The Pontos Group team grew in 2021 with three new positions. Lionel Alvarez began working as the General Manager of our group company Ombria Resort. Pontos’ Helsinki office welcomed Kati Rikala as Investment Manager, Real Estate and Julia Hakulinen as Assistant Controller.
Lionel Alvarez, a long-time expert in the hotel industry was appointed as the General Manager of Viceroy at Ombria Resort. Ombria Resort is a sustainable regional development project 100-percent owned by Pontos. It includes a five-star luxury hotel managed by the US Viceroy Hotels & Resorts. The hotel is a part of Ombria Resort’s complex along with an 18-hole golf course and several other residential and accommodation options.
Lionel, who was born in France, has opened and managed several luxury hotels across the world. He continues to position and boost awareness of the Ombria Resort, Viceroy hotel and branded residences.
”I have spent the last 6 years in beautiful Algarve in Portugal. It was wonderful to join the Ombria team – being included in the project was a priviledge! I have enjoyed exchanging thoughts on the area’s magnificent, original idea with the Kokkila family. I look forward to the future, the area’s opening and seeing the team grow further,” Lionel says.
Kati Rikala joined Pontos’ real estate investment team to complement the development of the real estate investment portfolio. In her tasks, Kati seeks and analyzes new investment opportunities, develops and executes Pontos’ real estate investment strategy and coordinates projects and transactions.
Kati has a particular interest in hotels and the environmental effects of properties. At Pontos, she has been able to work particularly with Viru Hotel and Ombria Resort. She also influences which portfolio companies’ operations and strategic leadership she works with and which strategic projects at Pontos she concentrates on.
Digital and energy-smart practices are especially close to Kati’s heart. Themes guiding future real estate operations stir expectations.
“Along with COVID-19, we have witnessed the ability of societies, individuals and companies to shift to digital operating environments in a heartbeat. Russia’s operations have moved European countries and players, in particular, towards considering accelerated ways of reaching renewable and self-sufficient energy production. I am optimistic about the rapid development taking of the future, especially regarding digitalization and energy-smart practices,” Kati comments.
The team’s competence receives special thanks from Kati. “The office has a top-notch team spirit! Hats off to my colleagues, who are extremely skilled in their respective fields. My co-workers always provide great ideas, and I can count on everyone doing their best to reach shared goals.”
Kati’s first day at Pontos also involves a funny anecdote. “In addition to a computer and other necessary working tools, I received resistance bands, which I needed immediately the following morning during the team’s morning workout!”
Julia Hakulinen became the second member of the financial team at Pontos’ Helsinki office, doing financial reporting and updating economic forecasts and supporting process development and reporting. Julia is tasked with financial reporting and has developed related practices at Pontos.
In addition to starting a job at Pontos, 2021 marked an important year for Julia, because she graduated with a Master of Economic Sciences degree. At Pontos, Julia has been particularly pleased with being able to improve herself extensively due to the open exchange of information.
“The best part of my work after starting was a work trip to Tallinn’s Viru Keskus, where Pontos is an owner with 73 percent holdings. I had been a tourist at the shopping center countless times before, but the experience was different when I knew more about its daily operations and ongoing development projects. I look forward to acquiring expertise in the real estate industry and growing professionally as a financial expert.”
The time spent together at work and the team’s holiday season party have been highlights for Julia after the long COVID-19 lockdown period. “My colleagues are awesome! The office always has a great atmosphere, thanks to my co-workers. We catch up with each other actively and make jokes to cheer each other up. Even though we have good vibes at the office and office days make work more fun, the time spent with the team outside the working environment is important too.”
Good business is based on healthy individuals and teams – we believe that only people who do well can achieve their full potential. This principle guides Pontos’ work in promoting work well-being. Our goal is to ensure the long-term and holistic working ability of our personnel in expert work.
Pontos’ personnel survey consists of several factors ranging from the monitoring and adjusting of the workload to our sense of community and occupational healthcare. Since there can never be too many efforts with well-being, there is always room for improvement.
Our development targets for 2021 included team spirit and strengthening our sense of community. We also wanted to improve our internal information flow and introduced systematic monitoring of personnel well-being.
We returned to the office after the summer, and in fall 2021 introduced a hybrid model for working. We increased informal communications and different team gatherings, such as shared afternoon and family events. We also updated the ergonomics and coziness of the office.
We introduced a well-being survey to be carried out every quarter. The survey produces data on personnel well-being. Due to its anonymity, it also provides significant feedback on the work community directly. This allows us to identify relevant areas of work well-being in time and make adjustments, when necessary.
The development of the culture of ownership took a giant leap last year as Aalto University established a unique professorship for ownership. The professorship established with the help of donations helps to promote high-quality academic research and teaching to increase Finnish ownership expertise and ownership culture. Pontos was involved in the group of donors.
