Back to the heartbeat of events
The year 2021 was very exceptional at the Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre. The common denominator for everything done for the second year in a row was the COVID-19 pandemic.
The exceptional period severely limited our normal business when large public events had to be postponed one after the other. We continued to develop new, replacement businesses offering our facilities and services open-mindedly for new uses and by increasing our hybrid businesses. The measure of all our decisions was the customer. In each decision, we proceeded supporting customer relationship and listening to the needs of different industries.
The economic multiple effects of the trade fair business on its environment are significant. Our impact on income and employment in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area in the most recent pre COVID-19 measurement in 2019 was a record EUR 357 million. As a result of the crisis, the economic impact on the surrounding economy shrank by 80 per cent, and hotels, restaurants and transport operators, among others, in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, lost almost EUR 300 million in revenue.
Despite the challenges, we continued our long-term responsibility work by building a bridge over the crisis in all three areas: taking responsibility for the environment, the economy and people. For the second year in a row, we published our Sustainability Report in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. In addition, we received international recognition as a pioneer in event safety in the Nordic countries.
In these challenging times, our absolute strength has been our skilled staff, who has uncompromisingly taken care of customer relationships and built new businesses. I can proudly say that the people of the Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre are tenacious survivors and everyday magicians. Creativity has been fuelled by trust. It is based on an open communication culture in our organization and high staff satisfaction, even in the most difficult turns of the pandemic impact.
An interim report after over two pandemic years shows that we can say that we have survived the all-time crisis with little damage. The company has remained healthy and operational at its core. Our choices have taken our business forward and prepared us to meet even future challenges through learning.
After the turn of the year, we continue to work for the benefit of the Finnish business community as a public limited company. Finland will continue to need a fair and event organiser of international standard, and in this task, Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre wants to serve our society in the future as well.
Anni Vepsäläinen | CEO
Report of the Board of Directors 2021
In 2021, Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre continued its struggle with challenges posed by the pandemic, persistent work for event security and further development of the hybrid business.
The year was unprecedently difficult for the industry. The common denominator for all activities was, for the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely limited the opportunities for the event business globally.
Impact of the pandemic on the Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre’s business
The Exhibitions business unit was at a standstill for most of the year. With a few exceptions, the events had to be postponed due to pandemic restrictions. The decisions were based on the regulations of the Regional State Administrative Agency.
Public events and general meetings of more than 6 people were prohibited until the end of May. In the summer, the restrictions eased momentarily. The Centre prepared for the fair autumn with strong security measures and by expanding the facilities reserved for events. In August, restrictions were re-tightened, uncertainty created by the pandemic situations radiated heavily into business, and all trade fairs in the early fall, as well as large public events by other organisers, had to be postponed.
Restrictions on gatherings ended on 30 September. The time window free of restrictions in the middle of the fall enabled the arranging of Helsinki Book Fair (50,377 visitors), the Finnish Dental Congress (8,938), Studia (6,114), Ateria professional day for public food service (353), the rapidly developed POP-UP event (4,894) and KoneAgria at Tampere Exhibition and Sports Centre (14,652). Among guest events, eg. SLUSH and the Dog Fair were organised.
In December, the COVID-19 situation deteriorated again with the spreading of the omicron virus variant. Like other event organisers, the Expo and Convention Centre introduced a COVID-19 pass as an alternative to event restrictions. However, the use of the COVID-19 pass was short-lived. Between 28 December 2021 – 17 January 2022, the Regional State Administrative Agency again banned all indoor public events and general meetings in the Uusimaa region, as a result of which Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre had to postpone all its events for January – March 2022 due to restrictions and weakened customer demand.
The Events, Meetings and Conferences business unit continued in accordance with the applicable official guidelines and meeting restrictions. The halt in business also largely curtailed restaurant operations and weakened hotel occupancy.
As trade fairs, congresses, large meetings and corporate banquets in the ordinary course of business could not be organised, the total number of visitors was one third of the years before COVID-19 and was 341,223 visitors (2020: 374,223 and 2019: 1,087,718 visitors).
The difficult situation in the event sector necessitated the continuation of adjustment measures.
The most significant savings were in event costs and staff costs. Personnel costs were reduced through significant group wide layoffs and voluntary reductions in salaries and fees.
Operations were also adjusted by freezing investments and applying for State Treasury cost subsidies. During 2021, a total of € 2,500,000 was received in subsidies. In proportion to the situation, the aid was insignificant and covered only about 3% of the turnover lost during COVID-19.
New use of facilities and hybrid business
Alternative uses were persistently sought for the premises emptied by the pandemic. Extensive facilities, good planning and high-quality health safety enabled arranging physical events for customers. Laurea, Metropolia and Haaga-Helia Polytechnics, as well as the University of Helsinki, organised their spring entrance examinations in stages at Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre for a total of about 45,500 students. Meeting facilities were also rented eg. for the proceedings of the National Courts Administration. One of the halls at the exhibition centre was reserved for COVID-19 vaccinations, and Mehiläinen’s drive-in COVID-19 testing continued in the parking garage. At the turn of May-June, the exhibition centre served as a place for advance voting in municipal elections. Courts were opened for Padel enthusiasts in both the halls and the outdoor areas.
