We have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on this page. We will update it as the situation progresses.
Last updated on 7 October 2021 at 8:50.
QUESTION: What is NoHo Partners’s strategy and financial targets? (Updated 10 August 2021)
ANSWER: On 11 June 2021, NoHo Partners announced its updated strategy and financial targets: seeking strong growth and improved profitability in the strategy period 2022–2024. See the press release here.
The financial targets for the strategy period 2022–2024:
- The Group aims to achieve a turnover of approximately MEUR 400 and an EBIT margin of approximately 10 per cent during 2024.
- At the same time, the aim of the company is for the ratio of net debt to operating cash flow, adjusted for IFRS 16 lease liability, to be under 3.
- The objective of the company is to pay dividends during the strategy period.
The Group’s updated strategy focuses on:
- Profitable growth in the Norwegian restaurant market through acquisitions
- Scaling up the Friends & Brgrs chain to a national level
- Large and profitable urban projects
- Continuation of the cost-saving programme
- Operational efficiency improvement
- Portfolio development
- Implementation of the development programmes in Denmark
- Strong future operating cash flow
- Gradual divestment of Eezy Plc
- Use of treasury shares in acquisitions
QUESTION: What are NoHo Partners’ near-term prospects? (Updated 7 October 2021)
ANSWER: The company will not issue a turnover and profitability guidance for 2021 due to the still uncertain operating environment. The profit guidance for 2021 will be updated when visibility is improved and the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operating environment and the Group’s business can be assessed more accurately. Restrictions on business activities, potential changes to the restrictions and their effect on customer demand, vaccination coverage development as well as the global economic uncertainty will have a significant impact on the Group’s turnover and financial result for the remainder of 2021.
In June–July, we also saw positive signs concerning our trimmed restaurant portfolio and our organisation’s profit performance. In July, our operating cash flow in a restricted business environment was approximately MEUR 4.5, representing nearly 18 per cent of turnover. Relative profitability was substantially higher than in the corresponding periods in 2019 and 2020.
After the turn of the month from June to July, we finally got to the point where our net debt has begun to decline. At the end of July, our net debt stood at less than MEUR 160. If our shareholding in Eezy – which has a market value of approximately MEUR 40 and is classified as an asset held for sale – were eliminated from this debt, the adjusted interest-bearing liabilities on our balance sheet would amount to roughly MEUR 120. With the declining debt position and our targeted operating cash flow of approximately MEUR 40 for next year, we have the potential to achieve the target we have set for the strategy period 2022–2024, namely a net debt of less than three times our operating cash flow.
After a successful summer season, our international business started promisingly with the removal of COVID-19-related restaurant restrictions in Denmark and Norway. Also the fast casual business, with Friends & Brgrs at the forefront, attracts consumers. In August, demand for restaurants was still very weekend-oriented and entertainment venues were burdened with strict restrictions. Although we did not operate at full power, we have managed to bring down the burn rate of costs and have learned to operate effectively in a limited environment, as evidenced by the positive cash flow generated by our business.
Turnover in August 2021 was approximately MEUR 18, representing roughly 85 per cent of the turnover in the corresponding period in 2020 and roughly 65 per cent of the turnover in the corresponding period in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Operating cash flow in August exceeded MEUR 1.0.
Turnover in September was approximately MEUR 18, exceeding our turnover forecast of MEUR 14–16 by a clear margin. This was due to the gradual lifting of restrictions and the resulting customer demand, which was even higher than expected, especially in the entertainment venue segment and the Norwegian market. Operating cash flow in September exceeded MEUR 1.0. In addition, approximately EUR 0.5 million in capital gains from the sale of Eezy Plc shares was recognised in September.
The outlook for the rest of the year has brightened as restaurant restrictions have been almost entirely eliminated – with the exception of Helsinki – and customer demand is recovering. In October, we expect our turnover to almost normalise and return the level seen in 2019, amounting to approximately MEUR 20–22. Consequently, we expect our operating cash flow for October to exceed MEUR 2. The booking situation for the high season at the end of the year looks promising as well. Our booking rate for November–December is already about 60 per cent of the level seen in 2019, which can be regarded as a good sign at this time of the year and considering the circumstances.
