makes financial sense. In 2023, we added a solar power plant to 24 properties located in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Tampere and Turku. At the end of the reporting year, among the properties fully owned by SATO, 1,820 homes had geothermal heat and 247 homes had hybrid heating with district heat and heat pumps. Thirty properties housing 2,999 SATOhomes had a solar power plant. In 2023, building electricity consisted entirely of emission-free electricity.
During the reporting year, specific energy consumption fell by 2.0%, specific electricity consumption rose 8.2% and specific water consumption fell by 1.0% compared to 2022. Specific emissions from SATO’s apartments fell by 10.6% compared to 2022 and were 25.2 carbon dioxide equivalent kilograms per square metre (28.2). Emissions are calculated according to the absolute consumption of district heating. Due to the rise in heating and electricity prices, energy costs rose overall.
In addition to the climate, the built environment also has a significant impact on nature, and the construction supply chains also have identified nature impacts. Biodiversity is one of the environmental themes of SATO’s sustainability programme, and our goal is to slow down biodiversity loss and improve biodiversity in housing development and in the areas where our existing buildings are located. The measures to promote biodiversity are described in the biodiversity roadmap 2024–2026 in our Sustainability Report 2023. We are continuously improving our actions to promote biodiversity as our understanding, competence and resources increase.
Our business is long-term, transparent and sustainable. For us, sustainability means concrete actions that can be seen in everything we do. We regularly assess and predict the social, economic and environmental risks related to our operations. We strive to systematically reduce the identified negative impacts, for example by following our Code of Ethics, by combating the grey economy, by approving only companies registered with the Reliable Partner service as our co-operation partners, conducting audits and internal control, and by continuously developing our operations.
We generate a steady financial benefit for our stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, municipalities, the state, and goods suppliers and service providers and their employees. We support growth opportunities in business and industry by offering rental apartments in Finland’s largest growth centres, in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Tampere and Turku.
We enable sustainable housing for our residents and encourage them to make sustainable choices in their daily lives. We are a long-term and responsible housing provider for our residents. Development activities
Our operating model is based on the idea that any needs for improvement and change in the organisation are best identified by the employees whose daily work involves the matters in question. One of the spearheads of SATO’s strategy are SATO employees, and our intent is for each SATO employee to develop and build the SATO of the future.
SATO has in place a continuous improvement model for business. We develop our operations as smaller components rather than large units, which speeds up development work and allows processes to be improved effectively. In connection with development work, we identify, prioritise and carry out strategically important actions.
SATO’s development activities in 2023 focussed on several aspects that improve the key businesses. Solutions that harmonise business information management were deployed in the property data system KoTI. In KoTI, we are able to manage the key areas of property management centrally and based on consistent data, which makes it easier, for example, to make long-term plans. As a result of the development work, KoTI can be used for identifying and evaluating different repair needs, targeting repairs, as well as for identifying divestment needs.
In rental housing, we will continue the harmonisation of processes also during the next reporting year. We invested in developing digital services, as well as our presence near to the customers, and in building a uniform and seamless service experience. Our goal is to serve our customers in the best way possible, regardless of time or place. Customers can, for example, book an apartment viewing digitally whenever they want.
During the year under review, we moved the majority of our digital services to cloud service platforms. This has made service maintenance more effective and brought the company savings. This has also saved us time, which we have been able to allocate to developing our core businesses. By making effective use of cloud services, we have also improved the company’s information security, scalability and operational flexibility. An increasing number of business areas can now be managed directly on the property together with the resident.
We have improved our collaboration by developing our partner channel in terms of, for example, key management for the properties. In addition, we have developed a parking spot rental process, which improves the overall management of rental activities and enables better service four our customers.
OmaSATO, the digital service targeted at residents, turned five during the reporting year. Our goal is to make OmaSATO a better digital rental housing service that makes life easier for residents and encourages them to make more sustainable choices. In 2023, a customer survey was conducted among OmaSATO users, based on which we identified new development areas. We made the user interface more customer friendly using service design. The renewed OmaSATO will be released in early 2024, and its development will be continued.
Modern systems make it easier to automate processes and respond to the different needs of the businesses. As part of the work to develop financial administration, SATO introduced a new accounts ledger system in April 2023. In this connection, we outsourced customer invoicing in its entirety to our external partner as of 1 April 2023.
A total of EUR 2.3 million (3.2) was spent on development, corresponding to approximately 0.8% of net sales.
Risk management is used to ensure that risks impacting the company’s business are identified, managed and monitored. The main risks of SATO’s business are risks related to the business environment and financial risks.