Virtual and hybrid productions continued. Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre hosted eg. the virtual medical EAS congress, a live TV broadcast of the Emma Gala and helped several other clients with online meetings and training productions.
Development of event security
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre strictly followed the official guidelines stipulated by the authorities and in the summer 2020, as the first fair organiser in Finland, published comprehensive COVID-19 safety guidelines to support customers and staff. In April 2021, Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre was the first Nordic event house to receive a COVID-19 certificate in recognition of its exemplary work for COVID-19 safety. The certificate was awarded by SAFE Asset Group, an international certification and consulting company specializing in the security of commercial premises.
In June, SAFE Asset Group published a benchmarking study that assessed trade fairs as even safer places to visit than shopping malls. The additional strength of the fairs is the production method that enables high-quality visitor management and exceptionally comprehensive practical measures to combat COVID-19 risks.
Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre, together with The Association of Trade Fair and Event Organisers in Finland, the umbrella organization for its industry, actively informed decision-makers about SAFE Asset Group’s research, its high-level safety expertise and the plight of the event industry in order to get the business up and running. Other internal and external communication related to COVID-19 security also continued throughout the year, through many channels, taking into account all customers and stakeholders.
Despite the pandemic, the Centre continued its goal-oriented responsibility work in all three areas: taking responsibility for people, the environment and the economy. The staff was employed with new openings in the use of the premises and in the virtual and hybrid businesses.
Event safety improved and the halls were harnessed as testing and vaccination sites for the fight against COVID-19.
Environmental work continued, with the goal of being 110% carbon neutral in 2029. In April, a sustainability report under the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development (Agenda 2030) was published already for the second time, listing the responsibility work carried out at the Expo and Convention Centre item by item. The report is unparalleled in the field of events in Finland and globally, as well.
Emphasis was placed on an open communication culture and confidence-building. The company’s operating conditions, efforts to open events and the occupational safety of personnel in exceptional circumstances were regularly reported in personnel infos, internal communication channels and through superiors.
Employee satisfaction was measured regularly and remained high. 80% of the personnel felt that they had received sufficient information about the company’s situation even during layoffs. Satisfaction with the employer remained at the same level during the worst pandemic effects as it was in the record year before the pandemic.
Change in company form
At the extraordinary general meeting on 15 June 2021, the members of The Finnish Fair Corporation decided to change the company’s corporate form to a limited company on 1 January 2022. The purpose of the change was to streamline and clarify the governance structure and ensure business continuity in the future.
The change in company form did not bring any changes to the organization or to the contracts with customers. The strong and well-known Messukeskus brand will continue as a marketing name.
During the financial year, the merger of Helsinki Fair Ltd with the Finnish Fair Corporation was completed.
The Finnish Fair Corporation consisted of 197 members, including companies, the City of Helsinki and The Finnish Fair Foundation.
The change in company form at the turn of the year strengthened ownership of the Finnish Fair Corporation among stakeholders important for the trade fair and event business. The share of ownership by actors within the Finnish business community such as The Confederation of Finnish Industries, the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce, Suomen Yrittäjät and the City of Helsinki were widely strengthened. The long-term, strong background operator, the Finnish Fair Foundation, continues as largest shareholder.
Turnover and result
In 2021, the Finnish Fair Corporation Group had a turnover of EUR 14,7 million (in 2020 EUR 20,2 million), representing a year-on-year change of -27.0 %. Of the subsidiaries, Expomark Oy saw an inecrease in turnover by EUR 0,2 million while the turnover of Suomen Videoviestintä SVV Oy decreased by EUR 0,3 million compared to the previous year.
Operating expenses were EUR 27,6 (34,6) million of which planned depreciation accounted for EUR 9,6 (10,6) million.
The Group’s operating result was EUR -10,4 (-13,5) million. The net profitability was -70,7 % (-67, 0%).
The profit before appropriations and taxes came to EUR -10,5 (-13,4) million.
Cash flow from operations totaled EUR +3,4 (-5,9) million. Cash flow from investments totaled EUR -0,2 (-2,5) million.
During the financial year, account limits totaling EUR 15 million were in use to secure the corporation’s financing during the Covid-19 transition period. The maximum use of account limits was in August 2021, when the limit used was EUR 4,3 million.
Loans were amortized during the financial year by EUR 0,5 million. Additionally, interest bearing account limits was paid off by the moment of the financial statement (EUR +1,5 million).
Interest-bearing liabilities totaled EUR 5,0 million (7,0) at the end of the financial year. The balance sheet total was EUR 92,2 (99,9) million. The financial statement shows that the equity ratio was 87,5% (87,8%).
The debt ratio is 5,4%.
The Finnish Fair Corporation made an unrestricted equity investment of EUR 0,5 (0,95) million in Suomen Videoviestintä SVV Oy and EUR 0,4 (0,62) million in Expomark Oy.