The company will provide monthly reports on the development of its business during these exceptional circumstances.
The management estimates that the turnover of NoHo Partners Group in 2022 will be approximately MEUR 280 with the current units and approximately MEUR 400 as a whole in 2024. It is estimated that approximately MEUR 50 of the expected growth of approximately MEUR 120 will come from Norway, approximately MEUR 30 from the scaling of Friends & Brgrs business operations, approximately MEUR 30 from large and profitable urban projects and approximately MEUR 10 from the Group’s other businesses.
The company’s vision is to be the leading restaurant company in Northern Europe. According to its values, the company focuses on entrepreneurship, quality, people, profitability and responsibility. The company will publish an ESG report on its operating principles on the basis of its values in 2022.
QUESTION: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the business operations of NoHo Partners? (Updated 7 October 2021)
ANSWER: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the market and the restaurant sector has been severe. The sudden change in the market has also considerably affected the operations of NoHo Partners. We took measures as soon as the pandemic began to secure our ability to operate through the exceptional circumstances. These measures concerned, among other things, the safety of our employees and customers, adjusting costs and securing financing.
The sudden market changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the strict closure and restriction measures concerning the restaurant industry had a significant impact on the Group’s result in January–June 2021.
The restaurant closure imposed by the Finnish government on 8 March 2021 continued until 18 April 2021, after which time restaurants could reopen subject to tight restrictions. In Denmark, restaurants reopened in late April, subject to restrictions, after the closure that began in late 2020. The national alcohol ban that entered into force in Norway at the end of 2020 was lifted in Oslo, among other places, at the end of May.
Following the publication by the Finnish Government of a decree on the March blockade on 25 February 2021, we immediately announced new negotiations in accordance with the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings in order to adapt our operations to the closure of restaurants. The purpose of the negotiations is to minimise the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The co-operation negotiations concerned all of the Group’s employees, totalling approximately 1,250 employees in Finland. The restrictions on restaurants also indirectly impact the approximately 2,000 people working for the Group as leased staff.
The Group’s turnover in January–June 2021 was MEUR 54.7, which represents 79 per cent of the corresponding period in 2020 and 45 per cent of the corresponding period in 2019, the year preceding the COVID-19 pandemic. The Group’s turnover in April–June 2021 was MEUR 34.5, which represents 181 per cent of the corresponding period in 2020 and 51 per cent of the corresponding period in 2019. The Group estimates that it lost approximately MEUR 80 in turnover due to the pandemic in January–June 2021.
Operating cash flow was MEUR 6.0 in the negative in January–June 2021. Through the improved efficiency of operations and permanent cost savings, the Group minimised the negative impact that the closures, subsequent tight restrictions and the shutdown and ramp-up of operations had on its business in the review period. Operating cash flow turned positive by a clear margin in June, amounting to MEUR 5.2, including MEUR 2.8 in support from the Finnish state. Operating cash flow was MEUR 0.7 in January–June. The Group’s operating loss amounted to approximately MEUR 11.5 in January–June 2021 and approximately MEUR 1.8 in April–June 2021.
The Group recognised approximately MEUR 8.5 in financial support from the Finnish, Danish and Norwegian governments for the period 1 April–30 June 2021 and MEUR 4.5 for the period 1 April–30 June 2021. Reductions in rent totalled approximately MEUR 1.6 in January–June 2021.
As restrictions were eased, demand was strong in each of the Group’s operating countries, which is a promising signal of the industry’s quick recovery much like in summer 2020. Turnover in July 2021 was more than MEUR 25, which is an increase of roughly 25 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2020 and represents approximately 95 per cent of the turnover in the corresponding period in 2019. Operating cash flow in July 2021 amounted to approximately MEUR 4.5.
Revenue for the whole financial year 2020 was EUR 156.8 million, which corresponds to 57.5 per cent from 2019. The loss of turnover caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for the financial period 2020 was estimated to be nearly MEUR 145. The EBIT for the financial period was MEUR -23.9. With the rapid reaction, increased efficiency of operational activities and cost-savings, the company succeeded in limiting the negative impact of the exceptional circumstances on its operating cash flow, which was only MEUR 5.1 negative for the full financial period.
