Ylva’s net sales turned to growth after the pandemic, while inflation and rising interest rates create uncertainty for the coming years
The COVID-19 pandemic abated in 2022 and nearly all UniCafe restaurants were reopened after a prolonged shutdown. However, unexpected changes in the operating environment presented new challenges for Ylva’s restaurant and real estate businesses.
In 2022, the net sales of Ylva, which is owned by the student union of the University of Helsinki, increased by 25 per cent to EUR 24.9 million (2021: EUR 19.9 million). One significant factor behind the growth was the easing of the COVID-19 situation following the first months of the year, which were characterised by the Omicron wave. The net sales of Ylva’s restaurant business increased by 146 per cent to EUR 9.1 million (2021: EUR 3.7 million). Ylva’s restaurants sold 1.39 million lunches in 2022, representing an increase of 109 per cent compared to the 666,000 lunches sold in the previous year.
The net sales of the real estate business decreased by 2.5 per cent to EUR 15.6 million (2021: EUR 16.0 million). The most significant factors behind the decrease in net sales were the prolonged periods of time it took to rent out previously vacated premises, as well as the general increase in costs and energy prices. The estimated market value of Ylva’s properties and investments on the balance sheet grew by a total of EUR 28.9 million and came to EUR 454.8 million at the end of the year (2021: EUR 425.9 million). The increase in market values was mainly due to the progress of the Lyyra and Grand Hansa projects: revenue from the projects is recognised according to the percentage of completion.
“Our operating environment again changed dramatically in 2022. The general trend of inflation triggered by the war in Ukraine and the exceptional rise in interest rates had a direct impact on our core businesses. Nevertheless, we were able to improve our EBITDA during the year through careful hands-on management and cost control, and we managed to increase our net sales. We also successfully launched new business concepts, including the Well Catering online store, the Domus event restaurant and the student bar Myöhä right in the heart of Helsinki,” says CEO Leea Tolvas from Ylva.
Ylva’s securities portfolio was liquidated in December 2022, and the investment assets previously used as a liquidity buffer were put to use in the implementation of the Lyyra and Grand Hansa projects in accordance with Ylva’s investment strategy. Net losses on the disposal of the securities portfolio amounted to EUR -0.1 million (2021: EUR 0.0 million). Fair value adjustments were recognised due to the declining economic cycle in 2022 in the amount of EUR -1.5 million (2021: EUR +0.8 million).
Changes in the operating environment affect Ylva’s distribution of profits
Although Ylva’s business began to recover in 2022, the general development of inflation and the sharp rise in Euribor reference rates that began in autumn 2022 will increase Ylva’s operating expenses and financial expenses to a significant degree over the coming years. For this reason, Ylva will not distribute profits to its owner in 2023.
“Ylva’s debt portfolio is hedged against interest rate changes to a significant extent. Nevertheless, the exceptional rise in the six-month Euribor rate, which is used as the reference rate, still has an effect on us, and this will be reflected primarily as a decline in operating cash flow. In other words, Ylva’s liquidity position does not enable the distribution of profits in 2023. Our ownership strategy also specifies that the distribution of profit is conditional on ensuring adequate solvency,” Tolvas explains.
The unexpected changes in the market will also be reflected in Ylva’s business operations in the coming years. In the restaurant industry, the recovery of business will also be affected by whether the students and personnel of the University of Helsinki will opt to work remotely instead of coming to the campuses in the future.
“Unlike employee restaurants and other industry participants that benefit from increases to the value of lunch vouchers, restaurants that serve student meals are not able to change their pricing to respond to cost pressures in an agile manner due to the statutory price ceiling. Although the maximum price of a student meal was increased by EUR 0.50 during the year, the price ceiling is still much too low when considering the costs of ingredients. This makes the business very challenging,” Tolvas notes.
Ylva’s properties have operated on a carbon-neutral basis since the beginning of 2022
A significant sustainability milestone was achieved in 2022 when Ylva’s properties began operating on a fully carbon-neutral basis. The share of vegetarian and vegan meals served at Ylva’s restaurants increased slightly, to 48 per cent (2021: 47%).
“Going forward, we will monitor the share of vegan lunches sold. According to the carbon footprint calculations that we carried out in 2022, vegan lunches support the achievement of the 1.5°C target set out in the Paris Agreement better than other lunch meals. In 2022, vegan meals represented 40 per cent of our lunches sold, which makes them Ylva’s most significant consumer product. This indicates that our customers have a clear desire to make climate-friendly and sustainable consumption decisions on a daily basis,” Tolvas says.
This year, Ylva reports audited sustainability figures for the first time as part of its financial statements and the Board of Directors’ report.
“We want to be a leader in concrete sustainability efforts as well as sustainability reporting. Although Ylva’s size means that we are not within the scope of the reporting obligations stipulated by the European Commission’s new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) that will potentially enter into effect in 2025, we consider it important to be among the first to adopt the latest practices in our industries with regard to our sustainability reporting,” Tolvas explains.
The temporary layoffs that were caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and concerned the entire Group ended in August 2022. During the year under review, Ylva had an average of 110 of the Group’s 138 employees at work (2021: 96 persons). The scope of the Great Place to Work survey was extended in 2022 to cover all of the Group’s personnel, and Ylva was awarded its third Great Place to Work certificate.
Ylva’s financial statements and the Board of Directors’ report for 2022 are available at ylva.fi/en/finances
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