About Traction

Traction is a listed investment company with active ownership interests in listed and unlisted smaller and medium-sized companies. Traction also conducts investment activities for the purpose of obtaining a good return on the Company’s capital by making financial investments mainly in other listed companies and interest-bearing assets. Traction’s role as owner is based on active and long-term engagement in close co-operation with other active owners, entrepreneurs and corporate managements. Traction has no particular focus on specific industries. Traction instead conducts development and transformation work which is applicable to all companies intending to give priority to professionalism, sustainability and in sound business principles.

 

Traction develops and improves businesses

BUSINESS CONCEPT
To conduct development and transformation work for the purpose of achieving a high return and appreciation through Active ownership. In addition, the Company conducts investment operations for the purpose of a good return on the Company’s capital.
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY
• We have a long-term approach.
• We are not seeking to build a corporate group. We work instead with a number of independent companies, the appreciation of which will be realized in the longer term.
• Our sphere of activity lies within the transformation and development of companies in general. The re quisite technical and industry expertise must be present in the company.
GOALS
• To sustainably generate an increase in Traction’s net asset value per share, including dividends, that substantially exceeds the overall performance of the Stockholm Stock Exchange.
• To create profitable growth in our wholly and partially owned companies.
STRATEGY
To achieve Traction’s goals, the following is necessary:
• The ability to identify interesting business projects and situations.
• The ability to choose the right partners; especially executives/entrepreneurs, but also other active owners.
• Project managers who can provide corporate executives the complementary expertise they need.
• Co-operation partners who can act as project manager, director, CEO and/or part owner.
• Sufficient financial resources to take on interesting projects and to support the development of existing holdings.
EXIT STRATEGIES
It is important to Traction that our companies displaylong-term growth and earning power. Traction has no strategic holdings or other motives for its ownership than the strictly commercial ones. As a matter of principle, our holdings are always for sale at the right price and to a suitable owner. In companies where we have owner companions, the exit strategy varies depending on which development phase the companies are in, and specific prerequisites, especially the intentions of other owners.

Traction’s universe

TRACTION WORKS WITH SEVERAL TARGET GROUPS
Entrepreneurs who:
  • Possess the right characteristics, i.e. people who are extremely industrious and resilient, who can get things done, who are simultaneously thrifty, and ensures that the customer pays, is satisfied, and buys again.
  • Are willing to abandon strategic plans in favour of what their external universe (the customer) is willing to pay for, and are always willing to review their business concept and adapt it on an ongoing basis.
  • Run companies with the right prerequisites for expansion.
  • Have a long-term objective for their engagement.
Active partners who in co-operation with Traction:
  • Are able to work operatively as project managers, directors or as chief executive officer.
  • Acts as an active partner.
  • Want to finance a buy-out, a new issue or participate in refinancing a business.
Company managements, company presidents, owners who:
  • Lack an active joint owner.
  • Need help in conjunction with a management buy -out spin-off or sale, acquisition of a business or a change of generations.
  • Otherwise need a financially strong owner and engaged owner in conjunction with a major transaction.
Financiers, owners, reconstruction specialists who:
  • Need support in specific situations when urgent operational measures are needed in critical phases of reconstruction of operations.
  • Are looking for a partner with the ability to provide financing to save a business from financial collapse.
  • Need a partner with the financial resources needed to enter into a major project.
  • Need a guarantor/underwriter in connection with raising capital.

Organisation

Traction’s venture managers are responsible for developing the existing portfolio companies and are also charged with responsibility for identifying new business opportunities. Traction’s corporate legal counsel also lends support to Traction’s venture managers as well as chief executives and members of senior management. Traction’s central business organisation also includes a network of partners who participate actively, or have participated in the development of Traction’s portfolio companies such as external directors, entrepreneurs, owners, members of senior management and financiers.

 

Petter Stillström

CEO and Venture Manager, M. Sc. (Business Administration).
Active in Traction since 1999, CEO since 2001. Previously active in corporate finance.

Carl Östring

General Counsel and Venture Manager, LL.M. Active in
Traction since 2011. Previously attorney-at-law and law firm partner in Stockholm and Moscow.