SATO’s most significant risks are related to prolonged inflation and the resulting rise in interest rates. As a result of the war in Ukraine, the prices of energy, food, materials and commodities have increased dramatically and interest rates have risen. Higher cost of living can have a negative impact on consumers’ purchasing power and ability to meet their obligations. If the strong growth in the cost of financing and maintenance costs continues and the market situation does not provide an opportunity to transfer the higher costs into rents in full, this can have a negative impact on the fair value of investment assets and the company’s ability to meet its obligations and to finance investments, which means that new investments and renovations will have to be postponed.
The most significant risks in the renting of apartments are related to economic cycles and fluctuations in demand and supply. High new housing construction activity can increase the supply of rental housing to a point that it exceeds demand. This leads to rental housing vacancies and pressure to even out or lower the rent level, especially for the old housing portfolio.
A weakening in the housing market and a higher interest rate level could have a negative impact on the market value of SATO’s housing portfolio. In accordance with its strategy, SATO focusses its investments on growth centres and on renovating and repairing its existing housing portfolio, thus ensuring the rental potential of its apartments and the development of their value.
Changes in official regulations and legislation, as well as the uncertainty stemming from them, may have a significant impact on the reliability of the investment environment and thus on SATO’s business. SATO monitors and anticipates these changes and also calls attention to what it considers to be negative impacts of regulation.
The management of financial risks is steered by the Group’s treasury policy, which has been approved by SATO’s Board of Directors. Our financial risk management principles are defined in the treasury policy. Our most significant financial risks relate to liquidity, refinancing and interest rates. We manage our liquidity and refinancing risks by diversifying the financing sources and maturity of our loan portfolio, and by holding sufficient liquidity reserves in the form of committed credit facilities and other long-term financing commitments. The company has a valid EUR 2.0 billion Euro Medium Term Note (EMTN) programme.
The means for managing the liquidity risk at SATO include cash assets, a bank account limit, committed credit facilities of EUR 600 million and a commercial paper programme of EUR 400 million. We increase the amount of reserves as the financing requirements grow. Our objective is to keep the liquidity requirements of the next 12 months covered by committed agreements.
Floating rate loans form an interest rate risk which we manage by balancing the share of fixed and floating rate loans either by issuing fixed rate loans or by interest rate hedges. According to our treasury policy, our objective is to keep the ratio of fixed rate loans at over 60% of debt portfolio after interest hedging. At the end of the review period, the fixed rate portion of the loan portfolio after hedging was 66.3% (excluding short-term loans).
A more detailed description of risks and risk management is available on the Group’s website www.sato.fi/en.
Pending legal actions
SATO has no official procedures, legal actions or arbitration proceedings pending that would have a significant impact on the company’s financial standing or profitability, and SATO is not aware of any threat of such proceedings.
On 31 December 2023, the share capital of SATO Corporation was EUR 4,442,192.00 and there were 56,783,067 shares. The company has one series of shares. The shares are included in the book-entry system maintained by Euroclear Finland Oy.
SATO Corporation holds 166,000 treasury shares. This represents 0.3% of all shares and the votes they confer.
On 11 December 2023, the General Meeting authorised the Board of Directors to decide on the issuance of up to 56,700,000 shares by one or several tranches to raise gross proceeds of up to EUR 200 million. Based on the authorisation, the Board of Directors decided, in December, on a share issue in which the company will offer up to 28,308,533 new shares in the company for subscription to the company’s existing shareholders in proportion to the number of shares they hold in the company. The subscription period began on 20 December 2023 and will expire on 14 February 2024.
On 31 December 2023, the Board members or the CEO of SATO Corporation did not directly hold any shares in the company. A more detailed description of the shareholdings of the members of the Board is given in the Corporate Governance Statement 2023.
At the end of December, the Group employed 323 people (325), of whom 295 (299) had a permanent employment contract. The average number of personnel was 333 people (328) during the reporting year. The Group’s salaries and remunerations in 2023 totalled EUR 22.1 million (21.6).
Shareholders’ Nomination Committee
The Shareholders’ Nomination Committee consists of representatives of SATO’s four largest shareholders registered in the book-entry system on 1 October. If a shareholder chooses not to exercise their nomination right, the right will pass on to the next largest shareholder. The State Pension Fund, the company’s fourth largest shareholder on 1 October 2023, did not exercise its nomination right, and the right was passed to Erkka Valkila, the fifth largest shareholder. The Committee consisted of representatives of the following shareholders: Balder Finska Otas AB (Erik Selin), Stichting Depositary APG Strategic Real Estate Pool (Johannus (Hans) Spikker), Elo Mutual Pension Insurance Company (Niko Syrjänen) and Erkka Valkila.
