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 Business and Economy News from Finland
Finnish economic growth to slow further in 2019, Aktia Bank says
Helsinki, December 12 (Yle)
Aktia's chief economist Heidi Schauman says that the economic outlook for Finland - and the world - has weakened.

Aktia Bank has downgraded its forecast for the Finnish economy next year. The institution now expects GDP to grow by just 1.8 percent, down from its previous estimate of 2.2 percent.

Aktia's chief economist Heidi Schauman says that the economic outlook for Finland and the rest of the world has weakened this autumn.

The Finnish economy narrowly edged back into growth in 2015 following three years of contraction.

"Many elements creating uncertainty" According to Aktia's figures, last year's growth of 2.8 percent was the peak of this upswing, dipping to 2.4 percent this year and below two percent next year.

"The world economy is dominated at the moment by many elements that are creating uncertainty: the normalisation of fiscal policy in both the United States and the eurozone, extremely volatile markets, trade war and its attendant uncertainty, as well as Brexit and concerns over Italy, which create an economic atmosphere that is no longer as positive as it was a year ago," Schauman said in a statement on Wednesday.

Bumper tax payout to get Finnish consumers to splurge on Christmas
Helsinki, December 7 (Yle)
Consumers will spend significantly more money on gifts and other holiday items than they did last year, a Nordea survey finds.

Citing fresh figures from a survey Nordea Bank commissioned about holiday spending plans of consumers, the bank's economist Olli Kärkkäinen said expectations haven't been this high since 2012.

"A year ago I was wondering about why [the country's] strong economic growth and record-high consumer confidence levels weren't being reflected in planned Christmas budgets. Now it can be seen," Kärkkäinen said.

However, it is not only economic growth which is behind the projected extra spending. This year more than 3.6 million Finnish residents will receive tax refunds on 11 December, amounting to a total of nearly three billion euros.

Refund recipients are expected to get approximately 100 euros more from the taxman than they did last year, reflecting an average increase of 10 percent.

One-in-three of survey respondents said they would spend part or all of their tax refunds on the holidays, according to Nordea.

PM Sipilä hails Slush as 'best day of the year'
Helsinki, December 4 (Yle)
Finnish dignitaries queue up every year to join tech industry festival Slush, and this year was no exception. Attendees said 2019 would be the year of space.

Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has lauded the Slush startup event as one of the highlights of the calendar as thousands of participants descend on Helsinki during one of the darkest weeks of the year.

The event, which is named for the grey matter that usually cakes the city streets in the winter months, is a cause for optimism among Finland's movers and shakers.

Slush organisers want to drive home the point that tech entrepreneurs are today's rock stars. This perspective carried into the event itself which resembled a music concert. Attendees were greeted with smoke emitted by fog machines, the halo of neon lights and thumping techno beats.

"This is nothing like the investor shows or business fairs that I've seen," one UK tech startup said.

First external financing for Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel
Helsinki, December 3 (Yle)
The privately-led project to construct a rail link under the Gulf of Finland has received 100 million euros from a Dubai construction firm.

The project to dig a rail tunnel from Helsinki to Tallinn has received 100 million euros from a Dubai-based construction group ARJ Holding – the first external financing for the 15-billion-euro venture.

FinEst Bay Area Development, which plans to have the 20-minute rail link complete by 2024, said the funds would be used for design and permits.

The project is headed by Peter Vesterbacka, the former marketing boss of game firm Rovio, and investor Kustaa Valtonen, a former HP and Microsoft executive.

Valtonen told Uusi Suomi last week that the company has toured some Asian cities since the summer looking for funding.

In addition to FinEst Bay, city and regional councils in Helsinki and Tallinn areas have established a consortium called FinEst Link, which looks into constructing a tunnel under the Gulf of Finland. The Estonian capital lies about 80 km south of Helsinki, and is now accessible by ferry, which generally takes just over two hours, as well as by air.

Study: Finland's tax regime discourages earning more, seeking better-paid work
Helsinki, November 29 (Yle)
Finland's high marginal tax rate – the tax paid on additional income – begins to bite at even low income levels, says a taxpayers' association study.

The taxpayers' association has blamed Finland's high marginal tax rates for discouraging people from seeking better-paid work or additional sources of income. The organisation noted, however, that taxes on low incomes are lighter in Finland than in other European countries it analysed.

"In Finland as well as in other parts of Europe, recent taxation policy has taken a more supportive turn in alignment with economic growth and employment. However steep progressive and marginal taxation remain a stubborn aspect of salary taxation in Finland," said Mikael Kirkko-Jaakkola, the organisation's head economist.

The average annual pay in Finland is 43,000 and income earners pay up to 2.1 percentage points more than other European taxpayers in the comparison. At the top end of the comparison, people earning 140,000 euros annually in Finland have to fork out on average 6.9 percentage points more taxes than their peers in other countries in the study.

The organisation concluded that because of Finland's high marginal tax rate -- the tax paid on additional income -- begins to bite at even low income levels, it is not worthwhile to earn additional income or seek better-paid work.

Long-delayed Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor to go online in January 2020
Helsinki, November 29 (Yle)
The launch of Finland's Olkiluoto 3 reactor has been postponed again. It is now to begin production in 2020, some 11 years behind schedule. Ongoing testing will again postpone the commissioning of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant's third unit. The reactor in Eurajoki, south-west Finland, was originally to have begun producing electricity in 2009.

The latest delay pushes the Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) schedule back a further four months from the previously announced September 2019 start-up, according to plant owner Teollisuuden Voima (TVO).

"We are disappointed in the schedule delays, but it is key that the entire commissioning is carried out carefully, without compromises,” said OL3 project director Jouni Silvennoinen in a statement on Thursday.

The initial connection to the grid and test period is to start next October, the company said.

5th and largest reactor
The 1.6-gigawatt OL3 will become Finland's fifth and biggest reactor. TVO's largest shareholders are the majority-state-owned Fortum and Pohjolan Voima, which in turn is primarily owned by forest product giants UPM and Stora Enso.

More than 2,000 people are still working at the OL3 site, with just over 300 from supplier Areva-Siemens overseeing the commissioning process along with staff from TVO.

As of last month, some about 90 percent of the structure's 2,700 rooms had been completed.

Worrying signal for Finnish economy in 2019: Building permits slump
Helsinki, November 28 (Yle)
The volume of permits for apartment buildings plunged by more than half, a likely harbinger of an economic slowdown next year.

An exceptionally low number of new construction permits were granted from June to September, says Statistics Finland. Volume was down by 25.4 percent from a year earlier.

The biggest drop was in commercial and office buildings, where volume plunged by nearly 44 percent. On the residential side, the slide was 37.5 percent compared to the third quarter of 2017. The cubic volume of permits for residential blocks of flats fell by more than half.

Far fewer apartments than last spring
In July to September this year, ongoing building production was still on the up and up, rising by nearly two percent from the same period of 2017. Most of that was in the residential sector, where construction rose by almost four percent – while other construction basically remained at last year's pace.

New building starts already showed a sharp volume drop of nearly 21 percent though. Residential building starts were down by nine percent.

Construction permits were issued for less than 5,500 flats in the third quarter, down to close to 15,000 from April to June.

On Monday the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (Etla) predicted that the construction sector would be hit with a downturn next year. The institute predicted that nearly 15 percent fewer new housing construction projects will be started in 2019 compared to this year. Meanwhile hydraulic engineering efforts such as dredging, digging new water channels and construction-related excavations have also seen lagging growth.

PM Sipilä: "Hopefully no more" EU exit deals to come
Helsinki, November 25 (Yle)
Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä represented Finland at an EU summit that approved an agreement for the UK to exit the 27-member bloc.

EU leaders meeting on Sunday greenlighted an agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the 27-member bloc after less than an hour of deliberation.

Representing Finland at the Brussels huddle, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä said that the UK's departure from the EU is sad, but noted that it is now technically possible given EU leaders' approval of the latest Brexit deal.

"When you read the political declaration, you feel that 'this can't be true'. This is definitely a lose-lose situation. It is an undesirable situation but it is now possible for the breakup to happen in an organised fashion," Sipilä said on Sunday.

Regional politicians will next come together for the EU and other countries to redefine the relationship with the UK. Sipilä said that for Finland, it is most important to ensure the creation of a sound free trade agreement.

Unemployment down in October
Helsinki, November 21 (Yle)
New figures from Statistics Finland reveal that 43,000 more people had a job in October 2018 than one year earlier.

Statistics Finland reports that there were 171,000 unemployed people in October 2018, 26,000 fewer than one year ago. The agency calculates that this puts the unemployment rate trend at 7.2 percent and the employment rate at 71.8 percent, when adjusted for seasonal and random variation.

These latest employment numbers for people aged 15 to 64 who are active in the job market are just shy of the government's 72 percent target, a percentage it set as an objective upon taking office over three years ago, when the employment rate trend was at 67.9 percent.

