Øyvind's corner

First quarter 2022: leveraging our industrial foundation through uncertain times

4. mai 2022, 12:30

Our portfolio companies continue to demonstrate their ability to adapt to volatile market conditions and to drive growth. While uncertainty looms on many fronts, our path forward is – as always - to both strengthen and utilize our industrial foundation for responsible and sustainable value creation. Watch the video below for some highlights from today’s report and presentation

As I write this, world order has been upended by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war’s ramifications are not limited to Eastern Europe but has rattled financial markets and disrupted the global economy. It has the potential to reverse decades of progress for globalization and growth. Amid such a brutal and senseless conflict, where entire energy markets are being recalibrated, the significance of a single company’s first quarter results pales. I am, nonetheless, encouraged by Aker’s results in the period. Our portfolio companies continue to demonstrate their ability to adapt to volatile market conditions and to drive growth. While uncertainty looms on many fronts, our path forward is – as always - to both strengthen and utilize our industrial foundation for responsible and sustainable value creation.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered a fundamental transformation of energy markets. The short-term spike in prices – oil and gas have surged to their highest level in nearly a decade – has unveiled vulnerabilities of entire energy systems in a world still too dependent on imported fossil fuels, particularly from Russia. As the invasion of Ukraine continues, capital markets, financial institutions, governments, and companies are waging an ‘economic war’ against Russia, forcing many countries to reconsider their energy supplies. While it is impossible to predict the long- lasting impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine, it appears likely that the war will speed up the transition away from fossil fuels.

For the EU especially, accelerating the energy security and decarbonization strategies have never been more urgent. It means reducing energy dependency – which has proven to be deleterious in these times of crisis – and maintaining its commitment to climate neutrality by 2050. The Commission has already launched a plan to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, looking to curb imports of Russian gas by about two-thirds by the end of the year. Boosting imports to Europe from other countries, such as Qatar, is estimated to account for 60 per cent of the reduction, and another 33 per cent would come from new renewable-energy generation and conservation measures, like offshore wind and solar. The plan is ambitious. It will be difficult for the EU to attract the required volume of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from other sources than Russia, and even if this is achieved, it means outbidding Asia for the volumes. In other words: a costly affair. Either way, it is marking a fundamental shift in energy markets. One in which the green transition is speeding up even further.

At Aker, we are continuously monitoring the situation in Ukraine and its potential implications. Over the last few weeks, I have engaged in countless talks and discussion with both elected officials and other business leaders on what it will mean for companies like Aker and our industrial peers. As an oil nation, we are faced with the unpleasant fact that increasing oil prices from a war also means we are likely to see a windfall for many industries. But the situation also underscores our responsibility as an energy nation to accelerate our efforts in an irreversibly changing global energy landscape. As nations dash for energy security, we have a unique opportunity to not only increase European security of energy supply and support the European green transition, but also to utilize our resources and build a new Norwegian industry. We should consider how E&P companies can play a role in supporting a new offshore wind industry and ensure large-scale electrification of our oil installations. This, and many other topics and scenarios, are at the top of our agenda as we navigate through these uncertain times.

In the current context, the importance of any single company’s quarterly development dims. It was, nonetheless, an eventful period for Aker and our portfolio companies. Aker’s Net Asset Value increased by NOK 4.9 billion to NOK

74.7 billion, or a record NOK 1 006 per share. The increase is largely driven by growth in the oil and gas segment, where Aker BP contributed with an increase of NOK 7.9 billion, excluding dividend received, in the quarter. More than a single company’s contribution to our results, however, I am encouraged by the general development across our portfolio, which reflects the high activity and industrial development taking place. Not least is this important at a time when the situation in Europe is reminding us that energy security and efficiency must be safeguarded while we also jointly accelerate our systematic efforts for an energy transition. As one expert recently pointed out: the Ukraine crisis offers a rare chance for energy and climate cooperation.