Board of Directors, President and CEO, and auditors
The Annual General Meeting held on 23 March 2023 confirmed that the Board of Directors consists of six members.
In 2023, the members of SATO’s Board of Directors were chair Erik Selin and ordinary members Esa Lager, Tarja Pääkkönen, Sharam Rahi, Johannus (Hans) Spikker and Timo Stenius.
The Board of Directors convened 16 times in 2023. The Board’s work is supported by the Personnel and Remuneration Committee.
In 2023, Antti Aarnio, M.Sc. (Tech.), was SATO’s President and CEO.
As the company’s auditor, the Annual General Meeting selected the audit firm Deloitte Oy, which appointed APA Aleksi Martamo as the auditor in charge. The auditor’s term in office is the financial year, and the auditor’s duties end at the closing of the next Annual General Meeting.
Members of the Management Group
During the financial year 2023, the Corporate Management Group consisted of Antti Aarnio, President and CEO, Arto Aalto, EVP, Investments, Markku Honkasalo, CFO, Janne Ojalehto, CCO (until 27 January 2023), Laura Laamanen, CCO (as of 11 May 2023) and Elina Vaurasalo, EVP, Housing Business.
In the operating environment, SATO’s business activities are mainly affected by consumer confidence, the development of purchasing power, rent and price development for apartments, the general competitive situation and interest rates.
Finland’s economic growth was negative in 2023. According to the Bank of Finland’s December projection, increased prices, higher interest rates and the consumers’ weak confidence in the economy will slow economic growth also in 2024.
Inflation slowed strongly in late 2023 as a result of lower energy prices, tightened monetary policy and easing of supply bottlenecks. Core inflation has remained above the European Central Bank’s (ECB) target, but the markets expect the ECB to start interest rate cuts during 2024. The slowing inflation and falling interest rates, coupled with households’ decent income development, will increase households’ purchasing power. Employment is expected to weaken slightly in 2024 but to improve as of 2025.
The continued high level of new housing production has kept competition for good tenants tight and rent increases moderate, and it has not been possible to pass the higher maintenance and financing costs on to rents in full. Higher material costs and interest rates have led to housing starts decreasing almost without interruption since early 2022. The construction of new housing has been in a steep fall in 2023 and the fall will continue in 2024.
There is demand for housing in growth centres thanks to immigration and internal migration. According to Statistics Finland, the Helsinki metropolitan area’s net positive migration rate in 2023 was clearly higher than in the previous year, whereas the number of people moving out was smaller. Of the municipalities in the area, Helsinki and Espoo experienced the highest net positive migration rates.
Decreasing new housing production and population growth in growth centres will reduce supply and increase demand for rental apartments, which will likely translate into higher rents in the future.
As tenants have a wider array of choices, a successful customer experience is more important than ever. SATO is investing strongly in increasing its customer presence and developing digital services.
In line with its majority shareholder’s operating model, SATO Corporation will not publish guidance on its 2024 earnings. The parent company of Balder Finska Otas AB is Fastighets AB Balder, which is quoted on the Stockholm Stock Exchange.
Proposal of the Board of Directors for the distribution of profit
On 31 December 2023, the parent company’s distributable equity was EUR 605,177,719.26, of which profit for the period was EUR -20,428,203.12. The company had 56,617,067 outstanding shares entitling to dividends for 2023.
The Board of Directors proposes to the Annual General Meeting that no dividends be paid for the 2023 financial year (EUR 0/share for 2022), and that EUR -20,428,203.12 be transferred to earnings.
There have been no material changes in the financial position of the company since the end of the financial year.
Largest shareholders 31.12.2023
Annual General Meeting 2024
The Annual General Meeting of SATO Corporation will be held on Thursday, 21 March.
President and CEO Antti Aarnio, tel. +358 20 134 4200 CFO Markku Honkasalo, tel. +358 20 134 4226 www.sato.fi/en
Annual Report 2023 Financial Statements presentation 2023 Financial Statements as an XHTML file
DISTRIBUTION**:** Euronext Dublin, main media, www.sato.fi/en.
SATO Corporation is an expert in sustainable rental housing and one of Finland’s largest rental housing providers. SATO owns more than 25,000 rental homes in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Tampere and Turku.
SATO aims to provide an excellent customer experience and a comprehensive range of urban rental housing alternatives with good access to public transport and services. We promote sustainable development and work in open interaction with our stakeholders. SATO invests profitably, sustainably and with a long-term view. We increase the value of our assets through investments, divestments and repairs. www.sato.fi/en.