In total, there were 14,000 more employed men and 29,000 more employed women last month than in October 2017, the agency reports.

Among the 617,000 young people aged 15 to 24 in Finland, the proportion of unemployed among the labour force stood at 14.7 percent, or 2.4 percentage points higher than one year previously. This puts the trend of the unemployment rate among young people in Finland at over double that of the population in total, at 17.5 percent.

The agency also reports that in October of this year, there were 1,419,000 persons in the inactive population - people not employed or unemployed - or 10,000 fewer than one year earlier.

PM Sipilä: Finland will approve draft Brexit deal
Helsinki, November 15 (Yle)
The Finnish PM says he expects the British Parliament to approve the draft agreement on the UK's departure.

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä says that Finland will approve the draft Brexit deal unveiled late Wednesday by his British counterpart Theresa May. He also predicted on Thursday afternoon the deal would be approved by the British Parliament in December.

"That's why this negotiation has been so painful. May has always had to make sure that the draft agreement would get through Parliament. It won't be easy but certainly the prediction is that it will go through," said Sipilä.

"At the end of the day it is to everyone's advantage that there is not a hard departure, but rather a managed departure," he added.

Future of Finnish forests
Helsinki, November 13 (Yle)
The country's most widely-read daily Helsingin Sanomat had on Tuesday an in-depth analysis of the Finnish forest industry.

The paper contemplates the future of Finnish forests, as two sides of a debate over curbing logging become more deeply entrenched. The government collected a group of domestic researchers to study the effect of its bioeconomy drive on Finnish forests, which could see significant harvesting of the natural resource.

The group found that well-managed forests should be able to provide timber and energy for the economy without significant loss of biodiversity or carbon sink capacity. However several opposition political parties are calling for the government to withdraw its harvesting increase plans and keep the rate at its current level of 68 million cubic metres.

The paper writes that there are 2.5 billion cubic metres of timber standing in Finland's forests, with an annual growth rate of 107 million cubic metres. Annual forest harvesting at present comes in at 68 million cubic meters, but the current centre-right government's bioeconomy push seeks to increase this number to 80 million cubic metres a year until the year 2025.

Forests act as an important carbon sink in the fight against climate change, and a recent IPCC report called for considerably less forest harvesting worldwide in order to safeguard these important repositories of CO2. HS reports that in 2013-2014, the annual carbon capture of Finnish forests was 27 million tons, a number that would drop to 13.5 if the government's plan is brought to fruition.

Finland's Climate Panel wants Finland to be carbon neutral by the year 2030 already – at the latest 2045. In practice, this would mean that Finland only produces as much CO2 as its natural carbon sinks can capture. At current levels, Finland's forests bind between 30 and 60 percent of the greenhouse gases Finland produces each year.

Record import of used cars
Helsinki, November 5 (Yle)
Tero Kallio, head of a car importing association, tells the paper that over 40,000 used diesel and petrol vehicles will be brought into Finland in 2018, accounting for one-third of all cars registered this year. Typically purchased from Sweden or Germany, the used cars that Finnish residents buy abroad tend to be larger, use more fuel and release more emissions. Two-thirds of them run on diesel, HS writes.

This increase in imported used cars flies in the face of Finnish decision-makers' efforts to renew the relatively old and high-emission fleet of vehicles on Finnish roads. A variety of carrots, like a cash-for-clunkers programme, and sticks, like higher taxes on petrol, diesel and high-emission cars, have been introduced to encourage consumers to buy newer cars.

EU courts have nevertheless ruled that older emission regulations should apply to imported used cars in Europe, placing them in a less expensive tax bracket.

This situation has contributed to a steady stream of used cars flowing into Finland from Sweden and Germany. The cars are typically nine years old. The fact that they are often larger and run on diesel means that they tend to last longer, HS writes. In some cases, the car will continue to serve the purchaser for another 13 or 14 years.

Finland's car stock is just getting older as a result, as the average service life of a car here is already 21 years, which puts Finland in the company of eastern Europe countries. In other parts of western Europe, cars are typically driven for 15 or 16 years before they are traded in for a new model.

Supercell dominates top earners list for second year
Helsinki, November 1 (Yle)
Finland's top earner in 2017 was founder and CEO of game firm Supercell, Ilkka Paananen, drawing 65,246,456 euros, according to the Finnish Tax Administration.

The first day of November has become a red-letter day for followers of the fate and fortunes of the captains of industry and the political elite, as it's when the Finnish Tax Administration, Vero, releases all taxpayer data.

The country's second-biggest earner was another employee of the Helsinki-based game firm Supercell, creative director Mikko Kodisoja, who pocketed 57,535,431 euros.

Supercell employees crowded the top ten list with Janne Snellman (22,363,972 euros) coming in fifth place, John Derome (19,145,088 euros) in sixth, and Visa Forsten (17,316,120 euros) in eighth. Last year's list mirrors the top earners' table of 2016, when Finland's top 3 earners were all from the same Helsinki-based game firm. Supercell has meanwhile made international headlines for not using financial planning schemes to avoid paying taxes.

The list's dark horse is Alexander Hanhikoski, founder and CEO of Bittisiirto, a company specialising in real-time payments. The thirty-something entrepreneur pulled down 24,635,470 euros, giving him the country's third-highest salary.

Other top earners include the founder and CEO of dental equipment manufacturer Planmeca, Heikki Kyöstilä, whose taxable income reached 22,673,597 euros, earning him fourth place.

Peak-performing Terrafame mine starts construction of battery chemicals plant
Helsinki, October 26 (Yle)
Building has begun on a new nickel and cobalt sulphate refining plant in Sotkamo that is expected to bring 150 new jobs and 200 million euros in added turnover.

The Terrafame mining company announced on Thursday that it would begin foundation work on a battery chemicals plant. Located in the north-eastern Finland town of Sotkamo, Terrafame says the plant will expand the multi-metal mine's operations and bring increased profitability.

The plant will improve the refining capabilities of the mine, as there is a growing market for materials used in the manufacture of electric and hybrid motor batteries (EVBs). Specifically, it will further process Terrafame's current main product of nickel-cobalt sulphide into nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate, both of which are used in lithium-ion batteries.

200m in added turnover projected
Terrafame reports that a significant share of their nickel and cobalt sulphate production is already being allocated to manufacturing EVB chemicals, so building their own refining plant would bring them "closer to end users".

The mining company will apply for an environmental permit for the battery chemicals plant early next year. The mine reports that it has already entered into major technology agreements with the key equipment suppliers. The Sweco engineering company, headquartered in Stockholm, has been commissioned to lead the design and build.

If all goes according to plan, construction will be completed by the end of 2020, and commercial production would begin in early 2021.

BASF to open electric vehicle battery plant in Finland
Helsinki, October 18 (Yle)
The firm said that when the plant opens in late 2020 it will supply batteries for some 300,000 fully-electric vehicles annually.

German chemicals giant BASF announced on Monday that it has chosen the Finnish western town of Harjavalta as its first location for a battery production plant which will serve the European electric vehicle market.

BASF said the Harjavalta project is a part of the company's 400 million euro investment plan and that it already started initial production of battery materials this year.

When the facility fully starts up in late 2020, the firm said it will be able to supply batteries required for some 300,000 fully-electric vehicles per year.

The firm said the new plant will "utilise locally-generated renewable energy resources including hydro, wind and biomass" fuels.

The plant will be built adjacent to the Nornickel nickel and cobalt refinery owned by Russian mining firm Norilsk Nickel, a company which has signed a long-term, "market-based supply" agreement to supply BASF with nickel and cobalt from its metal refinery, according to a joint press release issued by the companies on Monday.

Finnish company turns used batteries into fertilizer
Helsinki, October 18 (Yle)
Tracegrow's technology can be used to benefit the trace elements of used alkaline batteries to circulate them back into nature as micronutrients and fertilizers for farming.

Finnish company Tracegrow has created a method for extracting substances inside used alkaline batteries that can be repurposed and used in farming, specifically for enriching soil and and creating fertilizers to promote the growth of food crops.

Alkaline batteries are stored in different parts of Europe and many end up in garbage dumps. Often batteries are sent to smelters, where the zinc can be extracted, but a large part of the rest of the used battery goes unused.

Tracegrow's solution is to utilise about 80 percent of alkaline battery trace elements for new use.

Their first production facility opened in the summer in Kärsämäki, and the company's goal is a turnover of more than 100 million euros in the next couple of years.

Though there are other companies in the world working in the same field, there hasn't been enough benefitting of batteries in this way internationally. Finland has a high level of expertise in chemistry, which is needed in the development and innovation in this type of work.

Nordea implicated in alleged money laundering scandal
Helsinki, October 17 (Yle)
Finance industry regulators in Sweden received a report which alleges Helsinki-based Nordea Bank accepted dirty money from two banks in the Baltics.

