VR-Yhtymä Oyj

VR Group’s Business Review for July-September 2023

1.11.2023 09:45:00 EET | VR-Yhtymä Oyj | Interim report (Q1 and Q3)

VR Group’s Business Review for July–September 2023

VR-Group Plc, Interim Report, 1 November 2023 at 9.45 am

VR Group’s profitability improved during the third quarter. In domestic long-distance traffic, the number of journeys increased on weekdays. The challenging business cycle for heavy industry had a negative impact on the volumes of freight traffic. In city traffic, changes in the contract portfolio weighed down the results. Strategy implementation continues towards the profit improvement targets.

July–September 2023 (Q3) in brief:

  • Group net sales decreased by -12.3% to EUR  295.3 (336.7) million.
  • Comparable operating result (EBIT) was EUR 27.8 (25.3) million or 9.4% (7.5%) of net sales.
  • Operating result (EBIT) was  EUR 52.6 (26.3) million, or 17.8% (7.8%) of net sales.
  • Cash flow from operating activities was EUR 53.2 (44.4) million.
  • The number of journeys on long-distance trains increased by 4.1% to 4.0 (3.8) million journeys.
  • The railway transport volumes of VR Transpoint decreased by -29.0% and amounted to 5.3 (7.5) million tonnes.

January–September 2023 in brief:

  • Group net sales increased by 16.9% to EUR 910.9 (779.5) million.
  • Comparable operating result (EBIT) was EUR 43.2 (5.8) million or 4.7% (0.7%) of net sales.
  • Operating result (EBIT) was EUR 59.6 (-38.5) million, or 6.5% (-4.9%) of net sales.
  • Cash flow from operating activities was EUR 143.9 (103.7) million.
  • The number of journeys on long-distance trains increased by 17.8% to 11.2 (9.5) million journeys.
  • The railway transport volumes of VR Transpoint decreased by -22.3% to 20.3 (26.1) million tonnes.
  • VR invested into procuring new rolling stock from Škoda Transtech Oy for night-train traffic. The value of the equipment acquisition is approximately EUR 50 million.
  • VR’s revised business structure, effective as of 1 January 2023, now comprises three business segments: VR Long-distance Traffic, VR City Traffic, and VR Transpoint.

Key figures






Net sales, M€






Comparable EBITDA, MEUR*






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Operating result (EBIT), MEUR






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Comparable operating result (EBIT), MEUR*






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Net profit/loss for the period, MEUR






Cash flow from operating activities, MEUR






Investments, MEUR






Capital invested at the end of the period, MEUR






Return on capital employed (ROCE), %






Comparable return on capital employed, %






Return on equity (ROE), %






Net interest-bearing debt at the end of the period, MEUR






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Number of personnel at end of period






* VR Group presents comparable EBITDA and comparable operating result (EBIT) as an alternative performance indicators. The aim of comparable performance indicators is to improve comparability between reporting periods.

Comparable EBITDA uses same definitions of items affecting comparability as comparable EBIT. The calculation formulas for the figures are disclosed in VR Group’s Annual Report for 2022.

The figures are unaudited.

The comparative figures in brackets refer to the corresponding time period in the previous year, unless otherwise stated.

Elisa Markula, CEO:

"In the third quarter VR's profitability improved, driven by growth in the number of journeys in long-distance traffic. The company’s net sales decreased by 12% year-on-year. At the same time, the profit development was slowed down by weak volumes of freight traffic and changes in city-traffic contract portfolio. Improving our profitability requires continuous determined measures to boost operational efficiency. We have had to adjust our operations in freight traffic with temporary layoffs, and negotiate with personnel to streamline our operations and intensify internal cooperation.

In long-distance traffic the number of journeys increased by 2.5% in the third quarter, compared to the previous year. The popularity of the train for business travel increased, and the train was also an increasingly popular choice for everyday journeys. Customer satisfaction with VR Long-distance Traffic – as measured by the Net Promoter Score – increased considerably year-on-year to 47 (34). Punctuality, which is a key factor in customer satisfaction, also improved from the previous year to 89 (82).

The decrease in the profitability of city traffic was affected by high cost inflation, an expired contracted traffic agreement in Sweden, and integration expenses associated with business operations in Sweden. The result is also burdened by the current low profitability of the long-term contract-traffic agreements signed before the pandemic. VR actively participates in regional competitive tendering for rail and bus traffic in Sweden and Finland.

VR’s freight-traffic volumes decreased by 29% during the quarter. The current challenging environment for heavy industry further reduced freight volumes that have already weakened as a result of the termination of Eastern traffic. It has been necessary to adjust our railway-freight operations with temporary layoffs. We are seeking profit improvement, for example, by revising our customers’ service models and pricing.