Fredric Herlitz

CFO, M. Sc. (Business Administration). Active in Traction since 2016. Previously active as auditor.

Joakim Skoglund

Asset manager and analyst, B. Sc. (Business Administration).
Active in Traction since 2015. Previously portfolio manager and equity strategist with fund company and bank.

History

Traction was started in 1974 by entrepreneur Bengt Stillström as a one-man consultancy with a capital of a few thousand kronor. Today Traction is a stock exchange-listed investment company with equity of approximately SEK 2.75 billion, while approximately MSEK 630 has been distributed to the share-holders over the years.

Traction’s service has always been to participate in the development of companies. We have worked with the companies’ unusual events. By that we mean everything but the day-to-day work in the companies, where the initiative and the competence of the entrepreneur or other part owners already exists. It has often been a matter of how to exploit new ideas and how to give new direction to operations that are not functioning well. In support of such action we have devised a business philosophy which experience tells us really works. That philosophy is our instrument and serves as our guide. One could also say that the philosophy has become Traction’s product.

In addition to adaptation, new sales, development and start-up of new products, these unusual events have often been a matter of purchases and sales of businesses, reconstructions, reorganisations, recruitment, financing, co-operation efforts and international expansion. We have assisted entrepreneurs and chief executive officers and complemented them in such a way as to make us strong together. At Traction we have had personnel with varying backgrounds: in sales, technology, law, finance, etc. to manage this broad approach. In many cases we have been forced to step in as temporary chief executive and negotiator. We call this service Venture Management.

During the first ten years Traction was a one-man company; then In the beginning of the 1980s a central organisation was created and it grew to about ten persons. Some associates have been with us for a long time; others had shorter tenures. We also work with independent individuals in specific projects together with us and it is not unusual that the managers in our project companies are engaged as directors in other companies where Traction is a major owner. Bengt Stillström was CEO from the start in 1974 until 2001, and today serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Traction. Petter Stillström became a director in 1997 and is Traction’s CEO since 2001.

From the outset our customer base was business owners and entrepreneurs. Later major companies and banks came into the picture, primarily in connection with projects to save businesses that had faltered. As a positive effect of profitable business ventures, our capital has grown allowing investment in larger and more mature companies and since the beginning of the 1990s Traction has functioned as an active owner in several listed companies, where we work based on an active board-of-directors/owner role. In parallel with active corporate development, portions of the capital has also been invested in other listed shares, which over time has contributed to Traction’s capital growth.

 

SELECTION OF HISTORICAL PROJECTS

  • AcadeMedia, interactive education and later focus on charter schools.
  • Allgon, antennas and system components for mobile telephones and base stations.
  • Arvako, staffing and recruitment.
  • Banking Automation Ltd, deposit machines, bill payment machines and cash exchange Machines for banks and others.
  • Bricad, real estate development and management.
  • Centrum Invest, consultancy and development company for shopping centres.
  • CMA Computer Marketing, rental of mainframe computers and sales of computers.
  • Eitech respective EIAB, electrical installations and works/mounting.
  • EasyT, internet travel agency and software.
  • Eska Komponenter, an attempt to structure the Swedish foundry market.
  • Gnosjö Plast, injection moulding of plastic articles.
  • Haldex, automotive components.
  • Inter Innovation, development and exploitation of a mechanism for feeding paper currency in banking machines.
  • Jarl 20, construction and sale of freehold appartments.
  • JC, clothing chain.
  • JP Bank, monetary broker, banking operations.
  • Kjessler & Mannerstråle, technology consultancy.
  • KnowIT, IT consultancy.
  • Maxitech, thick film hybrids.
  • Mutter Media/Metronome, TV production company.
  • Nordic Camping, a national camping chain.
  • PartnerTech, contract manufacturing.
  • Standard Radio, communication radio.
  • Svecia, silk-screen printing machines.
  • Svenska Järnvägsverkstäderna, ASJ, a foundry specialized in the production of brake pads for rail vehicles.
  • Sweden Table Tennis, table tennis equipment under the brand name of Stiga.
  • Swedish Tool, machinery trade with focus on machine tools, acquired by Duroc 2007, was founded by Bricad
  • Thalamus Networks, control technology, broadband networks.
  • Tolerans, rotary stapling machines for tabloids.
  • Waterman, technology Consulting Company with headquarters in London.