Pontos is an active and long-term owner. We consider steady and knowledgeable ownership a crucial requirement for successful business operations. Because ownership impacts companies’ operations extensively, it also has widespread effects on society. Holistic ownership and development of companies call for particular and comprehensive expertise.
The professorship introduces ownership as a fixed part of academic research and teaching and produces research data to support discussions and decision-making in society. New research data and best international practices are irreplaceably important. They secure conditions for responsible and sustainable business in a global business environment.
Ombria Resort is a sustainable regional development project in Algarve, Portugal. The area includes the 76-room Viceroy hotel, 65 Viceroy Residences branded residences, a club house and an 18-hole golf course, which are completed and open in the first stage. The later stage includes the completion of the Oriole Village covering 83 apartments, row houses and villas, along with 12 Alcedo villas.
2021 saw the completion of the frames and structures of the hotel and branded residences, and internal building work was started. The construction of the club house also begun.
The first stage of the project covering the hotel, apartments, golf course and club house are opened in spring 2023. The golf course has already been completed.
A Viceroy Residences model apartment was completed in early 2021, which was important for apartment sales and accelerated sales notably. By the end of 2021, 60 percent of the apartments had been sold.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ombria Resort developed a unique Ombria Sales App. With the app, the buyer can visit the apartment virtually and get a glimpse of the gorgeous views from the apartments.
The company sold one-third of the apartments during 2021 using virtual visits without the client visiting the destination on site. Although tours in the area have increased due to travel limitations, virtual visits have remained highly popular. Buyers can familiarize themselves with the apartments, the ambience of Ombria and the countless alternatives of sustainable travel – from the comfort of one’s home.
Valmet Automotive, leading service provider in the car industry, began an extensive extension, which aims for mass series production of batteries at the company’s Uusikaupunki factory. The extension allows the factory, which has previously focused on car manufacturing, to include two product lines: car manufacturing and the production of battery systems for electric vehicles. This covers the production of battery modules and battery packages for electric cars. The extension brings significantly more capacity for Valmet Automotive to manufacture battery systems in the car industry and complements the company’s offering at its battery factory in Salo.
The extension of the Uusikaupunki factory and starting battery production were central parts of Valmet Automotive’s strategy of highlighting electric transportation. The strategy aims to turn the company into a Tier 1 supplier of battery systems and a leading company in the industry. As an agreement manufacturer for batteries, Valmet Automotive is already one of the world’s leading service providers.
Operating a battery factory in conjunction with a car factory is a unique initiative in the battery industry.
The extension of the company’s battery factory in Salo was also completed in summer 2021.
A change project was started in 2021 to renew the interior of Tallinn’s liveliest shopping center in terms of visitor numbers, Viru Keskus. The entire concept of the center and its general appearance will see a complete transformation.
At Kabamaja, the renewed women’s section, cosmetics section, pharmacy, grocery store and award-winning book store Rahva Raamat already opened their doors in 2021. Nike and Adidas opened their brand-new flagship stores.
Kaubamaja’s renewed women’s section, cosmetics section and grocery store were received by customers with great enthusiasm. Fall campaigns related to the departments were the most successful in the history of the center. Kaubamaja’s new pharmacy is described as the most sophisticated one in the Baltics, offering specialized skincare expertise and other health services, in addition to medical services.
Rahva Raamat, which received more space and customer conveniences at the center, received the prestigious Bookstore of the Year award by the internationally acclaimed London Book Fair.
The center’s new sports world opened partially in 2021, and the flagship stores are the first of their kind in Estonia. In addition to Tallinn, Adidas only has flagship stores in London and Berlin. Nike’s flagship store is the largest in the Baltics, covering up to 495 square meters.
A restaurant world, well-being world and several other pioneering fashion stores are currently in the making at the center.
Real estate development company AVIA Real Estate, which operates in the airport area, began the construction of Finland’s largest hotel complex in Finland during October 2021. The 13-floor hotel, which opens at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in 2024, will operate in connection with Terminal 2. The hotel complex covering over 700 rooms will be operated by Nordic Choice Hotels.
The hotel is an important part of Avia City, which combines flexible and diverse services for the needs of residents, companies and travelers alike. The hotel is located at the heart of the airport and includes an indoor connection to Terminal 2 as well as the airport train station.
The total investment for the project is over 120 million euros, and environmental responsibility guides the design process.
R8 Technologies reached a milestone in 2021 when the company’s AI software covered an area of over a million square meters. In addition, the company’s agreement base and revenue more than doubled during the year.
R8 was founded in 2017, and the company’s technology is used in over 19 countries across Europe. R8 provides a digital solution, which optimizes the management of heating and air conditioning systems in commercial properties.
In 2021, the company’s technology conducted 6.5 million optimization measures in buildings. The technology aims for energy savings of up to 30 percent while maintaining high indoor air quality. The digital solution is particularly suitable for shopping centers, hotels and offices.
R8’s technology is used, for example, by EDP, Radisson Blu and EfTEN Capital. In Finland, the company’s customers include Aalto University and Antilooppi.