We have prepared for recovery from the COVID-19 shock thoroughly by trimming costs and polishing our operational activities. This, and the company’s restaurant portfolio which was enhanced even further during the crisis and the balance lightened by the complete depreciation programme, will guarantee a solid foundation for improving the company’s structural profitability.
The Group’s turnover in August 2021 was approximately MEUR 18, representing roughly 85 per cent of the turnover in the corresponding period in 2020 and roughly 65 per cent of the turnover in the corresponding period in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Operating cash flow in August exceeded MEUR 1.0.
Turnover in September 2021 was approximately MEUR 18, representing growth of about 20 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2020 and amounting to roughly 80 per cent of the turnover in the corresponding period in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Operating cash flow in September exceeded MEUR 1.0. In addition, approximately EUR 0.5 million in capital gains from the sale of Eezy Plc shares was recognised in September.
QUESTION: What measures has NoHo Partners taken to ensure the safety of the personnel and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic? (Updated 18 February 2021)
ANSWER: The governments of Finland and the other Nordic countries have issued strict guidelines concerning the business hours and numbers of customers of restaurants and nightclubs. In addition to these, we have followed enhanced hygiene measures in our restaurants.
We have prepared special safety and hygiene instructions aimed at protecting the personnel and customers in accordance with the national guidelines. We also use self-monitoring guidelines based on the industry’s general guidelines to help restaurants operate safely during the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
QUESTION: Which measures have you taken to adjust costs? (Updated 10 August 2021)
ANSWER: Staff expenses and rents are our biggest fixed costs. We began determined adjustment measures regarding them immediately once the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent.
We announced negotiations in accordance with the Act on Cooperation within Undertakings on 13 March 2020. We reported on the rapid progress of the negotiations on 18 March 2020, and announced that, due to the sudden change in the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recommendations and orders issued by the authorities and the Finnish Government, the Group had made a decision concerning layoffs without prior cooperation negotiations. The layoffs were temporary, with a duration of no longer than 90 days, and they concerned all of the Group’s personnel in Finland, totalling approximately 1,300 employees.
We announced on 15 May 2020 that we would begin new negotiations on continuing temporary layoffs due to the uncertain market situation, and as a result temporary, full-time or part-time layoffs concerned approximately 550 persons. On 29 September 2020, the Finnish Government announced stricter restrictions on restaurants. That same day, we announced that we are commencing new negotiations in accordance with the Act on Co-operation in order to adapt our operations to the restrictions. The co-operation negotiations concerned all the Group’s employees. We announced on 5 January 2021 that the cooperation negotiations resulted in changes in the organisational structure, reduction of 55 jobs and 15 jobs being made part-time in the Group Executive Team, management and administrative specialist positions as well as part-time and full-time temporary layoffs concerning approximately 600 at the time.
On 25 February 2021, we announced new negotiations under the Co-operation Act in order to adapt our operations to the restaurant closure measures that will enter into force on 8 March 2021. The purpose of the negotiations was to minimize the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The co-operation negotiations concerned all of the Group’s employees, totalling approximately 1,250 employees in Finland. The restrictions on restaurants also indirectly impact the approximately 2,000 people working for the Group as leased staff. On 9 March 2021, we announced that we would activate the lock-down contingency plan, when approximately 200 restaurants were closed and approximately 2,200 people were laid off.
We negotiated a lease exemption for 70 per cent of our leases in Finland for April to May 2020, when the total lease discounts were around MEUR 3.5. In January-June 2021, rental discounts were MEUR 1.6.
QUESTION: How has NoHo Partners secured adequate funding during and through the pandemic? (Updated 10 August 2021)
ANSWER: On 15 February 2021, we announced that we have completed our negotiations with our principal financiers on a financing package in which the bridge financing, which was negotiated at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the current financiers’ existing loans have been combined into one long-term financing package. The purpose of the negotiated financing package of MEUR 141 is to secure the company’s long-term financing position and make the reconstruction programme after the emergency conditions end possible.
The financing package consists of a five-year programme in which loan instalments are MEUR 6 during the 2021 financial period and MEUR 22 during the 2022 financial period. At the beginning of the financing programme, the interest level of loans granted by financial institutions will increase to a little over 3 per cent until the COVID-19 bridge financing has been paid back. After that, the interest level will gradually return to about 2.6 per cent.