 

Selection of transactions over the ten past years

2017

In the beginning of 2017 Duroc acquired International Fibres Group with payment in newly issued shares in Duroc. The holding in Waterman Group was sold following a public tender offer. For Traction this meant a total bid value of MSEK 85 and an earnings effect of just short of MSEK 40. Shares in Nilorn were sold for MSEK 67, whereby ownership was reduced to 24 percent of capital and 57 percent of the votes. The holding in Banking Automation Ltd was sold, with a positive effect on earnings. Traction has been a part owner of Banking Automation Ltd since 1986. The change in value of active listed holdings was 29 percent. The holdings in Drillcon (82 percent) and Softronic (71 percent) out-performed. A weak development in the Ankarsrum companies burdened the result by a total of MSEK 60 during 2017. A strong financial position with just short of 1.2 billion SEK in the form of cash and cash equivalents and interest-bearing investments. The holding in Eitech was sold in the beginning of January after approval by the competition authority in Sweden. Traction also became a new major shareholder in Mönsterås Metall, who acquired Ankarsrum Die Casting in February 2018.

2016

Traction reported its best result ever in the amount of MSEK 401, equivalent to a return of 19 percent. MSEK 30 was invested in Eitech Holding AB in the form of shares and loans, equivalent to 10 percent of the capital and 4 percent of the votes. New chief executives were appointed in Duroc and in Drillcon. All shares in Nordic Camping & Resort were sold after a tender offer from Norwegian venture capital firm Norvestor Equity AS. Gradually increased ownership in Waterman Group during the year brought our stake from 11 percent to about 16 percent. Shares in Nilorn were sold for MSEK 79, reducing ownership to 31 percent of capital and 61 percent of the votes. Acquired 8 percent of the capital and 4 percent of the votes in Poolia thus becoming the company’s second largest owner, also gaining representation on the company’s election committee. Strong share price performance in Nilorn (99%), BE Group (40%) and Hifab Group (36%) contributed positively to results. Nilorn and OEM International recorded record results. Ankarsrum Motors was revalued by MSEK –25 due to weaker performance. The return on other shareholdings amounted to 45 percent. Negative deposit interest rates prompted us to invest most of Traction’s liquid funds in short-term interest-bearing investments with a marginally positive return. Strong financial position with more than SEK one billion in the form of cash and cash equivalents and interest-bearing investments. Just after the end of the year 2016, Duroc acquired International Fibres Group with payment in newly issued stock in Duroc.

2015

The holding in PartnerTech was sold for just over MSEK 100 in connection with a bid from industry colleague Scanfil. Nordic Camping & Resort, which continued its positive development, floated a new issue to strengthen the balance sheet and broaden the shareholder base. BE Group floated a rights issue, which to a considerable extent was underwritten by Traction. A new CEO was appointed in the BE Group and Traction’s CEO assumed the role of Chairman of the Board. Nilorn was listed in June on First North at the same time as Traction sold shares for just over MSEK 180, equivalent to half of the holding. This constituted a major contribution to the year’s profit. In late autumn Traction acquired all outstanding class A shares in Nilorn, whereby Traction’s ownership increased to 66 percent of the votes. Nilorn’s share price showed a weak development, whereas the company’s operations again delivered record earnings. Hifab Group suffered an unexpected legal loss which compelled the company to float a new issue, which also was underwritten by Traction. Banking Automation had a record year. Shares in OEM International, Softronic and Waterman showed a strong development, while BE Group and Hifab Group were a drag on earnings. A major holding in staffing company Proffice was revalued following a public offer from an international player. The holding in Modular Streams was sold. Significant sales of active holdings and a sceptical view of the stock market’s valuation levels had the effect that Traction’s cash and cash equivalents rose to more than MSEK 900.

