At Viria, 2018 was the third year of intensive structural reform. Considering the pace of changes, we can be satisfied with the results of our operations. Our profitability rose to a very high level, mainly thanks to capital gains, and all the core businesses also improved their operational profitability. The Group grew organically by 11 per cent and growth was further accelerated by corporate acquisitions.
This year, we will strongly invest in the streamlining of our operations as well as in cooperation and systems to also be able to reach the targeted level of results operationally. In the long term, our aim is to double the current level. Another extensive development project is the adoption of IFRS reporting. It will allow investors to get a more comparable overview of our operations and financial performance when compared to listed companies which do not need to record amortisation on the goodwill of acquired companies. Due to our numerous corporate acquisitions, amortisation on goodwill is a significant item in Viria’s financial statements: in 2018, it totalled EUR 5.7 million.
We now have the business operations needed for building a strong and successful company. In spring 2018, we expanded to software development by acquiring the digital service company Bitfactor. Together with Aureolis’s data analytics, it forms the information business, which is one of the pillars of Viria’s business operations. Software development and analytics are rapidly growing and profitable areas and there is no foreseeable end to their demand during the ongoing digitalisation revolution. At the beginning of this year, we acquired a larger shareholding in Aureolis Oy, which thereby became Viria’s subsidiary.
Another positive development has been the strong growth and profit improvement of the TV software developer Hibox Systems Oy.
Our security business continues the implementation of the One Security strategy. To be able to deliver total security solutions to our customers as a whole, according to our promise, we merged Securi and LAN&WAN so that they form one company, Viria Security Ltd. Security can be managed more efficiently as a centralised whole than with numerous different systems. For this reason, Security is developing its customer portal, which makes it possible to concentrate several security systems under one view and one management solution. The first version of this OneManage system will be available to our customers this year.
What do the security and information businesses have in common? With analytics and artificial intelligence, we can build increasingly efficient security solutions. As for software development, it is needed for combining different technological solutions in a well-functioning entity. On the other hand, various security systems, such as camera surveillance, produce data that our customers can utilise in business development with the aid of analytics and software development. Nowadays, a lock and a surveillance camera are part of the Internet of Things, too. Our expertise also enables us to build extensive IoT solutions that are not limited to security technology only.
During the past few years, the implementation of our strategy has meant that there have been several corporate acquisitions but also focusing and divestments. Last year, we successfully divested the TV operator AB Sappa, which no longer was a part of our strategy, even if it was a very profitable investment. The transaction further strengthened our strong capital situation, enabling operational growth also in the future.
The most important factor for the company’s success and the creation of the best customer experience is committed and competent personnel who have optimal well-being. Viria’s personnel demonstrated its confidence in the company’s future by investing their money in the new share-based incentive scheme last autumn. More than half of the Group’s personnel purchased shares. In addition to return on investment, they can receive additional shares as a reward for their commitment at the earliest in 2021.
Viria has become a company with strong national presence. For more than a hundred years, we have been involved in facilitating people’s lives and the business life in Ostrobothnia, and now we are building responsible digitalisation and security throughout Finland. More information about corporate responsibility can be found elsewhere in this Annual Report.
The past year was very successful and so I would like to thank our customers and owners for their trust in Viria and our personnel for their strong service orientation and commitment. It will be great to continue Viria’s development with you!