The execution of our strategy and the acceleration of our profit improvement will continue with steadfast commitment. The company is seeking EUR 250 million of profit improvement measures by 2027 that will enable the financing of our billion-euro rolling-stock investments and ensure the company’s continued competitiveness in the future. Motivated staff and effective cooperation with our extensive stakeholder network are key to the successful implementation of this strategy. Increasing the share of emissions-free rail transport requires continuous improvement in customer satisfaction. Approximately half of train delays are caused by poor rail infrastructure, therefore properly targeted and sufficient government infrastructure investments are necessary to improve the punctuality of trains. With its investments VR is increasing the speed of train Wi-Fi up to 5x by the summer of 2024. But improving the network connectivity of trains also requires telecom operators to invest in track-side network infrastructure.

VR is involved in the large-scale Digirail project, which will modernise the infrastructure of the Finnish railway-traffic control-and-safety system by 2040. The project will make it possible to increase the track capacity and number of trains on the current railway network. Digirail test runs will start on a test track this autumn. Ensuring the interoperability of new railway infrastructure systems and rolling stock is one of the most important joint measures of VR and the transport authorities.

Rail-traffic emissions account for only 1% of all traffic emissions, and 95% of our passenger trains are already electrically powered. At the start of the year we kicked off an energy-saving programme enabling our traffic and real estate to contribute even more towards energy efficiency in all our businesses. During the year we have already managed to improve the energy efficiency of train traffic by about 8%, which corresponds to the annual electricity consumption of approximately 1,500 electrically-heated single-family homes.

We support the Finnish Government in implementing the Government Programme. We are in favour of increasing competition in climate-friendly rail transport and we advocate for wide-ranging development of the public transport market as a whole. Adequate and appropriately targeted infrastructure investments, and the reduction of the maintenance backlog, are the most important prerequisites for the growth of rail traffic, increased competition, and the achievement of emission-reduction targets for the transport sector.   The fastest way to increase competition is to develop regional contract traffic in passenger-train operations by enabling municipalities and joint municipal authorities to organise contract traffic. A public rolling-stock company that would lease equipment for publicly-funded rail transport, as mentioned in the Government Programme, would contribute to the development of the rail-transport market. Long-distance traffic and freight traffic must continue on market terms that will allow competition to develop freely. This is in accordance with the free-competition model based on EU regulations, and without the need for public funding. We will focus on our core business as a service company in logistics and passenger traffic, and our aim is to divest station properties and other rail infrastructure still under VR ownership.

I want to thank our personnel for their commitment to our strategy and our profit improvement targets. At a team we will build the sustainable VR of the future. Our values – we care, we work together, we drive improvement – guide us in getting there together."

Outlook for the current year

VR expects that comparable operating profit (EBIT) for 2023 will improve compared to 2022. 

The general economic situation in Finland is clouded by the weakened business cycle in the industrial sector, high inflation, rising interest rates, and low consumer confidence in the economy. Industrial order books and export volumes have also shrunk, as global demand has declined. The economic situation is significantly reflected in VR’s business operations, profitability, and near-term outlook. In particular, both high inflation and the weakened business cycle in heavy industry have a negative impact on VR’s profitability.

VR discontinued its Eastern freight traffic completely in 2022 due to Russia’s war of aggression . This discontinuation will reduce total volumes of rail logistics again for 2023. In addition, the weakened business cycle in heavy industry in Finland has reduced transport volumes since the second quarter of the year. VR expects domestic-transport volumes to decrease in 2023 compared to the previous year.

Train travel has recovered since the Covid-19 pandemic eased. Nevertheless, the pandemic has changed the way people work and, as a result, their mobility patterns. Remote work has become increasingly common and transport demand has been driven by leisure travel. The total number of long-distance journeys is expected to increase from the previous year. These increases mainly take place in the early part of the year, as the pandemic reduced travel volumes in early 2022 in particular. In city traffic in Sweden, net sales and profitability will decline compared to 2022 due to some existing agreements expiring and new agreements not starting until late 2023.

This stock exchange release is a summary of VR Group’s Business Review July-September 2023. The complete report is attached to this release.

VR-Group Plc
More information: 
VR Group Media Desk
tel. +358 (0)29 434 7123

About VR-Yhtymä Oyj

At VR, we promote responsible transport of the future. We are a passenger, logistics and maintenance service company owned by the Finnish state, and we increase the popularity of carbon-neutral rail and city traffic. We ensure smooth daily travel in Finland and Sweden and act as a pillar of support for industry in Finland’s logistics. In 2022, our customers made a total of 194.2 million journeys with us, and we transported 34.4 million tonnes of goods. Our net sales amounted to EUR 1,107.0 million and we employed approximately 9,000 top professionals. Further information: https://www.vrgroup.fi/en/    

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