Growth forecasts were gradually downgraded in Sweden, one of the reasons being weak export development and low industry investment. The Swedish manufacturing industry and its subcontractors are closely linked to Europe, and development in several important export markets such as Germany, France, the UK and Finland has a big impact.
Also in 2014 we noted a wait-and-see attitude among investors in the venture capital market resulting from the generally uncertain outlook. This cautious attitude affects initiatives in early phases for the industry’s subcontractors, and we saw several signs of stretched liquidity among many small and medium-sized manufacturing companies.
In light of the situation in the Swedish parliament after the parliamentary election in September, Fouriertransform also adopted a cautious approach to follow-on investments. In its budget proposal the new Government wanted to alter Fouriertransform’s investment focus, but according to the budget of the center-right Alliance adopted by parliament in December, our mandate will remain the same. We are carefully following the Government’s overhaul of public venture capital policy so that we may play a role and execute our mandate in the best possible way.
Knowledge that creates growth
Manufacturing industry has been and still is the backbone of Swedish prosperity. The significance of our successful and internationally competitive industrial enterprises is well-known to all, as are their origins in trailblazing innovations and new sustainable solutions. At least as important is the extent to which these enterprises have, in turn, been a catalyst for new entrepreneurs who have turned their innovations into commercial successes, and how they have formed a growing industrial base, providing new jobs and new contributions to the country’s prosperity. Today, much of the R&D conducted in the industrial sector is being done by these companies, i.e. the subcontractors that are so important to the large industrial corporations.
This category contains many of the companies that are about to take or have just taken the step from innovation and prototypes to a sustainable, commercially viable product and onwards into the marketing phase and internationalization.Many of them are still dependent on a few customers in the Swedish or European market, which makes them vulnerable. These are companies in the phase where the need for equity capital accompanied by expertise is perhaps the greatest. In return they have great potential for value growth in the form of new jobs and export revenue.
Fouriertransform’s mandate involves identifying and supporting Swedish commercially viable innovations and ideas with growth potential. The SEK 3 billion the Government has allocated to the company is not meant as a subsidy, but as equity capital to be used in a professional manner, based on commercial criteria, and will therefore create value. The investments in the automotive and manufacturing industries made during the years in which Fouriertransform has been in operation have provided an important boost, allowing manufacturing enterprises throughout the country to obtain new equity capital. But what is equally important is the access they gain to knowledge and networks, enabling them to commercialize their products, be competitive enough to venture into an international market and thereby grow and recruit.
Cautious optimism about the investment portfolio
As a result of the uncertain market situation, Fouriertransform has noticed a significant interest in minorit yinvestments in growth companies. Here we can work ina way that complements the market by helping to secure financing for strategic projects. Altogether we had meetings with around 300 companies during the year. Many of them may be of interest for future investment based on our criteria of a high level of innovation, production complexity and future value growth.
New investments were made during the year in Osstell in Gothenburg, Pelly Intressenter in Hillerstorp, ÅAC Microtec in Uppsala, SMP Parts in Ilsbo, Hälsingland, and APR Automation in Arvika. Altogether we have invested SEK 1,366 million in new portfolio companies since the start in 2009. In total, Fouriertransform has invested in 25 companies during its time in operation, three of which have been sold. At the end of 2014 we had 22 companies in our investment portfolio with combined sales of SEK 2.5 billion and 1,600 employees.
Despite the difficult market situation during the year, the long-term potential of the companies is considered good. One example is software developer ArcCore which established a subsidiary in Munich to get closer to its customers in the Central European automotive market. Fuel cell developer PowerCell established a presence inthe Asian market in South Korea in 2014.
A decision was taken during the year to list PowerCell on First North at NASDAQ Stockholm. The first trading day was December 19. The listing raised SEK 108 million in capital for the company for the important development period going forward.
At the beginning of 2015 the engineering company LeanNova was sold to ÅF AB (publ). The company was launched with Fouriertransform’s involvement after the bankruptcy of Saab Automobile. The intention was top reserve and commercialize the unique expertise that still existed in Trollhättan. At the start in 2012 the company had two employees and, with our investment, has grown to a head count of 200 and offices in Trollhättan, Gothenburg, Shanghai and Coventry. The customers are primarily global automotive manufacturers. We are very happy thatwe have been able to make a concrete and positive contribution to the Swedish automotive industry and thereby keep this valuable expertise in Sweden. This has also enabled Trollhättan to retain its position as a competency cluster for the automotive industry. ÅF is a strong industrial owner that can accelerate LeanNova’s future growth.
Sustainable value creation
Fouriertransform stands for sustainable value creation in a world where factors such as climate impact, population growth and shortage of water are increasingly changing the business conditions. Our objective is for sustainability, growth and profitability goals to be compatible and interconnected. By investing in companies with products and solutions that save resources and reducenegative environmental and climate impact, Fouriertransform can help make Swedish industry more competitive and facilitate climate adaptation. Fouriertransform, as a state-owned actor, has a particular responsibility to work actively on sustainability.
Our four sustainability goals inform our investment activity. In 2014 we analyzed our portfolio companies’ status with respect to sustainability, focusing on activities aimed at sustainable value creation – within Fouriertransform as well as our portfolio companies. In 2015 we will continue the intensified dialogue with our portfolio companies to identify quantifiable sustainability goals to incorporate into their day-to-day business.
One important aspect of our business, in addition to contributing capital and knowledge, is to help to create clusters and networks among innovation enterprises. We are often invited to participate in various events around the country where business leaders and innovators are assembled. It is gratifying to know that our participation is increasingly in demand in these contexts. We see no indication of a decline in interest in Fouriertransform as a partner and we intend to continue building a strong deal-flow. At the end of the year we had investment decisions pending for around 10 companies, with an emphasis on early-phase ventures and niche mechanical industry segments.
All of the contacts we have made have demonstrated the creativity and innovative power there is to build on in Swedish industry. It is fantastic to be on this journey realizing, commercializing and reindustrializing Sweden through so many promising projects. It is imperative that we strengthen the future competitiveness of Swedish manufacturing industry.