The Swedish Economic Crime Authority has received a report alleging that Nordic banking giant Nordea Bank, which is now headquartered in Helsinki, accepted criminally-sourced funds from banks in Estonia and Lithuania.

The case is reportedly related to a money laundering case involving Denmark's Danske Bank, which according to the Financial Times, faces fines of up to nearly seven billion euros over a major money laundering scandal. International financial authorities are keeping a close eye on Danske Bank after the institution admitted that a large portion of nearly 200 billion euros that arrived from its branch in Estonia were "suspicious," FT reports.

According to news outlet Al Jazeera, Danske Bank acquired the Estonian branch in 2006 and oversaw suspicious transactions amounting to some 200 billion euros over a period of about nine years.

Finland's net payments to EU down in 2017
Helsinki, October 12 (Yle)
Finland paid 50 euros per inhabitant to the European Union in 2017, making a total of 275 million euros -- some 19 million euros less than the previous year.

Finland paid in 275 million euros more to the European Union than it got back in funding in 2017, representing a 19-million-euro drop in its net EU contribution from the previous year, according to European Commission statistics.

The 2017 figure works out to 50 euros per inhabitant, down from 54 euros per inhabitant in 2016, when its payment was 294 million euros - almost twice as much as the 570 million euros it paid in 2015.

Among bloc's states that pay more to the EU than they receive, Finland paid the second-least this year. Of those countries only Ireland, which became an EU net contributor for the first time in 2014, paid less than Finland, according to the finance ministry.

Finland pays substantially less than, for example the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Denmark Austria and the UK, even though those countries receive significant payment reductions from the EU.

Due to earlier budget framework programmes that are wrapping up - or delays in the launch of new projects, there are considerable differences that each EU state pays every year.

Finland pricey but more affordable than pre-euro, Yle finds
Helsinki, October 11 (Yle)
Nearly 20 years into sharing a common currency, Finland is still a relatively expensive country, finds an Yle report.

Finland has become a relatively cheaper country to live in since joining the single currency nearly two decades ago, at the beginning of 2002.

Multinational companies have largely abandoned country-specific pricing in the EU. These days, an Ikea cupboard or Apple device cost the same in Spain, Italy or Finland. Clothing and shoe purchases will also dent consumers' wallets more in the other non-Euro Nordics than in Finland, according to EU statistics office Eurostat.

While the common currency seems to have harmonised pricing within the eurozone, particularly as inflation has run up prices in southern and eastern European states, many consumer goods are still more expensive in Finland.

Carbon-absorbing forests
Helsinki, October 11 (Yle)
Finland's forests could mitigate climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, a widening academic achievement gap, and is Finland inching closer to NATO?

Finland could become carbon neutral by conserving and restoring forests, a group of environmental researchers at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), told national daily Helsingin Sanomat in a report outlining climate saving measures. Their call is a reaction to a new alarm sounded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, for the world to curb global warming at 1.5 degrees, rather than 2 degrees Celsius.

Achieving this goal by 2050 would mean bringing greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere down to zero. This could be achieved by balancing the amount of carbon released to the atmosphere with the amount that is being removed. Finland's forests store enormous quantities of carbon and could effectively offset Finland's main polluters, including the energy and agricultural sectors.

On Tuesday, Finland's economic affairs minister said government's flagship programme to promote biofuels use is sustainable, despite IPCC statements to the contrary.

Organic food selling briskly – but still a niche market
Helsinki, October 2 (Yle)
Bananas, milk, eggs, meat and baby food are among the best-selling organic foods in Finland.

Organic food sales are growing briskly in Finland, but still only represent a tiny fraction of overall grocery sales, says the Finnish Organic Food Association (Pro Luomu).

From the middle of 2017 to the middle of this year, sales of organic foods totalled 312 million euros, a 13 percent increase from the previous 12-month period.

During the same period, overall grocery sales expanded by about three percent in Finland.

The association bases its estimate of organic sales on figures collected from grocery chains. They indicate that organic food has a market share of 2.3 percent.

The organic market has grown steadily throughout the 2010s. Since 2011 organic sales at retail shops have shot up by some 90 percent, driven by a broadening of the range of items available.

Stubb announces European Commission presidential bid
Helsinki, October 2 (Yle)
Former Finnish PM Alexander Stubb is seeking the EU's highest post.

As expected, former prime minister Alexander Stubb confirmed on Tuesday evening that he will vie to become the conservative candidate for European Commission President.

As the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) group is the largest bloc in the European Commission, its candidate is considered likely to take over from incumbent commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, also from the EPP. It is tipped to remain the biggest group after next May's European Parliament elections.

Stubb told Yle that the prime candidate or "Spitzenkandidat" of the largest group after the election will probably become either the commission president or be chosen for another high-ranking post such as central bank director or Speaker of the European Parliament.

Stubb is the second candidate to throw his hat into the ring. The first was Germany's Manfred Weber, who leads the EPP group in the European Parliament.

24-hour strike to hit public transportation, health care, schools and daycare, retail
Helsinki, October 1 (Yle)
A one-day strike by labour unions will hit the country on Wednesday and is expected to slow public transportation in the Helsinki region, among other things.

Finnish industrial workers will join service, food, and power sector workers in a 24-hour strike on 3 October to protest a government bill that would make it easier for small firms to fire employees. Welfare sector union JHL also launched an indefinite overtime ban starting 1 October.

These measures mean that public services will be affected by walkouts in many key sectors. Read on to find out how.

1. Public transport
Metro and tram services may come to a halt in the capital region. Most public transport conductors are JHL members, all of whom are banned from working overtime or switching shifts.

Helsinki City Transport (HKL) said that routes may have to be dropped if conductors fall ill and no replacement drivers can be found. The organisation said it cannot say in advance which routes and services will be affected.

2. Kindergartens and schools
The JHL strike will also affect daycare services.

Switching care times for children may be more difficult during the industrial action, which does not affect child minders or babysitters.

3. Shops
The Finnish Food Workers' Union (SEL) also begins its strike action on Wednesday. Employees will be on strike at the food companies Atria, HKScan, Olvi, Sinebrychoff, Hartwall, Fazer Confectionary and Saarioinen. The industrial action does not include the dairy, bakery or poultry industries.

4. Hospitals, health centres, elder care
Some hospital and health centre staff such as nurses and maintenance workers are JHL members. Some 60,000 employees in the social and health care sector belong to the union. Niemi-Laine said that the work ban will likely affect surgery schedules.

Number of Chinese tourists in Lapland rise as Japanese visits decline
Helsinki, September 30 (Yle)
The number of Japanese tourists choosing Finnish Lapland as a holiday destination has been in decline since last December.

Overnight stays by Japanese tourists in Lapland have declined every month since the end of last year, according to Statistics Finland figures.

However, at the same time - and for the past decade - the number of Chinese tourists visiting Finland's Arctic region has been steadily increasing. Apart from Lapland, Chinese tourists have also begun to discover other parts of Finland, as well.

Managing director of the tourism firm Visit Rovaniemi, Sanna Kärkkäinen said the decline in tourists from Japan was attributable to fierce competition in the Arctic tourism sector.

She said other destinations above the Arctic Circle, like Iceland, Canada and Norway, have helped to turn Japanese tourists to places other than Lapland.

The head of eTourism research at the University of Eastern Finland's Centre for Tourism Studies, Juho Pesonen said Japanese tourists may be more price-conscious when making holiday plans than their Chinese counterparts.

Finnish bridges get clean bill of health
Helsinki, September 17 (Yle)
Virtually all concrete bridges tested were sound, says the Finnish Transport Agency.

An extensive probe of concrete road and railway bridges in Finland has only turned up one that did not meet durability standards.

The Finnish Transport Agency (FTA) says that even that one exception does not pose an immediate safety risk.

The agency launched the investigation after revelations of quality problems with some concrete structures. It inspected more than 90 of the most heavily-used road and rail bridges around the country. The bridges were built between 2005 and 2016.

"Only one site did not meet the sturdiness requirements, the Kuivajoentie underpass bridge on the Oulu-Kemi train line, which was built in 2016. It does not pose a safety risk, but we will carry out more a detailed study of the decline in its bearing capacity,” the FTA's Head of Engineering Structures, Minna Torkkeli, said in a statement on Monday.

The agency says the Kuivajoentie bridge can now support a maximum axle load of 22.5 tonnes, whereas it was designed for an axle load of 35 tonnes.

Torkkeli says that the bridge's air content was incorrectly measured when it was built. It was now found to be 12 percent, whereas the maximum permissible content is around five percent.

Think tank forecasts slower growth for Finland
Helsinki, September 13 (Yle)
Finnish GDP growth will slow next year to 2.4 percent after hitting 2.6 percent this year, forecasts the PTT Economic research institute.

PTT says employment has increased during the current upswing, with some 75,000 more people in work in July than a year earlier. That growth is set to continue next year, with another 30,000 people in work by July 2019, according to PTT.