SRV, one of Finland’s largest construction companies, executed and started several significant construction projects during 2021 to cater to people’s varying needs across Finland.
The extension of Terminal 2 at Helsinki Airport carried out for Finavia, easing people’s movement and international competitiveness, is a new type of area serving air passengers. It opened to the public in December 2021. The front of the terminal includes a new check-in area, security area, luggage delivery point and passenger reception area. The extension also includes a travel center combining different modes of transportation. The project was carried out using the alliance model. The new lobby building is approximately 30 percent more energy efficient in relation to existing rules.
The extension and renewal project for Terminal 2 received the Site of the Year as well as Steel Structure of the Year awards. The alliance project won the main prize and audience vote at Tekla BIM Awards 2021, which assesses the most advanced construction projects in Finland and the Baltics.
Construction of hospitals and schools has long been a strong cornerstone for the company’s office construction, and the favorable development continued in 2021.
The energy-efficient and conversion-flexible Monikko school center, completed in 2021, was awarded with the HURRAA awards from the Espoo Environment Committee and Building Control Committee. The award was granted for a built environment carried out with particular merit and success. Monikko is located in a historically and scenically demanding environment close to the Leppävaara sports park and church. The building offers diverse teaching premises for bilingual teaching and day-care services for a total of 1,300 children.
The foundation stone for event center Satama in Kantasatama, Kotka, was laid in December 2021. The event center’s roof structure will include the largest hanging wooden structure in the Nordics. Upon its completion, the event center will be an energy- and water-efficient, user-friendly building. The approximately 1,400 cubes of wooden products to be used in its supporting structures will bind 970 tons more CO2 than their manufacturing produces. Satama will also see a geothermal heat solution, and 600 square meters of green rood will be installed on the roof to ease drainage water management and support natural diversity.
Tampere’s Nokia Arena, one of the most impressive construction projects of 2021, was completed according to schedule. The experience center includes several different spaces and services, ranging from accommodation to office premises, sports halls and residential towers.
September saw the completion of Loisto, a 32-floor residential tower with 249 apartments was completed in Kalasatama. SRV is a Finnish pioneer in the construction of tall buildings, making living more compact, diversifying the apartment offering and promoting a sense of community and the sharing economy.
In 2021, SRV was also selected to execute the Laakso Joint Hospital in Helsinki. The project is commissioned by the City of Helsinki and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa. The Laakso Joint Hospital is a hospital specializing in psychiatry, somatics and neurology. Upon its completion, it will replace the currently scattered functions of Aurora, Hesperia, Kellokoski, Ohkola, Laakso and Suursuo hospitals on a single new campus area in Helsinki.
In addition, SRV made a three-year collaboration agreement with the Finnish Olympic Committee in 2021. The goal of the collaboration is to respond to one of the biggest challenges of the future: children’s immobility.
The company also started several significant projects in 2021, such as new school projects in Turku, Espoo and Helsinki, along with the construction of the Kulttuurikasarmi in Helsinki. Read more from the company’s Annual Review 2021.
In October 2021, the world’s leading coaching company Hintsa announced that they are acquiring British digital mentoring platform Grasp. With the platform, Hintsa allows its clients to offer its well-being coaching to all their personnel through smartphones. Acquiring Grasp is part of Hintsa’s even stronger strategic investments in the digitalization of its services.
The collaboration between Hintsa and Grasp seeks to promote as holistic, preventive and effective well-being services as possible in the business world. Hintsa already collaborates with the management of over 500 organizations globally, and Hintsa’s services cover over 40,000 employees in its largest client organizations.
Real estate development company Renor continued its development work in the Tikkurilan Silkki area. Construction engineer Kurt Wrede established Tikkurilan Silkki in the 1930s and designed Silkkitehdas, a complex of several buildings. The Silkkitehdas block located next to the Tikkurila train station is currently a vital and environmentally-friendly city block, which uses geothermal heat as its energy source.
In 2021, the Teatterit building developed by the company was completed, beginning its operations. In addition, the Värjäämö building at Silkkitehdas saw the completion of small offices at the turn of 2021–22. Construction was carried out in accordance with the LEED environmental certification, which requires an efficient recycling rate of construction waste. The Teatteri building leased by the City of Vantaa is used by two cultural institutions of Vantaa: Teatteri Vantaa and Tanssiteatteri Raatikko.
In 2021, Pontos sold three logistics warehouses in Lappeenranta. The sold properties continue the portfolio’s divestment strategy.
The warehouses were part of a complex of ten sites. Pontos acquired NREP’s holdings in the NREP C1 real estate portfolio in spring 2019, after which Pontos had 100 percent holdings in the portfolio. The area covering a total of 95,500 leasable square meters covered logistics, warehouse and commercial center sites across Finland.
The divestments allow Pontos to further focus its real estate investments in the development of growing cities and the digitalization of the real estate industry.