Owner and chairman
Interviewed by: Christian B. Ramm, Finance Manager, Ferd Social Entrepreneurs
Transcription from interview with Ferd's owner and Chairman, Johan H. Andresen
Did 2015 meet your expectations, Johan?
Yes, it did. Last year, I said 2015 would be a challenging year. We achieved 8 % growth in Value Adjusted Equity in 2015. We have an ambition of 10%, so we were pretty close.
What were the most important factors behind the 2015 results?
The business areas that contributed most were Ferd Invest and Ferd Real Estate.
Ferd Invest profited greatly from its Nordic strategy, which allowed it to benefit from developments in other Nordic countries, even though Norway did not do quite so well. Real Estate has developed and organised several good projects and has done very well in 2015.
And rest of Ferd?
There were varying results, but that's normal. This has been a terrible year for Norway. Especially if we think of all those who lost their jobs. Aibel is no exception there. Nor is Servi, where we've had to let some people go. On the other hand, we have also had some great successes. Aibel won two really big orders, both on Sverdrup and a modification order for Statoil. Now Aibel's order book is bigger than ever. That bodes really well for the future.
You are talking from a macro perspective, which is important for such a large industrial and financial group as Ferd. How did the macroeconomic situation affect Ferd last year?
Starting with currency, the Norwegian krone is historically weak compared with the Euro and the US dollar. Ferd Invest benefited greatly from that since they have the Nordic exposure. Others had this effect against them, like Swix, which trades a lot in US dollars. Elopak, on the other hand, benefitted from having much of its revenues in Euro. If we are honest with ourselves, as we should be, about half of the 8 % growth is attributable to currency effects.
From a historical perspective, how was 2015 compared to the previous year?
We have had large variations, to put it mildly, but that is to be expected. Ferd should position itself to be able to really push when we have the chance. It was much better than 2014. But we have also had returns well over 20% in the past. We are well within the range where we should be. So I am pleased with the results.
What investment strategies will we see moving forward?
We have already seen some indications there. We have entered into two new partnerships. First with Credo Partners to engage with small and medium size companies, slightly below the scale we work on internally. We have also entered a partnership with some enterprising guys in Molde to invest in small and medium-sized suppliers to the aquaculture industry. We don't always focus on specific industries, but the partnership model to complement our own strategy is very important.
Will Ferd be moving away from its traditional strategy of buying and selling companies, towards acquiring interests in listed companies?
We are going to do both. We will continue to do both. We will likely see that, particularly in difficult times, there will be greater opportunities in public companies than in private companies. Prices adjust faster and it will be easier to become a major shareholder and contribute more. We will still buy and own companies as long as we feel like it makes sense.
Even though the company is much older, in 2016 we'll be marking 15 years of the Ferd structure. Since its inception, the company has nearly quadrupled its net asset value. How well is Ferd prepared for any adversity that we may encounter in the future?
Some might say that hard times are already here. For those who have had to find another job, it is definitely so. But I think that Ferd has never been stronger. And relatively speaking, also stronger in relation to the times we are in, the challenges we are facing, and the opportunities this presents. We have never had more, in terms of the combination of cash and available loan facilities. We have also recruited many talented people. We have preserved our capital strength, reinforced it and added more staff. Everything is in place to make the next few years both fun and exciting.
In monetary terms, social entrepreneurship is only a small part of the Ferd group. But you still spend a lot of your time on it?
Yes, it is true. We spend relatively little cash on it. However, both the social and human returns amount to billions of kroner and better lives for many. That's what's fun about making a contribution, and I think many at Ferd will agree with me. It helps us to strengthen and live up to our vision to create enduring value and leave clear footprints.
We are eager to see if 2016 can measure up to 2015.
I am looking forward to that too.
Thanks for talking with us.