2014

Traction turned 40. Traction switched to Investment Entity Accounting, which means that the subsidiaries in Ankarsrum and Nilörngruppen are valued at market rather than being consolidated in the Traction Group. Sold 50 percent of the holding in OEM International after a rising price trend for a long period. As a company, OEM has shown a very positive development since Traction became a part owner in 2009, as has its share price. BE Group floated a new issue, largely underwritten by Traction. The issue was oversubscribed and Traction sold parts of its holding during the year, reducing the stake to 17 percent. BE Group’s development was very weak, which weighed on Traction’s profit. The holding in Catella was sold. Participated in the underwriting of real estate company Amasten in connection with a preferred share issue. A new chief executive was appointed in Duroc. An action program was initiated immediately. Ownership in Drillcon and Hifab passed the 50-percent-mark for capital and votes. Ownership in PartnerTech increased to just over 23 percent. Nordic Camping & Resort grew and the share price advanced by 59 percent. Nilörngruppen recorded a revenue increase of 20 percent and delivered all-time-high earnings. In addition to net sales of active holdings and other listed shares, dividends from unlisted holdings contributed an increase in Traction’s cash and cash equivalents, and interest-bearing investments to approximately MSEK 600.

2013

Increased ownership in BE Group to 21.7 percent and in Catella to 11.6 percent by acquiring major blocks of shares in the beginning of the year. Fastpartner acquired Bricad’s holding in Vallentuna Centrum after several years of active refinement of its real estate holdings. We became represented on the Board of Directors of Catella, which also appointed a new chief executive who took office in January 2014. Made a mandatory offer for Drillcon, thereby increasing our stake to just short of 50 percent. The real estate project in Djursholms Ösby was virtually completed and all units were sold during the year. The share price of PA Resources fell. This burdened our earnings performance when the company made another rights issue without Traction’s participation. Generally strong market performance, where the holdings in OEM, Hifab, SCA and Swedbank made the greatest contributions to our earnings, at the same time as the holding in BE Group weighed on our result with a significant amount. The holdings in G5 Entertainment and Alphahelix were sold with good results. Ankarsrum Motors posted all-time high earnings thanks to greater capacity utilisation on its universal motor line. Nilörngruppen also recorded continued stable earnings, with particularly positive results in England and Germany. Zitiz and internet news site Sourze were phased out after several years of development without achieving commercial success. The holdings in Signtrace and Saguru were wound up. Acquired a just over 10 percent stake in the English consultancy Waterman Group plc. JRS Securities agreed to sell the business to Remium, who took possession in January 2014.

2012

Increased our holding in BE Group (to 16.3 percent), Catella (to 7.9 percent) and PartnerTech (to 18.6 percent). We became represented on the board of directors of BE Group and a new chief executive was also appointed. Hifab recorded a strong improvement in earnings and the market price of its shares advanced by 63 percent. Strong stock market performance by SCA (+37 percent) and Swedbank (+39 percent) contributed to Traction’s stable result despite the fact that parts of the capital was invested in low-yield assets. Ankarsrum Motors, which again in 2012 recorded stable earnings, began the development of a new DC motor. Construction began on Traction’s partially-owned real estate project at Djursholms Ösby, with planned occupancy in the autumn of 2013. Sold the holding in Traction Fonder, which was originally planned for 2011. The holding in EwaLie was sold. Participated in the underwriting consortia for Formpipe, Nordic Mines, Cybercom and Crown Energy. PA Resources was reconstructed when the holders of convertible debentures (among them Traction) converted their debentures to shares and the company floated a large rights issue, for which Traction was an underwriter. The issue was completed in the beginning of 2013.

2011 

Became a major owner of game development company G5 Entertainment with 7 percent of the shares by participating in a private placement. Ownership in Drillcon was increased from 13 percent to 30 percent, making T-raction the company’s largest shareholder. Gradually bought, especially during the third quarter, a large number of shares in BE Group and by the end of the year Traction was the company’s largest shareholder with about 12.7 percent of the shares outstanding. Participated in a start-up, JRS Securities, a securities broker focusing on institutional customers. Became engaged in Saguru. Bought just over 5 percent of the shares in Catella, making T-raction the company’s second largest shareholder by year’s end. Good profitability in subsidiaries Nilörngruppen and Ankarsrum Motors. Nilörngruppen declared a large dividend. Weak stock market overall as well as in some of Traction’s larger holdings. The holding in Sigicom was revalued after a very positive development during 2011.