That would bring the unemployment rate down to seven percent, but PTT says further reductions may be difficult as it's harder to get people back into work if they have been out of the labour force for long periods.

Another concern is reduced spending on research and development, which PTT says could make productivity gains harder to achieve.

PTT also expressed concern over the potential for slower global economic growth due to trade wars and tariffs, especially between the United States and China.

PTT's forecast decline in growth is less steep than others, with Nordea predicting a one percentage point drop in economic growth in 2019.

Chinese giant eyes Finland's Amer Sports in possible €4bn deal
Helsinki, September 5 (Yle)
Finnish sporting goods giant Amer Sports has confirmed it received interest from a Chinese consortium.

Shares in Amer Sports jumped by as much as 14 percent on speculation Tuesday, ahead of the company confirming it had received a non-binding buyout offer from a Chinese investment firm and Chinese competitor Anta Sports Products Limited, according to the Bloomberg news outlet. Trades of Amer Sports shares were temporarily halted on Tuesday morning.

An unnamed source told Reuters news agency the possible buyout could be valued at up to four billion euros.

Amer Sports confirmed the Chinese conglomerate's offer in an exchange filing issued on Tuesday, however, the firm said it has made no decisions on whether it plans to go ahead with the deal.

"In response to media speculation, Amer Sports Corporation confirmed that it had received a non-binding preliminary indication of interest from a consortium comprising Anta Sports Products Limited and the Asian private equity firm FountainVest Partners to acquire the entire share capital of Amer Sports," the company wrote in a press release.

The Helsinki-based Amer Sports said its shareholders would be entitled to a 40 euro-per-share cash consideration for all of their shares in the company.

Anta Sports is China's largest sports gear company which develops, manufactures and markets sports footwear, apparel and accessories, with a market value of about 12.5 billion euros.

Amer Sports owns rights to many popular international sporting brands like Atomic, Suunto, Wilson, Louisville Slugger baseball bats and Salomon, with an estimated market value of around 3.7 billion euros.

Amer -- which began as a tobacco company in 1950 -- also owns the rights to brands including Arc'teryx, Mavic and Precor.

Finland's GDP growth to contract over next 2 years, Nordea outlook says
Helsinki, September 5 (Yle)
The economies of Finland and other Nordic countries are still improving, but the escalating global trade war is gaining momentum, according to Nordea Bank.

Nordic banking firm Nordea said the Finnish economy is continuing to expand along a "healthy growth track," attributing the expansion to consumption driven by improved labour markets and wage development. The bank issued its economic outlook on Wednesday.

According to official national figures, Finland's employment rate has improved over the past year. In July state-owned number cruncher Statistics Finland reported the trend of the employment rate was 71.9 percent, just shy of the 72 percent employment target that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's government set when it took office four years ago.

On Wednesday however, Nordea warned that Finland's employment growth "is likely to cool as the labour market mismatch takes a negative turn."

Growth will slow
The bank noted that export growth in Finland has already slowed and said it expects that expansion of export markets will continue "to cool further in the coming years."

The bank projected GDP growth of three percent this year and two percent next year, while growth would further contract to 1.5 percent in 2020.

Nordea's forecast for this year is in line with competitor bank Aktia's recent outlook, which also predicted three percent growth in 2018. However Aktia expected slightly more growth of 2.2 percent in 2019.

On a worldwide scale, Nordea said it expects global GDP to grow by 3.8 percent this year, slightly contracting over the next two years, to 3.4 percent growth in 2020.

"The global economy entered 2018 with positive momentum. While the relatively strong growth is set to continue, a slowdown is already taking place. Still, we expect growth to hold up relatively well in 2019, before a more material slowdown hits in 2020," the bank wrote in its economic outlook published on Wednesday.

Finnair's new CEO scooped from Nordea
Helsinki, September 4 (Yle)
Banker Topi Manner, who has been named the new CEO of Finnair, reiterated the company's zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol consumption on the job.

Topi Manner has been named Finnair's new CEO. Manner will start the job at the beginning of 2019.

According to a Finnair press release, Manner has a long career in management positions at Nordea, the largest financial group in the Nordic countries, where he has worked for about 20 years.

Since 2016, Manner has worked as a member of Nordea's group executive management and as head of personal banking.

According to Nordea's press release, Manner said the Finnair offer "was one I couldn't turn down."

Finnair's current CEO Pekka Vauramo, as previously announced, will be taking a job as the CEO of Metso as of 1 November. In the interim, CFO Pekka Vähähyyppä will act as interim CEO.

Finnair increases number of flights to Japan
Helsinki, August 29 (Yle)
Finnair has announced that it will be adding frequencies on many of its Asian routes next summer.

The expansion of its Asian links continues what Finnair says has been recent "strong growth" in key markets on the continent. Finnair markets itself as "a network airline specialised in flying between Europe and Asia".

The airline is, for example, to add extra frequencies to several of its Japanese services. Three weekly flights will be added on the Helsinki to Osaka route, meaning that Finnair will fly a total of 10 weekly frequencies to the city during the summer season (which starts on March 31).

Plus, Finnair will operate double-daily flights on its Tokyo link for the whole 2019 summer season, and will also add a third daily flight during to the capital Japan's Golden Week holiday (which runs from April 29 to 6 May).

In addition, Finnair is also switching to an Airbus A350 aircraft on the Nagoya route from May 5 next year.

Finnair operates all flights to Japan in co-operation with its joint business partners: Japan Airlines, British Airways and Iberia.

Including the joint business flights provided with Japan Airlines, Finnair will offer up to 41 weekly frequencies to Japan during the summer 2019 season.

2019 budget plan offers carrots and sticks
Helsinki, August 29 (Yle)
The budget plan unveiled on Wednesday offers higher allowances and subsidies for some, while raising taxes on alcohol and soft drinks, for instance.

The Finnish government has reached agreement on next year's budget, the last of its legislative term. The blueprint totals just over 55 billion euros with a deficit target of 1.4 billion. The cabinet promises that the overall tax burden will not rise.

The budget includes an agricultural crisis package of nearly 90 million euros. The farming sector, hard hit by drought this summer, is still a key constituency for Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's Centre Party, formerly known as the Agrarian Party.

Some 45 million euros will also be earmarked for protection of the Baltic Sea, a shallow body of water where eutrophication and toxic algae blooms have been worsened by agricultural runoff and fish farming.

The cabinet has given the green light to a new form of investment savings account proposed by Finance Minister Petteri Orpo of the conservative National Coalition Party. Set to begin in 2020, it would offer tax deferrals to those who invest as long as capital gains go into an investment savings account, with a cap of 50,000 euros.

The budget plan also calls for an extension of the so-called "Lex Lindström," a scheme championed by Labour Minister Jari Lindström of the smallest government partner, the Blue Reform party. It allows older long-term unemployed people to apply for increased benefits before receiving pensions. The original plan took effect on a one-off basis in June 2017, aimed at those over the age of 60 who have been out of work for at least five years.

Consumer confidence falls in August
Helsinki, August 27 (Yle)
Statistics Finland and the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) both report slight dips in economic confidence indicators for August.

Statistics Finland reports that consumer confidence shifted from 21.5 points in August to 22.0 points in July, compared to a long-term average of 12.6.

According to the private sector business lobby group EK, industry confidence came down to 13 points from 14 points in July, but is still well above the long-term average.

Despite the slight dips in the two indicators, both Statistics Finland and the Confederation of Finnish Industries reported that the Finns are still quite optimistic in their overall views of the economy.

New super museum?
Helsinki, August 21 (Yle)
It has been some two years since the City of Helsinki voted down plans to build a Guggenheim art museum in Helsinki. But now the city is looking into a proposal to erect a new ‘super museum' for design and architecture, writes national daily Helsingin Sanomat.

"The best site for an interesting new museum would be one that really impacts the surrounding area," explained Helsinki City Deputy Mayor for Urban Environment Anni Sinnemäki of the 60-80 million-euro project.

A working group report commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the City of Helsinki, the foundation for the Design Museum and the foundation for the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Architecture Information Centre proposes the South Harbour or the Hietalahti harbour area as possible locations.

In 2016 the Helsinki city council rejected a controversial proposal to contribute to financing construction of a Guggenheim art museum, following some six years of planning and lobbying by the New York-based Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Unemployment figures fall again in July
Helsinki, August 21 (Yle)
Statistics Finland reports there were 183,000 people without jobs in Finland in July, 24,000 fewer than one year prior.

Unemployment in Finland continues its downward trajectory. Statistics Finland's Labour Force Survey compares the same month in 2017 and 2018, and shows that this year in July, there were 183,000 unemployed in Finland, while last year there were 207,000.

The state-owned number cruncher says that the trend of the employment rate was 71.9 percent, when adjusted for seasonal and random variations.