On 7 April 2021, NoHo Partners Plc sold 1,000,000 Eezy Plc shares. Following this transaction, the Group owns 6,274,881 shares in Eezy Plc, corresponding to approximately 25.3 per cent of Eezy Plc’s shares. The total transaction price for the shares was MEUR 5.0. The Group reduced its shareholding in Eezy in spring 2021 by selling a total of 1,246,029 shares.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020, we immediately entered into financial negotiations for the duration of the state of emergency. On 3 April 2020, we informed that negotiations in all the company’s markets in Finland, Denmark and Norway have been completed and a financing package of EUR 34 million has been agreed upon. The interest on the bridge financing is under 4 per cent, including Finnvera’s guarantee commission for MEUR 15 of the financing.
On 29 May 2020, we announced the finalisation of a refinancing programme for our maturing debt as part of an overall financing package. As the final part of the financing package, we agreed on a debt of MEUR 10 with a right to conversion with the Finnish Industry Investment Ltd (Tesi).
At the end of June 2021, the Group’s gearing ratio excluding the impact of IFRS 16 liabilities was 231.3%. Interest-bearing net liabilities excluding the impact of IFRS 16 amounted to MEUR 163.7. IFRS 16 liabilities totalled MEUR 157.4. The Group’s interest-bearing net liabilities (including IFRS 16 liabilities) at the end of June 2021 were MEUR 321.1 (MEUR 304.2). Adjusted net finance costs in January–June 2021 were MEUR 6.3 (MEUR 4.4). The equity ratio was 14.6% (19.9%) and the gearing ratio was 487.1% (326.3%).
QUESTION: How do you benefit from the Government compensations? (Updated 27 September 2021)
ANSWER: In January–June 2021, the Group received support amounting to approximately MEUR 3.8 from the Finnish state, approximately MEUR 2.3 from the Danish state and approximately MEUR 2.4 from the Norwegian state. The financial support received by the Group from the Finnish, Danish and Norwegian governments for the period 1 January–30 June 2021 totalled approximately MEUR 8.5. A more detailed account of government assistance and the distribution thereof is presented in Note 3 Government grants in the half-year report (page 31).
In Denmark, the state has supported companies in the restaurant industry during the crisis by covering 80 per cent of their fixed expenses, relative to the decline in turnover. In addition to fixed costs, the Danish state also covered 80 percent of wage costs from March to the end of June 2021. The state also paid employees’ wages for the first seven days starting from the reopening of restaurants on 21 April 2021. From the beginning of July 2021, the support for fixed costs will continue for those restaurants whose turnover is less than 40% of the turnover of the corresponding period in 2019.
In Norway, the compensation for the fixed costs of the Norwegian state was 80% until the end of September 2021, when the society was opened and restaurant restrictions were lifted throughout the country. The Norwegian state also supported re-employment by paying 50 percent of the salaries of the staff until the end of June 2021. In addition, additional support was paid to companies by cities and cultural funds during the restrictive measures.
QUESTION: What are the restrictions in the Group’s different markets? (Updated 30 September 2021)
ANSWER: In Denmark and Norway, the restrictions have been stricter than in Finland throughout the COVID-19 pandemic but, at the same time, the governments have supported the restaurant sector financially with direct subsidies. In Denmark and Norway, approximately 80 per cent of the lease expenses and other fixed expenses were covered by the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. In both countries, the Group has had to adjust its cost structure through temporary layoffs and redundancies and determined measures to increase administrational efficiency.
In Denmark, restaurants were opened with restrictions due to the improved pandemic situation on 21 April 2021, when serving alcohol was allowed until 10 pm and the doors were closed at 11 pm. The opening hours of the restaurants and bars were extended from 1 June 2021 until 00:00 and from 15 July 2021 until 02:00. Restaurants were accessed with a corona pass and a table reservation. Safety distances of 1.5 meters had to be guaranteed. The corona pass was removed and the nightclubs were opened on September 1, 2021. Restaurant restrictions were lifted on September 10, 2021 throughout the country.
