AS Infortar is the largest investment company in Estonia. Its three main areas of activity are maritime transport, energy, and real estate.
The COVID-19 crisis required companies to demonstrate extraordinary adaptive capacity. However, these years were also remarkably successful in economic terms because of the increasing volumes of investment, turnover, and EBITDA. We are paying more attention than ever to the efficiency of our business processes and are actively preparing for the future because we believe that the peak of the health crisis has passed and the economy, soon to be freed from restrictions, will provide a good basis for further development and new investments.
The year 2022 brought a new crisis – the war in Ukraine, causing great human loss and suffering. At the moment, it is difficult to provide a more concrete assessment of the effects of war on the Estonian economy. However, it is already possible to predict that it is going to have a pivotal effect on the economy and political decisions on a wider scale. Sanctions against Russia and Belarus are going to disrupt many regular supply lines of goods and services, and in many instances, companies will find it difficult to replace their previous input goods with suitable alternatives to continue operating in the planned volume and at the current price level. The prices of oil, gas, and other energy source materials are going to soar and the decision of the European Union to reduce its energy dependence on Russia by gradually withdrawing from the import of energy goods is going to significantly increase the general price level and accelerate inflation. In addition to the energy sector, the effects of the crisis can already be detected in the timber and construction sectors of Estonia. It can be predicted that the growing expenses of the public sector, primarily resulting from strengthening the national security and defence capabilities, are going to expand the national debt and general tax burden sooner or later.
Although our business culture is clearly Nordic, Estonia’s unique geographical position between the East and the West and our ability to have insight into both offers additional opportunities. Before the pandemic, one in four passengers of Tallink was from outside the European Union. We are certain that this trend will continue to grow in the next few years. Helsinki and Tallinn are constantly growing closer, increasing the competitive edge for the entire region. Taking into account the forecasts of the Population Division of the UN, according to which the global population will rise to 9.7 billion people by 2050, we can presume proportionately that in the same year, about 14 million passengers will travel on Tallink’s routes and about 7 million tonnes of cargo will be transported.
During the last few years, the biggest investments in our portfolio have been related to the green transition. Infortar’s goal is to be an important partner to the state and the driving force behind the change in the basic tenets of the energy sector. Tallink’s new shuttle MyStar, which is going to start operating in the coming months, uses liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel. This is a big step towards abandoning oil-based fuels. Together, Megastar and MyStar form a green bridge between Helsinki and Tallinn, reducing the emissions on that route by as much as a third.
Eesti Gaas, which operates under the name Elenger on foreign markets, has made a big international breakthrough. Currently, up to 15% of gas sold in Finland is supplied by Elenger, and the company is preparing to enter new markets. The most important event of the energy sector in 2021 was the completion of the LNG bunkering vessel Optimus, which simplifies refuelling ships with liquefied natural gas in ports and high seas significantly. Henrik Hololei, Director-General of Mobility and Transport of the European Commission, participated in the christening ceremony, as did the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia Kaja Kallas, who also became the sponsor of the vessel. Using natural gas in shipping has been deemed to be the best possible solution for the transition period lasting until 2055 by all members of the European Union.
Estonia and the Baltic Sea region in general need varied and permanent energy solutions for maintaining their competitive edge and economic development. Domestic users, industry, transport, and heat production expect new energy sources to be convenient, reliable, and safe. Together with Alexela, we are building an LNG terminal in Paldiski, which should be completed at record speed by November. For Estonia, this would mean a historic opportunity to assume the role of an energy bank in the region.
We have increased the production volumes of biomethane vigorously because we see that it has real potential to make the transport sector climate-neutral. Among all else, the biogas plants in Vinni, Ilmatsalu, and Oisu contribute to achieving the national climate objectives of Estonia and help keep the foreign trade balance more even because biogas is a renewable fuel which is completely produced in Estonia. For Infortar, these plants mean continuing its investments in environmental protection and sustainable technologies of the future. We believe that the entire domestic transport of goods and passengers should transfer to biogas as the only sustainable biofuel.
In addition to biomethane, we invest in solar energy as a renewable energy source. We see great potential in the development of solar parks due to the improvements in the technology because the new generation of transistors produce energy with double the efficiency. We are definitely open and are looking for new and modern innovation projects in this vital field in addition to the Paikre solar park.
Sustainable thinking and the circular economy have become a real business opportunity and a competitive advantage. For us, having national green economy principles that are concrete and immutable is important because of the security these offer to the investors.
In 2019, Eesti Maavarade Grupp acquired 75% of Geoforce. This expanded the group significantly in terms of geography as well as market share. Today, it is excavating sand and gravel for construction in a total of 19 quarries in Estonia. The innovative successes of 2019–2021 include the implementation of the new TAXILINK web platform for Tallink Takso and Takso 24. In addition to calling a taxi, the platform can be used for checking the location of the nearest taxi and predicting the cost of the trip. Payment through the app is completely contactless as per current requirements. In 2020, Infortar established Farmatar, a wholesale company for pharmaceuticals and pharmacy goods.
One of the most important events in the real estate sector in the last couple of years was the opening of the new Tulemaja office building and the renovation of the Tallink Spa & Conference, Tallink Express, and Tallink City hotels. In addition, the construction company INF Ehitus started operating, the first big project of which was completing the office building at 9 Liivalaia Street.