This figure is just shy of the 72 percent employment target that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's government set when it took office four years ago.

Seasonal factors have a significant effect on employment figures from month to month, Statistics Finland explains, and this is why it is more informative to examine levels year-on-year. Seasonal and random variation adjustments then make the data mutually comparable, allowing for better recognition of trends.

The drop means that there are now 75,000 more people who are considered employed in Finland than one year earlier. Statistics Finland calculates that, as of last month, there were 2.63 million residents of Finland who had work. Without seasonal adjustment, this rate of employment would be at 74.1 percent.

Data also shows that there were 43,000 fewer people in the "inactive population" in Finland in July 2018. This puts the total of "people who are not employed or unemployed" at 1.3 million people.

Finnish GDP growth slows, inflation and employment edge up
Helsinki, August 14 (Yle)
Inflation accelerated slightly this summer thanks to costlier fuel, tobacco and hotels, says Statistics Finland.

The Finnish economy remained robust in the spring and early summer, but there was a hint of slowing in June in data released Tuesday by Statistics Finland. The figures indicate that Finland's seasonally adjusted GDP rose by half a percentage point between the first and second quarters. However seasonally adjusted output slipped by 3-tenths of a percent from May to June.

Meanwhile the number of people working was about two percent higher than a year earlier. The number of hours worked outpaced that, climbing by three percent in a year.

Fuel, tobacco and hotels pricier in July
Preliminary data for July suggest that inflation is on the rise. State number-crunchers estimate that consumer prices edged up by 1.4 percent last month on a year-on-year basis. In June the rate was 1.2 percent. Statistics Finland points to higher price tags on items such as petrol, cigarettes and hotel stays as driving the growth in inflation from June to July.

The central statistics office notes that these latest figures are still preliminary, promising more fine-grained data at the end of August.

Finland's tech sector orders fall slightly as trade war unfolds
Helsinki, August 7 (Yle)
The number of orders and bid requests in the tech sector dropped somewhat over the summer, according to the Technology Industries of Finland.

While Finland's tech sector is still doing relatively well, the outlook for technology industry is slightly more negative than previously thought as orders fall, according to a group representing technology companies.

Chief economist Jukka Palokangas from the Technology Industries of Finland says the number of orders that member firms received over the summer has slightly dipped.

He said compared to the first quarter of this year, orders went down by one percent during the second quarter, from April to June.

The number of orders fell further in July, while the number of new bid requests has also dropped, according to the group.

Palokangas says global economic uncertainty is putting pressure on technology companies, and that the ongoing international trade war is raising the costs of raw materials.

“It's necessary that Finland and the EU make use of all their political prestige and trade policy skills to solve these problems. Protectionism has only negative effects on Finnish exports,” Palokangas says.

On the whole though, Finland's technology companies still benefit from strong order books and have hired 10,000 new employees since last year, Palokangas says.

Single-day record: Cruise ships brought 11,000 tourists to Helsinki on Monday
Helsinki, August 7 (Yle)
Three giant cruise ships brought thousands of tourists into Helsinki on Monday and record-breaking numbers are expected to visit the capital this year.

A total of 11,000 passengers arrived on Monday on three gigantic cruise ships moored in the West Harbour and Hernesaari ports. For example, the Norwegian Breakaway, a behemoth ship operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, carries 5,000 passengers alone.

International cruise ship companies have brought a record-number of the tourists to Helsinki so far this summer, as well.

Last year, a total of 266 cruise ships arrived in Helsinki, bringing a total of 478,000 passengers to the city. Calculated estimates by the city show that the average cruise ship tourist spends an average of 64 euros during their stay in Helsinki.

Popular: Public saunas
Helsinki's tourism promotion company Helsinki Marketing says that this year, cruise ship visitors tend to be most excited about the city's public saunas.

"Saunas are a huge thing, culturally. The new urban saunas like Kulttuurisauna, Allas and Loyly have received a lot of international media attention and represent a new interpretation of Helsinki's public sauna tradition and shared sauna culture," says Helsinki Marketing CEO Laura Aalto.

She said many tourists have told the marketing firm that Finns were very friendly and helpful during their visits.

"They are taken aback by the fact that everyone can speak English. Many have even praised our service culture," Aalto says.

Brexit talks
Helsinki, August 6 (Yle)
Former MP and MEP Risto E. J. Penttilä argues in business paper Talouselämä that the European Union has been too uncompromising in the Brexit negotiations.

According to Penttilä, who currently heads think tank Nordic West Office, a chaotic Brexit will not benefit anyone.

Penttilä argues that the negotiators on the EU's side have crushed the UK's hopes that trade between them could continue as before even after Brexit. This is because the EU fears that an easy exit from the bloc will invite countries in the Eastern Europe to try the same, he says.

"This analysis is completely wrong. The East European countries need the EU for their security policy."

Penttilä says it would be smart for the EU to maintain good relations with Great Britain, not only because of free trade but also because of the transatlantic connection.

As regards the global economy, Penttilä says a huge storm is brewing.

"We are facing a threat of a trade war, a chaotic Brexit and a banking crisis in Italy."

Overheated Helsinki residents seek relief at air conditioned hotels
Helsinki, July 31 (Yle)
The capital city's balmy temperatures and high humidity have caused sleepless, sweaty nights for many residents.

Many of Helsinki's apartment buildings are ill-equipped to deal with this summer's heat wave.

Some people have fled their hot flats for cooler hotels, for example Hotel Helka in downtown Helsinki, according to the hotel's manager, Jukka Räisänen.

He said more than a few of the hotel's recent guests have been locals who live on the same street as the hotel itself.

As they make their booking, these guests - often elderly people - immediately ask whether the hotel rooms are air conditioned.

"Older people who live in old, brick buildings in the Töölö neighbourhood have gravitated our way this summer," Räisänen said.

Each room has a thermostat which can be adjusted to the guest's preference, he said.

"We dial in the temperature so that it is pleasant when the guest arrives. Then they can adjust it to their liking," he said, adding that this isn't the first year locals have sought refuge from the heat.

Finnish entrepreneurs cultivate 'cannabis light' with eye to export
Helsinki, July 29 (Yle)
A less addictive, high-quality version of cannabis known as CBD could be a hit product for Finland on the expanding world market, developers say.

Hannu Hyvönen sekä Swiss Dream -lajikkeen emikukintoja Finolan hedekasvien pölytettävänä Kiuruvedellä. Hannu Hyvönen from the Finnish firm Happusampo Image: Hannu Hyvönen Finnish cannabis company Hamppusampo is carrying out experiments this summer to test various methods of cultivating a non-intoxicating strain of cannabis in fields and greenhouses. The aim is to develop cannabidiol products to sell in Finland and abroad – if Finnish legislation is changed to allow growing on a commercial scale.

Cannabidiol – also known as CBD or "cannabis light" – does not contain THC, the main psychoactive intoxicant in marijuana. The World Health Organisation declared that CBD is not harmful or addictive and may in fact be used to treat drug addiction.

Under Finnish law it is basically legal to grow any type of hemp as long as it is not done with the intent of intoxication. Hamppusampo has a permit from the Food Safety Agency Evira to import the seeds it uses for research and product development purposes.

Hyvönen notes that there are already several thousand hectares of farmland, primarily in the south-west, devoted to growing FINOLA. Developed in 1995 in Finland, FINOLA was the first industrial oilseed hemp to be registered in Canada and the EU. The oilseed hemp variety naturally has a high CBD content, Hyvönen says, and breeding efforts seek to bolster the CBD content even further.

Worldwide, legal cannabis is a rapidly-expanding sector. The business magazine Forbes predicts that consumers will be using nearly 50 billion euros worth of legal cannabis products annually by 2027. So far the market has been dominated by countries such as Canada, the US, Israel, the Netherlands and Switzerland, where legislation has been changed to decriminalise cannabis use.

White-collar criminals flout bans to carry on business as usual in Finland
Helsinki, July 28 (Yle)
Many Finnish firms are led by individuals who have been convicted of white-collar crimes.

A study by the Yle investigative news programme MOT reveals that nearly 400 Finns, or about a third of people banned from business operations, are still working in corporate management positions. In some cases they get around the ban by setting up companies abroad.

Temporary or permanent disqualifications from the pursuit of commercial activities are almost always imposed as a result of convictions for financial crimes. They are aimed at preventing the perpetrators from committing more such violations.

"Most of those who are prohibited from conducting business have been found guilty of criminal activities that are considered 'non-minor'. In practice this means general financial crimes such as aggravated tax fraud, debtor's dishonesty or bookkeeping violations," Detective Superintendent Jukka Korkiatupa of the National Bureau of Investigation told MOT.

Minister seeks EU-wide bans
In June, there were 1,181 people in Finland under business bans. More than 85 percent of them were men. A standard ban imposed by a district court lasts 3-7 years.