2010

Started mutual fund operations by acquiring Thenberg Fonder, which in the beginning of 2010 changed its name to Traction Fonder. Participated as the largest underwriter of a new issue in Rörvik Timber in an amount of MSEK 100 in connection with a reconstruction of the company. Traction’s expectation was to become a major owner in Rörvik, but that did not happen since the issue was fully subscribed. Also participated in underwritings for Switchcore, PA Resources and Alm Brand. The issue in Switchcore was 88 percent subscribed, which meant that Traction’s ownership increased to 28 percent of the capital and 22 percent of the votes. Increased ownership in OEM International and gained representation on the company’s Board of Directors. Participated in the financing of a real estate development project in the Stockholm suburb of Djursholm. Successful implementation of change programs meant that Nilörngruppen and Ankarsrum Motors recorded strong earnings increases. Associated company Softronic expanded by acquiring industry colleague Modul 1. We became engaged in two newly started entrepreneur-driven companies: Modular Streams and SignTrace. Acquired 36 percent of the shares in T-halamus IT Consulting, which is run by an entrepreneur, with whom Traction has previously co-operated with in the staffing company Arvako (sold to Randstad in 2004).

2009

After a weak 2008 there was a significant turnaround and Traction recorded a return on equity of 25 percent. Participated in the underwriting consortium for PA Resources and ended up subscribing for convertibles in an amount of MSEK 47. The change in value on securities was MSEK 267, of which the holding in Swedbank accounted for MSEK +54. Bilia for MSEK +38, PA Resources for MSEK +29 and SCA for MSEK +20. Realised successful investments in large companies as well as medium-sized companies, which rose sharply after they were purchased during 2008, including Bilia, Billerud and Duni. Sold the last shares in Haldex  after the share had doubled in value during the year. Wholly owned subsidiary Ankarsrum Assistent (now Ankarsrum Kitchen) took over the rights to the Assistent Original kitchen appliance and launched a newly designed version on the market. Completed a cash offer to the shareholders of Nilörngruppen, which became a subsidiary during the year and was delisted from the Stockholm Stock Exchange. Ownership in Nilörngruppen stood at 65 percent of the capital and 57 percent of the votes at year-end 2009. Underwriting of issues in Eniro, Nordic Camping & Resort, SRAB Shipping and Endomines. Gnosjöplast filed for bankruptcy following a failed reconstruction attempt. Sold Gnosjöplast Fastighets AB, which owned Gnosjöplast’s 15,000 square metre production facility. Became a major owner in SRAB Shipping (11.7 percent) and became represented on the company’s Board of Directors. Increased the ownership stake in Nordic Camping & Resort to just short of 33 percent of the capital. Board of Directors representation in Drillcon. Increased ownership in PartnerTech (13.7 percent) and became represented on the company’s Board of Directors. Acquired a large holding of Class A shares in technology trading company OEM International.

2008

The return on equity was –13 percent in a year when the Stockholm market dropped by some 40 percent. The loss relates to negative changes in the value of long-term listed holdings and other equity investments, with only a small number of losses realised during the year. Re-evaluation of the unlisted holdings in Banking Automation, Bricad Holding and Recco by a total of MSEK –32. Net investments in listed companies amounted to MSEK 238. Purchase and sale of a large block of shares in Teleca (8.5 percent). Purchase of major blocks of shares in Bilia (3.6 percent), Drillcon (11.3 percent) and PartnerTech (9.7 percent). Increased ownership in Switchcore to 17.9 percent. Increased the stake in Softronic from just over 10 percent to 20.9 percent of the votes. Thalamus Networks acquired Hifab with payment in own shares and cash. Zitiz acquired the internet newspaper Sourze. The Group’s subsidiaries repaid bank loans totalling MSEK 48 during the year.

Financial history

Traction's return

Return on net asset value per share (pro forma) including dividend income 2013-2017

Ten-year survey

Equity and net asset value

Starting in 2014 Traction applies Investment Entity Accounting, which means that all holdings are valued at fair value rather than being consolidated in the Traction Group. On the other hand, Central Traction companies are consolidated. Market valuations are based on assumptions of future cash flow, comparable key financial indicators, etc. For more detailed explanations reference is made to Traction’s formal Annual Report. Before switching to Investment Entity Accounting, listed and unlisted minority-owned holdings were valued at fair value, while subsidiaries with >50 percent ownership were valued at equity. The ten-year survey below contains a pro forma version of Traction’s historical results recalculated in accordance with the changed accounting method, where previously estimated economic surplus values in the subsidiaries have been distributed over the 2008-2013 period.

