05 Mar 2018 08:26

We need a long-term approach and an interest to grow with us

“What’s most important in a banking relationship is a long-term perspective, partnership and an interest to join us on our journey of growth.” So says Pia Aaltonen-Forsell, CFO of the industrial group Ahlström-Munksjö. SEB was one of the main underwriters when Sweden’s Munksjö and Finland’s Ahlström merged in 2017 to form the new group. 

Ahlstrom-Munksjö, which is domiciled in Helsinki but has its headquarters in Stockholm, has over 6,000 employees and 41 production facilities in 14 countries. The merger was made between two equally large companies that both have a strong, shared background in specialty papers.

Today Ahlström-Munksjö is a high-tech industrial group that develops fibre-based materials with advanced functions that are used in industrial applications as well as in consumer products.

The company has a broad product pallet that includes – among other things – various types of decor papers used in furniture and laminated flooring, filter material for oil and air filters and diagnostics, insulation paper for high voltage cables, base paper for self-adhesive labels, and packaging material for food and beverages.

Ahlström-Munksjö has strong niches in areas such as material for filters for the automotive industry, where nearly half of all trucks in the world use filters based on Ahlström-Munksjö’s material. The company also has strong niches in the food industry – for example, one in five tea bags in the world is made with material from the company.

Europe accounts for approximately 60% of sales, the USA for 25%, and Asia and the rest of the world for the remaining 15%. Sweden and Finland are major manufacturing countries, but the largest country of production is France, which is also where the company’s R&D centre is located.

Strong growth during the last decade
Growth is high. In 2008 the Munksjö Group had annual sales of SEK 280 m; today, ten years later, sales have grown nearly tenfold. Pia Aaltonen-Forsell sees good opportunities for continued growth.

“We are very strong in many markets, but there areas in which we have room to grow,” she says. “Renewable material such wood fibre has a great future and can contribute to a sustainable transformation.”

The company has a long-standing relationship with SEB, which is one of its core banks. This relationship covers most product areas, from financing and cash management to trade finance and trading solutions for managing currency risks.

“This long and broad relationship is proof that we are satisfied with our cooperation,” says Pia Aaltonen-Forsell. “What’s most important in a banking relationship is a long-term perspective that can be applied in both good and tough times. There must also be a sense of engagement and interest in helping develop the company.”

SEB was one of two main underwriters in the merger, and the bank syndicate includes a total of some ten banks.

“SEB has a strong team and presence in China, which is important for us,” Pia Aaltonen-Forsell continues. “In other markets there are other banks that fill this role.”
The daily interaction with the bank is taking place digitally to an increasing degree, and Pia Aaltonen-Forsell stresses the importance that banks continue to develop simple and user-friendly solutions: “Just as we have grown accustomed in our private lives to doing most things using our smart phones, people expect the same functionality at work. In this respect banks must stay abreast of development.”