According to the trade register, 376 of them were still board members, CEOs or held other executive positions. They served in nearly 700 firms, with many of them involved in several companies. Eighty-two of these firms were officially domiciled in Finland's southern neighbour, Estonia.

Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen is calling for the European Union to set up a common system of business bans to fight financial crime.

"I think we need EU-wide business bans, because entrepreneurs quite extensively set up firms in various countries and it's clear that you can circumvent the rules by establishing a company in Estonia or Sweden, for instance," he says.

Nokia issues disappointing Q2 result, banking on 5G roll-out in second half
Helsinki, July 26 (Yle)
Nokia's figures for the second quarter reveal a profit loss of 42 percent, but the company expects the launch of the 5G network in the US to help sales in the second half of the year.

Network services giant Nokia saw its operating profit fall to 334 million euros in April through June of this year, down 42 percent from 574 million euros in the same period one year ago.

The news agency Reuters says the disappointing result did not meet the analyst mean forecast of 373 million euros.

During the second quarter, Nokia's turnover fell six percent to 5.32 billion euros.

Despite this bad news, the company is sticking to its outlook for 2018. Active cost-saving plans are on schedule and close to meeting their targets, and the transition to the next generation 5G network – promising between 15 to 50 percent faster service – is expected to pick things up when deployment in the US starts at the end of the year.

The fourth quarter has typically been Nokia's strongest period.

"Nokia's Q2 2018 results were consistent with our view that the first half of the year would be weak, followed by an increasingly robust second half," CEO Rajeev Suri wrote in a Nokia press release.

Posti delivers record number of parcels in first half of 2018
Helsinki, July 25 (Yle)
Posti said deliveries of consumer parcels grew 22 percent, driven by online shopping.

Posti said it delivered a record number of parcels – 20.9 million – in the first half of this year driven by growth in online shopping.

The number of parcels increased 12 percent from the same period in 2017, the postal and logistics company said, with consumer parcels experiencing an even more stellar growth rate of 22 percent.

At the same time, the number of addressed letters decreased by 5 percent over the period.

The company's operating profit rose to 6.1 million in the second quarter, while net sales decreased slightly to 402 million euros.

According to Posti's chief executive Heikki Malinen, net sales and profit for 2018 are expected to remain similar to 2017 or decrease slightly.

Employment up, nears gov't target
Helsinki, July 24 (Yle)
The Finnish employment rate is edging towards the government's target of 72 percent.

As the upswing in GDP growth continues, Finland's employment rate is closing in on the government's target of 72 percent.

Last year the economy grew by 2.8 percent, according to recently-revised figures from Statistics Finland. That bubbly economy has seen an extra 50,000 people join the workforce, bringing the seasonally-adjusted employment rate to 72 percent according to the Ministry of Employment's claimant count.

The Statistics Finland Labour Market survey, which is collected via interviews with jobseekers and is therefore comparable to similar figures from other countries, puts the employment rate at 71.8 percent.

The rate has increased by a whole percentage point since December, with some 100,000 more people now in work than at this time last year.

PM Juha Sipilä's centre-right government had set itself a target of increasing the employment rate to 72 percent in an effort to reduce the so-called 'sustainability gap' between projected state income and expenditure in future years.

Food prices back on the rise after four years of markdowns
Helsinki, July 21 (Yle)
Food prices are going up again on world markets, and the increase is starting to be reflected in Finland's supermarkets.

Prices for food stuffs are on the rise again in Finland after four years of falling rates and cut-throat price slashing campaigns among Finland's top three competing grocery chains.

Finland's Natural Resources Institute Luke has charted growing food prices and determined that consumer food expenses in May 2018 went up by 2.4 percent when compared to the year before.

The food groups that have seen the largest increase in price include fruits and vegetables, berries, butter and meat products. The change can be explained in part by a rise in cereal prices and a drop in fresh produce due to drought.

Luke researcher Jyrki Niemi says the switch has been surprisingly swift.

"Consumer purchasing power has also improved, so sales have picked up. Price tags aren't such an important factor in the buying decision," he says.

Finnish president Niinistö thanks Finns on Facebook after summit
Helsinki, July 18 (Yle)
After the summit President Niinistö had a drink with his staff, went under the knife and opened up on social media.

After welcoming the presidents of the US and Russia to Helsinki, President Sauli Niinistö had a few things to do. First he went for a drink with his staff in a local bar (a photo appeared in Jodel, a community app and featured in Helsingin Sanomat, who pointed out how rare that is for a head of state), then he went into hospital for a routine operation, and finally he took to Facebook to offer Finns a summary of the last few days.

In the Facebook update Niinistö said how relieved he was that all the practicalities went according to plan, thanking all those involved in making it a success.

"I pay tribute to all those thousands who played their different roles in making this a success on a tight timetable," wrote the president. "A lot of people roasted in suits and uniforms, many of them helping to distribute information in a hectic environment, accommodating and transporting guests and so on."

Niinistö also noted that demonstrators around the summit put forward good ideas, and even helped him make his points to the two leaders. "It was a lot of help to me, I didn't need to jab my finger at the guests—it was enough to refer to the demonstrations and say that they were making good points," said Niinistö.

Fortum wraps up 3.7bn-euro purchase of German power firm Uniper
Helsinki, June 26 (Yle)
Finnish energy giant Fortum said Tuesday that it had purchased 47.35 percent of Uniper and could increase its shareholding to 50 percent.

The completion of Fortum's takeover bid for the German fossil-fuel energy company Uniper gives the Finnish company a 47.35 percent stake in the firm, along with 47.12 percent of voting rights.

In a release issued Tuesday, Fortum said that it had paid a total of 3.7 billion euros in a cash deal for all of the shares up for sale.

The transaction followed a green light from the European Commission and Russia's anti-monopoly authority. The company said that it has clearance to purchase up to 50 percent of Uniper in accordance with a limitation set by Russian regulators, and indicated that it may follow through to further secure its voting position in future Uniper annual general meetings.

Uniper has a subsidiary in Russia, Unipro, whose core business is electricity production from gas and coal.

Fortum said that as of 30 June, it will consolidate Uniper as an associated company.

Nokian Tyres to boost production, hire 80 workers at plant in central Finland
Helsinki, June 9 (Yle)
Finnish manufacturer Nokian Tyres has plans to ramp up production of passenger vehicle tyres by 30 percent.

Nokian Tyres said it plans to add a fourth shift to the three already in place at their facility in the town of Nokia, near Tampere in south-central Finland, and to hire more than 80 new workers towards the effort.

The recruitment process has already begun. The new hires and fourth shifts at the plant will start in September, the company said on Friday.

The firm's CEO, Hille Korhonen, said Nokian's strategy of growth needs an increase in production.

"Nokian Tyres has experienced strong growth, and our goal is to continue on this path by doubling our North American business and growing our business in Central Europe by 50 percent over the next five years. At the same time, we want to ensure our continuous market leadership in the Nordic countries and Russia," Korhonen said.

Sales up by nearly 6%, led by brisk car business
Helsinki, June 9 (Yle)
Most sales figures rose this past spring, but there were some dark spots. For instance, sales of daily consumer goods dipped slightly.

According to Statistics Finland, overall sales climbed by 5.9 percent in April compared to a year earlier. Leading the way were motor vehicle sales, which surged by 13.6 percent over 2017.

Growth in wholesale trade outpaced that in retail, rising by 6.4 percent compared to 1.3 percent for retail trade. The strongest retail sales came from specialised stores, while there was actually a slight decline of 1.6 percent in sales of daily consumer goods. Department store sales remained flat, the official number-crunchers said on Wednesday.

Easter affects food sales in different months
Over the first four months of the year, retail sales were up by 3.2 percent while wholesale trade rose by 5.2 percent year-on-year. Car sales gained 5.5 percent in the January-through-April period. Overall trade was 4.7 percent higher than in early 2017.

The central statistics office points out a quirk of spring retail reporting: the variable date of Easter. Its reported annual changes in sales are not adjusted according to seasons or trading days. In other words the impact of public holidays is not considered. So, for example, Easter falling in different months shows up in food sales during March and April.

Speaker of Parliament: No health reform vote before summer break
Helsinki, June 9 (Yle)
Lawmakers won't make a final decision on a regional government, health and social services reform until after the summer, says the Speaker of Parliament.

Speaker of Parliament Paula Risikko said she does not believe that MPs will be able to vote on the massive ‘sote' reform package before the legislature's summer recess as planned. She spoke at the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) congress in Turku on Saturday.

"It is absolutely certain that the votes will not take place before the summer break. That has dawned on everyone involved," she told Yle.

At present, the Parliament's last regular plenary session is scheduled for 29 June, with extra sessions pencilled in to be held "as needed" through 5 July.

Finland's taxi drivers bracing for reform rollout in July
Helsinki, June 5 (Yle)
Finland's taxi industry is about to undergo the biggest changes it's possibly ever experienced: deregulation and the introduction of a competitive market.