In Norway, national restaurant restrictions were lifted in the end of June, and since then the restriction measures have been city and municipality specific. Since then, restaurants and bars in Oslo were open until 03 am, but customers were not allowed to enter a restaurant after 00. Indoors, guests had to have a seating area, tables were served beforehand and safety distances of 1.5 meters had to be guaranteed. The nightclubs were closed. The society was opened and restaurant restrictions lifted across the country on September 25, 2021.
In Finland, the restaurant restrictions were eased as of 1 October 2021. The alcohol service and opening hour restrictions in the acceleration phase (Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, Kauniainen, Ostrobothnia, Satakunta, South Karelia, Southwest Finland), were extended until 00 and 01, and the karaoke and dancing ban was lifted. In entertainment restaurants, the customer capacity is restricted to half indoor and outdoor. Other restaurants use 75 % of customer seats.
In the acceleration phase, restrictions on alcohol service, opening hours and customer capacity are completely removed, and only general hygiene and distance obligations will apply in the baseline and acceleration phase.
QUESTION: How do you communicate your business risks to investors? (Updated 18 February 2021)
ANSWER: We have communicated our risks regularly, for example, in connection with financial statements and management reports and quarterly financial reports.
QUESTION: How big shareholder is NoHo in Eezy Plc? How has the crisis affected the business operations of Eezy? (Updated on 10 August 2021)
ANSWER: On 23 March 2021, Eezy Plc announced that NoHo Partners offered over 210,000 shares, and approximately MEUR 1.1 worth of shares to Eezy’s key personnel. The buyers were members of the Eezy’s management team and board of directors, franchise entrepreneurs and other key personnel.
“We wanted to offer this opportunity to Eezy’s key persons to commit even further to the company. Eezy is a leader in the HR Services Market and the interest shown by management and franchise entrepreneurs is a clear sign of commitment to the company and its future”, NoHo Partners’ Chairman of the Board Timo Laine says in Eezy’s investor news release.
As a result of the share sale, NoHo Partners owned 7,304,881 shares and 29.4 percent of Eezy Plc’s shares on 23 March 2021.
On 26 March 2021, NoHo Partners sold 30,000 shares, and on 7 April 2021, 1,000,000 shares of Eezy Plc. As a result of the share sales, NoHo Partners owns 6,274,881 shares, and 25.3 percent of Eezy Plc’s shares on 7 April 2021.
In the press release published in the second quarter of 2021, Eezy said: “The second quarter brought us a distinct turning point. We will grow on a broad front and in all our units. Good economic development is visible in all our sectors, and the effective COVID-19 vaccination pace is normalising society and our markets. Total quarter-on-quarter growth was brisk (+23%). In the early part of the year, we have increased our result almost by ten times when compared to the previous year.
However, we estimate that our loss of turnover caused by the restaurant and event restrictions was more than MEUR 10 during the second quarter. Long-term restrictions and uncertain prospects have led to a situation in which many employees have moved to other sectors. The situation is challenging for us and our restaurant customers, but at the same time is a great opportunity for the staffing service industry to help the sector to fulfill its workforce needs. The volume of retail has been steadily growing.
Growth in our largest sector – industry, logistics and construction – has started well during the past quarter. In June, we were already well ahead of last year’s June figures and the number of vacancies has increased significantly.
Professional services play an important role in improving relative performance. In addition, our team of experts makes a significant contribution to boosting Eezy’s culture and internal development.
In the light of the current information, we are facing the end of the year with optimism and expect clear business growth and good profit development towards the end of the year. Although COVID-19 continues to cause uncertainty in our forecasts, we will give a profit forecast for 2021.
We estimate turnover to be MEUR 190–210 and EBIT to be MEUR 11–14. The underlying assumption of the forecast is that there will be no further significant restrictive measures and that society will remain open.
We will update our long-term financial objectives and growth plans during the rest of the year.”
Eezy’s turnover for 2020 was MEUR 190.6 (January–December 2019: MEUR 169.8). EBITDA was MEUR 13.5 (12.6) and EBIT was MEUR 5.6 (8.0). Adjusted EBITDA was MEUR 14.3 (16.4) and adjusted EBIT MEUR 6.9 (11.8). Earnings per share were EUR 0.11 (0.25).