The Finnish Fair Corporation Group’s taxes were EUR -0,3 (-0,2) million.
The Finnish Fair Corporation Group’s investments totalled EUR 0,2 (2,3) million representing 1,2 (11,4) % of the turnover. Premises-related replacement and maintenance investments amounted to EUR 0,1 million, information technology investments and virtual environment investments amounted to EUR 0,1 million.
Outlook for 2022
The fair and event year will be record high from the beginning of April, and net sales and earnings in 2022 will increase from 2021, provided there are no new business restrictions due to COVID-19. We will continue to maintain strict and rigorous cost control and cash management until we are able to conduct our core business in large volumes. The implementation of the digital strategy will continue by expanding the Messukeskus 365 digital media business. In addition, we are prepared to develop new temporary businesses for large hall and meeting facilities if normal event business could not be conducted due to restrictions. We will continue to invest in securing the future in terms of both human and other resources, but taking into account the current volume of business.
Risks and uncertainties
Possible new COVID-19 restrictions and the prolonged crisis in Ukraine, as well as the deteriorating security situation in Europe, are the biggest risks. The event portfolio is strong, but the continuation of potential constraints could weaken the restart and volume of events.
The safety expertise of Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre includes eg. comprehensive safety systems, trained personnel, serviced property, ongoing surveillance, preparedness for cyber security risks, ongoing safety planning and close cooperation with public authorities. Personnel and property risks are mitigated through systematic risk management. The financial effects of the risks have been hedged with property and business interruption insurance.
The Finnish Fair Corporation Group employed an average of 154 (202) full-time employees. Salaries and fees totalled EUR 7,1 (8,9) million.
Group key figures 2019 – 2021
|Turnover, EUR 1000||
|Change in turnover, %||
|Operating result, EUR 1000||
|% of turnover||
|Return on equity, %||
|Equity ratio, %||
|Personnel on average during financial year||
|Salary amount for the financial year, EUR 1000||
Supervisory Board 31.12.2021
VAPAAVUORI JAN, Mayor, Chairman of the Supervisory Board
LAPPALAINEN TIMO, Managing Director, Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board
Members and the year of termination of membership:
ALKIO KIMMO, President and CEO, 2022
BRAX TUIJA, Secretary General, 2023
HELANDER MIKKO, General Director, 2023
HERLIN JUSSI, Vice Chairman of the Board,
HURME ANNIKKA, President and CEO, 2022
HÄKÄMIES JYRI, President and CEO, 2022
HÄMÄLÄ ILKKA, Managing Director, 2023
JAATINEN TIMO, President and CEO, 2023
KALSTA PIA, CEO, 2023
KIVINIEMI MARI, CEO, 2023
MANNER TOPI, Managing Director, 2023
MATTILA VELI-MATTI, CEO, 2022
PAANANEN ILKKA, CEO, 2023
PESONEN JUSSI, President and CEO, 2022
TARKKA LAURA, CEO, 2022
VAURAMO PEKKA, President and CEO, 2023
WITZTHUM CHRISTOPH, Chairman of the Board, 2023
The General Meeting held on 8 April 2020 re-elected Jan Vapaavuori and Timo Lappalainen for a new three-year term. The operations of the Supervisory Board were terminated in connection with the change in the company form on 31 December 2021.
Members of the Supervisory Board received an attendance allowance of EUR 1,000 per meeting. In addition to attendance allowances, a monthly remuneration of EUR 1,000 was paid to the Chairman. For 2021 it was agreed that the premium will be paid at 50% due to the poor business situation because of COVID-19.
The Board of Directors
The Board of Directors has 5 members. As at 31 December 2021, the members of the Board of Directors are:
Matti Kähkönen | Chairman of the Board
Leena Niemistö | Board professional, MD
Karri Kaitue I Board professional
Sam Nieminen | Chairman of the Board
Anu Nissinen I CEO
Members of the Board of Directors received an attendance allowance of EUR 2,000 per meeting in 2021. In addition to attendance allowances, a monthly remuneration of EUR 2,000 was paid to the Chairman. For 2021 it was agreed that the premium will be paid at 80% due to the poor business situation because of COVID-19.
Anni Vepsäläinen, Managing Director, acting Director Marketing and Communications
Mikko Horppu, Director Exhibitions business unit
Kristina von Konow, Director Events, Meetings and Conferences business unit
Maria Mroue, Director Marketing and Communications (until November 30 2021)
Petteri Nissinen, CFO
Mika Vakkilainen, Property and Production Director
Oy Tuokko Ltd
President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö
Combined numbers of members and shares in the Corporation
As at 31 December 2021 the Corporation had 197 members, holding a total of 44,278 shares.
Proposal of the Board of Directors for distribution of the profit declared
|DISTRIBUTION OF PROFIT|
-5 380 185,94
|Profit for the financial year||
-7 639 560,71
|Amount disposable by the General Meeting|
|Pursuant to the By-laws of the Corporation||
-13 019 746,65
|The Board of Directors proposes that out of this amount:|
|Interest on participation shares paid||
|leaving under retained earnings||
-13 019 746,65