Taxi drivers and cab companies are wondering how upcoming deregulation of the taxi industry will end up affecting their businesses.

Some of their worries include questions like: what will happen when Uber returns to Finland after being unceremoniously banished last summer? Will Estonian or Swedish taxi cabs arrive to steal their customers? Will there be enough customers for the new taxi options?

Some customers are also wondering about what changes the reforms could bring. One thing is certain, at least according to capital city taxi driver Kaj-Erik Selenius, who said "the Helsinki taxi business is going to be like the Wild West this summer."

"But things should calm down after a while. Gold diggers who arrive in their moped cars and vans to drive taxis will definitely see there's no gold mine in driving a taxi in Finland," Selenius predicted.

He drives for Kovanen, one of the larger taxi firms in town, and said the major taxi companies are not very threatened by the coming reforms.

Report: Finland's industrial sector in good shape
Helsinki, May 30 (Yle)
Finland's industrial sector is outpacing the EU average, says the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.

Things are going well in the country's industrial sector, says a report out Wednesday from the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA).

In March the think-tank said that the industrial sector would grow by a brisk 4.3 percent this year and 4.1 percent in 2019.

Now ETLA says the Finnish metals industry is doing better than the average of other EU states - and because of low exports to the US, the Finnish steel industry doesn't really feel the burn of newly-introduced US steel tariffs.

ETLA researcher Birgitta Berg-Andersson says cold-rolled steel was Finland's fifth-most important industrial export product, noting that less than one percent of that steel went to the US market.

Auto industry growing
Finland's automotive industry is expected to grow as well. ETLA predicts that vehicle production will expand by 20 percent this year and by 15 percent in 2019, saying the outlook is good for both the automotive and the ship building industries.

Production of paper goods - including cardboard and cellulose products - during the first quarter of this year grew significantly, compared to EU averages, with paper goods companies receiving an influx of new orders.

An increase in investments in the lumber products industry is expected in Finland and neighbouring countries Sweden, Estonia and Russia, according to the report.

ETLA noted, however the recent increased profitability of the lumber industry was due to a general reduction in workers.

Finnish organisations scrambling to comply with EU data protection rules
Helsinki, May 25 (Yle)
New data protection laws go into force on Friday, leaving some small organisations scratching their heads.

With the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force on May 25, companies and organisations have been making frantic preparations for the new regime. By Friday, organisations will have to inform customers about why they are collecting their data, how it will be used and with whom it will be shared, among other things.

In Finland, at least, organisations run by foreigners are hard-pressed to find information on the new rules in English.

"There's very little decent material about it online, and there's some Finnish material which is not really good. When it comes to English, we have to focus on material from the US or UK, which is not really good for small organisations who don't handle bank data or credit card numbers,” says Julie Breton of Moniheli, an umbrella organisation representing more than 100 multicultural associations in Finland.

The data framework aims to give the bloc's citizens more control over their data and better reflect today's digital reality. GDPR supersedes non-binding EU guidelines issued in 1995, a time of dial-up modems and floppy disks. Twenty years ago personal data was not the huge money-generating commodity it is today. Now people regularly volunteer personal information on social networks but do not necessarily understand it may be passed on to third parties -- and often for profit.

"GDPR is interesting from the perspective of managing data leaks and how hacks are managed," computer security expert Mikko Hyppönen told Yle News, alluding to how companies operating in the EU will have to notify their customers within 72 hours of a data breach.

Finnair's CEO gears up for move to Metso
Helsinki, May 21 (Yle)
Finnair chief executive Pekka Vauramo is leaving for a new post as CEO of engineering giant Metso after a successful five-year stint at the airline.

Finnair CEO Pekka Vauramo will move to the same post at gearmaker Metso by November. The search for his replacement began on Monday. He has led the flag carrier since mid-2013.

According to Metso chair Mikael Lilius, "Vauramo has a proven track record in leading businesses facing competitive global markets, and he has long and extensive experience in the mining industry and in an international business environment."

The job at Metso represents a return to the engineering sector for Vauramo, who has previously worked for Sandvik and Cargotec.

"I am familiar with Metso's operating environment thanks to my long background in the industry, and therefore I find the opportunity to start leading Metso an attractive one," says Vauramo.

Metso hopes for a period of stability after the surprise departure of its last CEO, the Belgian Nico Delvaux, who defected to lock-maker Assa Abloy after less than a year in his post.

Metso makes grinding mills and crushers for the mining industry as well as valves and pumps for the oil and gas sector. Metso and Finnair are both majority state-owned.

Helsinki city reports major data network failure
Helsinki, May 16 (Yle)
Key computer and telephone networks run by the city of Helsinki began malfunctioning on Tuesday evening and were not back online by Wednesday morning.

The disruptions were due to technical updates carried out by network services firm Elisa, according to the company's communications chief Maija-Liisa Kasurinen.

Elisa said on Wednesday they were working on getting the services back online.

Public transport affected
Most of the city's public transportation ticket machines were also out of action. Helsinki Regional Transport Authority's (HSL) tram and metro systems were affected by the network failure, resulting in delays to many services.

HSL's bus, metro, tram and train stop information screens were downed by the outage.

The computer failure also affected Helsinki's health care services. On Wednesday morning the city's health centre telephone system was down. City officials urged people requiring emergency services to call the public emergency telephone number 112.

City services phone lines facing problems
In addition, there were reports of city telephone numbers and email system outages, and problems were reported at some libraries across the city with some services out of service.

However, online services and web pages maintained by the city appeared to be functional, including HSL's websites.

Finland offers free online Artificial Intelligence course to anyone, anywhere
Helsinki, May 16 (Yle)
Helsinki University hopes that one percent of the Finnish population - some 54,000 people - will take the online course this year. So far 24,000 have signed up.

Helsinki University and tech strategy firm Reaktor say they want to make Finland the world's most educated country in the field of artificial intelligence.

The academic and business partners say they want Finland to become forerunners in AI, and have developed an online course covering the quickly-growing technology open to anyone, free of charge.

"The Elements of Artificial Intelligence" online course is entirely in English and offered to people who are interested in learning more about AI.

User interface designer at Reaktor Janina Fagerlund says people might not know it, bu their lives are already affected - one way or another - by AI every single day.

As a perhaps unexpected example, Fagerlund says that AI is used in industrial food production to sort produce and other items at food processing facilities. Most people know that self-driving cars use the technology but some may not be aware that AI is used by tech firms such as Facebook and Google to identify faces and other objects in photographs.

Fagerlund says AI will have as big a revolutionary impact on the world as electricity did towards the end of the 19th century.

The University of Helsinki has offered a course in AI for the past few years. Due to increased interest in the subject, the institution collaborated with Reaktor to create an online course to meet the growing demand.

Court backs Nokian Tyres, throws out case over 90M euros in back taxes
Helsinki, May 14 (Yle)
The Administrative Court overturned a previous ruling by tax authorities in a protracted tax dispute with the tyre firm over taxes owed..

Stock-listed tyre manufacturer Nokian Tyres announced Monday that it had won out over the Finnish Tax Administration in a long-running dispute over taxes owed over its operations in Russia.

An Administrative Court reversed a decision by Vero's appeal board calling on the firm to pay some 89.2 million euros in back taxes. It also ordered the tax authority to pay the tyre company's legal expenses to the tune of some 40,000 euros.

Dispute over firm's operations in Russia
The disputeturns on a tax audit of the company's operations between 2012 and 2013. Thereview focused on intercompany transactions between Nokian Tyres and itssubsidiaries in Russia between 2007 and 2011.

According to tax officials, Nokian Tyres neglected to pay related taxes accrued as part of its transfer pricing practices. The company declared the finding as unsubstantiated and immediately appealed the ruling.

The firmargued that the decision meant that it would have had to pay taxes on the samerevenues in both Russia and Finland.

As a result of the authority's reassessment, Nokian Tyres ended up paying 89.2 million euros in additional taxes and penalties between 2007 and 2010. In January 2017, the company sought a review of the new assessment in the administrative court. Ministry: Over 55s lead rise in employment rates
Helsinki, May 8 (Yle)
An uptick in exports, increasing domestic consumption and growing corporate investments have been driving rising employment rates in Finland.

New figures from the Ministry for Employment and Economic Affairs indicate that workers aged 55 to 64 are leading the charge toward rising employment.

According to ministry advisor Johanna Alatalo, officials were initially sceptical of the numbers. She added that it's now beginning to seem that government is getting closer to its goal of achieving 72 percent employment by 2019.

“No one really thought they were realistic. It's now beginning to seem that we are getting somewhat close to the goal. During the last four to five months employment has grown a great deal,” she noted.

The rebound in employment figures can be attributed to stronger than expected economic growth. Exports have picked up, consumption is on the increase and investors are becoming more active, officials pointed out.