At Aker, we had already acknowledged these two difficult truths long before the outbreak of the war: one, fossil fuels will still be needed to meet the world’s energy demands, and two, we simultaneously need to move much more quickly toward a clean energy future. The Ukraine crisis has, however, crystalized this necessary energy two-step even further, and Aker is prepared on both fronts:

  • As investments in oil and gas will be needed to bolster supply and to ensure energy security in Europe, we are pleased to see Aker BP’s current results and plans for growth. This includes a record-breaking quarter and upcoming projects like NOAKA and Valhall/King Lear, as well as the planned acquisition of Lundin Energy’s oil and gas business in Norway.
  • Aker Horizons and Aker Solutions are both positioned to take part in the accelerating move towards renewable energy sources. During the quarter, Mitsui joined Aker Horizons as long- term strategic investors in Mainstream Renewable Power, accelerating Mainstream’s transformation to a renewable energy major. Aker Horizons also announced merger plans with Aker Offshore Wind and Aker Clean Hydrogen, strengthening the company’s capacity to advance the energy transition and maximize impact and value creation. Aker Solutions acquired Rainpower, a leading technology provider to the hydropower industry, from Aker Horizons, strengthening Aker Solutions’ offering within renewables and driving further growth.

During Europe’s quest for energy independence, talking about energy and energy security is also increasingly a matter of cyber security. How to meet energy needs, how to guarantee that the energy is transported and distributed safely, and how to operate most efficiently to ensure supply of energy – these are all issues for which Aker companies like Cognite and Aize can play a critical role.

Cloud computing is the need of the hour, and cloud service security has quickly become a fast-growing issue along with increased security awareness to protect business information and sensitive data. Earlier this week, Telenor, Cognite and Aker announced the joint establishment of the new industrial software security company, Omny. With Telenor’s security expertise and go-to-market capabilities, combined with Aker’s industrial experience and Cognite’s software solutions and innovation, Omny will be in a unique position to offer software to help solve security challenges faced by businesses and public sector actors. Omny’s product will be developed in close partnership with its pilot customers in the industrial sector and will be based on the Cognite Data Fusion platform, which opens up for data-driven decisions to limit damage and maintain critical functions. Our aim is to build Omny as a Norwegian software company that will be a global player in operational industrial security.

Within asset management, Aker is in the process of establishing asset management firms within various asset classes. The ambition is to deliver high, sustainable, long-term returns by bringing financial capital closer to industrial solutions that accelerate the net-zero transition. The asset management firms intend to work in partnership with the world’s largest investors to develop our product offering. The common thread of the fund products will be investments that are directed towards the global energy reset. Aker Horizons is envisioned as a key partner in building the funds and the relationship between financial capital and industrial solutions.

That is also why the changes made in Aker Horizons during the quarter were so important. The company carried out several major transactions and new initiatives that are expected to accelerate the company’s growth in the years ahead. Its mission is to accelerate the transition to Net Zero through green industrial projects and technologies. Following completion of the transactions, Aker Horizons will be composed of a portfolio of renewable energy and decarbonization companies that aim to be leaders in their respective fields, and an asset development arm. The latter will consist of the current Aker Clean Hydrogen projects and technical resources, combined with Aker Horizons’ projects and business development resources – an advantageous starting point for developing green energy and green industry projects at large scale. A prime example of this is the Narvik green industrial hub, where Aker Horizons plan to convert renewable energy into green hydrogen and sustainable export industries, such as green iron. Overall, the strategic changes mark a transition for the company into being an operational company rather than an investment company.

Each quarter, I spend time reflecting on the short- and long- term development of Aker, considering how to communicate our strategy, ambition and plans for the future. This time, it’s been during a period of upheaval as the senseless war in Ukraine is leaving behind casualties, hundreds of thousands of refugees and marking a turning point for geopolitics and energy markets. Regardless of whether or not a peace agreement is reached, the direction has been set and the pace of the energy transition in Europe is building momentum. It is during times like these that I am able to clearly see the strengths we have built across the entire Aker portfolio. I am confident in our companies’ abilities to withstand continued uncertainty and volatility, as well as play an integral role in the shift to a more energy secure Europe. More importantly, as the situation in Ukraine unfolds, my thoughts are with everyone affected by the war. With each new news report on families fleeing and innocent lives lost, we are reminded of the importance to come together for a better and safer world.