 

Ownership policy for listed holdings

  • A company shall always be run on behalf of its owners and to afford the maximum possible return to those owners.
  • Major shareholders should be represented on the company’s Board of Directors.
  • A principal owner has the ultimate responsibility for to initiate changes to operations through the company’s management, the composition of its Board of Directors, major transactions and acquisitions.
  • A principal owner should consult with other major owners and explain the owners’ intentions to the Board of Directors and corporate management, and ensure that suggestions for new board members are presented.
  • The Board of Directors and management shall also gather and embrace the intentions of the owner and work in line with the specified orientation.
  • Takeover bids, mergers and major acquisitions should in the first instance be handled by the principal owner.
  • The Chairman of the Board of Directors, or the principal owner, must obtain support for major structural changes from the largest owners.
  • A principal owner may not grant favours to himself or herself at the expense of the company, but shall be entitled to reasonable compensation for his or her participation in the management of the company.
  • In the absence of a principal owner, the major shareholders should consult and formulate a form of corporate governance to compensate for the lack of a principal owner.
  • In the absence of a principal owner, or a group of major owners who assume responsibility, it shall be incumbent upon the Chairman, with the aid of the Board of Directors, to compensate for such lack of to the best of his or her ability.
  • The Board of Directors should be composed of persons with large personal shareholdings and other persons who can contribute to the development, and who have time to be actively involved.
  • The composition of the Board of Directors should be such that it includes numerous different skills, fields of experience and contact interfaces.
  • Traction wants to see a business-like and active Board of Directors that knows its company and its business environment well, and who can complement and support the CEO.
  • The Board of Directors shall make decisions regarding the company’s strategies, orientation, major transactions and other significant changes.
  • The Board of Directors shall exercise effective control over the company’s finances, risks and opportunities.
  • The Board of Directors works on behalf of the owners.
  • As a major owner, Traction always wants to participate in the nomination committee work.
  • The nomination committee should be composed of representatives of the owners. If ownership ceases, the representative in question should immediately resign from the nomination committee.
  • Traction wishes at all times to appoint at least one director in companies in which Traction has a major shareholding. Option programmes to employees should only be offered if the employee invests a market equity contribution.
  • Private placements with new, major owners may be suitable in the case of smaller companies, which thereby can avoid negative effects on the market price on the share and also get a better ownership structure.

Sustainability

Traction is an investment company with ownership interest in several companies in different industries, in varying phases of development and geographic focus. Traction’s ability to influence the development of the holdings varies depending on its’ ownership stake and the willingness of other shareholders to adhere to Traction’s approach. However, Traction’s employees, as well as the boards of directors of the project companies, are always expected to ensure that project company management groups attach great importance to the ongoing sustainability efforts that must be adapted to each respective company’s situation and local conditions.

Traction’s development model is based on the assumption that each respective management group and board of directors follow prevailing laws and regulations and always act ethically and in a commercially sound manner. This means that Traction has zero tolerance of human rights violations, extortion, corruption, child labour, forced labour, discrimination, etc. Traction also expects risks to be analyzed and goals to be formulated and that each company has appropriate processes in place to manage and monitor sustainability risks. Virtually every human activity and enterprise has some sort of impact on the environment. For Traction, sustainable operations ensure that the environmental impact is minimized and that the environmental impact is balanced against the benefits supplied.

Traction avoids getting engaged in companies that are not deemed to add value for its customers or society at large, instead contributing to tragedies such as addiction, poverty, deaths and other unnecessary suffering. Examples hereof are companies involved with drugs, tobacco, armaments, casino operations and gaming companies, whose purpose is to entice their customer to become addicted to gambling, thereby squandering their savings potential. Nor do certain credit-granting companies, whose existence depends on their customers’ desperate need for liquidity, fit in with Traction’s investment criteria.