Jobs for everyone
According to data from Statistics Finland and the ministry, it seems that every age group has benefitted from the jobs boom. That's because of the scope of the increased economic activity, which has not been concentrated in specific areas or sectors, Alatalo said.

"You could say that many different groups have found work. Both men and women of all ages and professions have found employment in all geographical locations," she added.

However the data show that one age group stands out from all the others in terms of a steep increase in employment. According to ministry figures, the employment rate rose highest among workers aged 55 and over.

Taxi market liberalisation set to alter fares and services in July
Helsinki, May 5 (Yle)
Finland has decided to deregulate its taxi industry, almost three decades after neighbouring Sweden took the same step. What kind of changes can customers and the industry expect after July 1?

Beginning July 1, Finland's heavily regulated taxi market will be liberalized and the market will be opened up to competition. Fares and pricing criteria will change, along with the procedure for ordering a cab and obtaining a taxi license. Former regulations on maximum fares, cars and drivers will become a thing of the past.

Finland's Ministry for Transport and Communications is revamping many facets of its transport services with a legislative reform it says will create new service models and ease market access.

In the case of the taxi industry, this means a broader fleet of different kinds of taxi services and drivers. Those who wish to receive a license to operate a taxi, for example, will no longer have to attend a compulsory course, as new drivers will be subject to only a driving test in order to qualify.

Finland's trade minister: Solution must be found to looming US steel, aluminium tariffs
Helsinki, May 1 (Yle)
Finland's Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Anne-Mari Virolainen says that a solution regarding looming aluminum and steel tariffs by the US must be found before a new deadline is reached in June.

The tariffs, which many fear could trigger a global trade war, were scheduled to go into effect on Tuesday.

Finland's Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Anne-Mari Virolainen said the EU and the US need to reach a solution to the looming tariffs in sight by 22 May. That's when EU trade ministers are scheduled to meet, one week ahead of the Trump administration's new June deadline .

European trade ministers have said that the EU has worked on many levels with the US in order to avoid a trade war.

"The uncertainty continues. It's bad for all parties, and furthermore, [tariffs] don't solve the underlying problem of over-production," Virolainen told Finnish news agency STT.

Limited impact on Finnish economy
If the US goes ahead with its tariff plans on imported steel and aluminium in June, it would mean import duties of 10 or 25 percent on those products.

Such limited tariffs would not impact Finland very much however, as only two percent of its exported steel and aluminium ends up on the US market. According to Finland's Customs Board the planned tariffs would amount to some 73 million euros per year.

Regarding the rest of Europe, there is risk of a trade war if the US tariffs are implemented.

Meyer Turku's 5th luxury cruise liner complete, headed to Germany
Helsinki, April 25 (Yle)
German TUI Cruises' new flagship cruise liner was delivered from the Meyer Turku shipyard in south west Finland on Wednesday.

The new Mein Schiff 1, which was delivered on Wednesday, is the fifth Mein Schiff vessel built by Meyer Turku for German cruise firm TUI Cruises.

The enormous ship is some 20 metres longer than earlier model (Mein Schiff 3 and 4) measuring some 315 metres in length, Meyer Turku stated in a press release. The ship is 36 metres wide and has a passenger capacity of 3,132 and some 1,437 individual passenger cabins. The ship will fly under the flag of Malta, according to the company.

The firm said the new ship will set sail towards Germany on Wednesday, and then will be officially christened in ceremony in Hamburg on 11 May. The ship will take its first passengers shortly after that, the firm said.

Finnair posts first-quarter profits, plans 15% capacity boost
Helsinki, April 25 (Yle)
Finnair has posted its 14th consecutive quarter of growth, with a profit of nearly four million euros from January through March.

The airline's comparable operating result swung to a profit of 3.9 million euros. During the same period of last year it lost nine million euros.

The flag carrier has remained mostly profitable since late 2016, following an era of losses.

Pekka Vauramo, who took over as CEO in mid-2013, said he was pleased with the latest stats, as the early part of the year is usually the weakest. Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected an operating loss of 2.7 million.

"For the first time in ten years we achieved a profitable comparable operating result in the first quarter, carrying a record three million passengers as well as expanding capacity by nearly one fifth in a quarter that is traditionally the weakest for us," said Vauramo. Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected an operating loss of 2.7 million.

Tougher competition seen on Asian and American routes
Fuel costs, including hedging results and emissions-trading costs, rose by 14 percent. Most of that was due to volume growth, but emission-trading costs was the fastest-growing item in the category. Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected an operating loss of 2.7 million.

Finnair expects international air travel to grow briskly this year, with increasing competition on routes linking Europe with both Asia and North America. Finnair plans to boost its capacity by more than 15 percent this year, and to carry nearly three million passengers.

Finland hopes to attract foreign startups with new entrepreneurs' residence permit
Helsinki, April 23 (Yle)
So far, Russian and Lebanese start-ups have received favourable business evaluations as part of the first phase of the application process.

From the beginning of April, Finnish authorities introduced a new kind of residence permit for start-up entrepreneurs. According to the government, the purpose of the scheme is to try and attract new entrepreneurial activity into the country and to put Finland on a steady footing to compete internationally for innovative growth firms.

"The aim is to remove barriers and get start-up entrepreneurs into Finland to accelerate economic growth and employment," said inspector general Pekka Lindroos of the Finnish Immigration Service, Migri.

Countries such as Denmark already have a similar programme in place.

Applicants wishing to acquire the entrepreneurs' residence permit will need to get a favourable business assessment from the Business Finland innovation centre, previously known as Tekes, the state research funding agency. Once the evaluation has been granted, applicants must then file a residence permit application with Migri, which will review issues such as projected income and the general grounds for granting the permit.

However Business Finland cautioned that not just any business idea will receive a favourable assessment. Start-ups will have to show that they have the potential to generate rapid growth in international markets.

"Often, we are talking about a new kind of innovative product or solution looking for markets," explained Business Finland director Jukka Häyrynen.

The start-up residence permit is initially valid for two years, with the option to renew it.

Estate agent: 11% of Helsinki apartments sold for at least 500k€ last year
Helsinki, April 23 (Yle)
Housing prices in Finland's capital city continue to head upwards, with average apartments selling for nearly 300,000 euros, according to a local estate agency.

Helsinki-based real estate firm Kahdeksas päivä says that the most sale prices of city apartments range between 200-300,000 euros. The agency said that a market review of real estate sales in 2017 revealed that apartments across the city are garnering ever-higher prices.

The volume of housing sales last year grew by about two percent the agency said.

The average price of a Helsinki flat sold via an estate agent was 280,698 euros last year, according to Kahdeksas päivä.

The agency said 11 percent of previously-inhabited - not newly built - apartments sold last year were for sums in excess of 500,000 euros. The number of apartments which sell beyond the half-million mark has increased by some 70 percent over the past five years.

Turku aims to be carbon neutral by 2029 in new urban strategy
Helsinki, April 17 (Yle)
On Monday Turku city councillors approved a comprehensive urban strategy programme with rather ambitious goals.

Turku City Council Chair Lauri Kattelus said that the council's decision to approve an ambitious strategic programme was one of the most important choices they have made.

The strategy is far-reaching in ambition. If the goals are met on schedule the south west city will be, among other things, the country's greenest city - and carbon neutral - by the year 2029. That's more than a decade ahead of schedule, as the city's previous ambition was to reach the green goal of carbon neutrality by the year 2040.

Kattelus said that the strategy's two most important features are its climate goals as well as an aim to prevent social inequities, and said the unanimous council approval of it was a good sign for the future.

"This is a common strategy and gives a good insight to where we are headed," Kattelus said.

Finland grants final permit for new Russia-Germany gas pipeline, but project remains uncertain
Helsinki, April 16 (Yle)
Despite Finland's approval, the Nord Stream 2 project hangs in the balance after German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced concerns over Ukraine's eventual role in delivering Russian natural gas to Europe last week.

Last Thursday Finnish authorities issued the second of two permits required for the construction of an LNG pipeline in Finnish waters of the Baltic Sea.

According to Nord Stream, the multinational project has received permit approvals required from Germany. But roughly a week ago German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the country's support of the Nord Stream project hinges on clarity about the role of Ukraine in a Russian gas pipeline to Europe.

Eastern European and Baltic states have reportedly expressed fears that the pipeline would make Europe too reliant on Russian gas, as well as undermine Ukraine's role in gas distribution to Europe, according to news agency Reuters.

Finland's chief concerns environmental
At the beginning of April, the Finnish government announced that it had approved the first of two permits required for the construction of Nord Stream 2 in Finnish Baltic Sea territorial waters.

The second permit for Nord Stream 2, required under the Finnish Water Act, was issued by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland last Thursday.

The portion of the new pipeline in Finnish waters would measure some 374 km, with the entire pipeline measuring some 1,200 km and it would run close to an existing gas pipeline on the floor of the Baltic Sea.

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