Addtech can sum up another successful year in which we clearly continued to deliver on our vision of being a leader in technical solutions for a sustainable future. The year has been marked by a strong recovery in market activity and demand for sustainable technical solutions. Over the year, our strong position in strategically chosen segments generated organic growth of 15 percent, while we also carried out thirteen carefully selected acquisitions. Thanks to our companies’ extraordinary performance, the operating margin was strengthened to a record 12.8 (11.0) percent. The strength of our culture, with its focus on entrepreneurship, manifested itself.
All business areas delivered a very strong end to the financial year. During the quarter, the positive trend with a high level of customer activity and good underlying demand across the board continued. Despite many of our companies being affected by the global supply chain disruptions, we maintained good delivery capacity, which resulted in sales increasing by 34 percent in total, of which as much as 24 percent was organic. The strong growth in all business areas is a function of well-established customer and supplier relationships, where our companies have dealt with the challenges excellently. Active efforts to offset price increases and generally good cost control has resulted in high operating margins and EBITA growth of 54 percent for the quarter.
As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, our business relations with companies in Russia and Belarus have been halted. Our exposure to these countries, on both the customer and supplier sides, is limited and the total effect on net sales during the fourth quarter was marginal. Our thoughts and undivided sympathies go to the Ukrainian people and all those affected by the war.
Recent years’ increased focus on sustainable technical solutions, combined with a high acquisition rate, has afforded us strong positions in selected niches, both in the Nordic region and internationally. Over the autumn, we further fine-tuned the organization to strengthen the network between the companies, thereby fostering conditions to derive optimum benefit from future growth opportunities.
Sequentially increasing customer activity in combination with a lower cost base resulted in a sales increase of 24 percent and high EBITA growth of 44 percent, with strong contributions by all business areas. Despite increased inventory and higher accounts receivable due to sales growth in many companies, P/WC strengthened and landed at a historically high 69 percent.
The market situation clearly strengthened over the year in most of our key customer segments. Sales of input components to manufacturing companies in special vehicles, as well as in the medical and mechanical industries have developed well and the market situation has developed very strongly in the forest and process industries, and particularly the willingness to invest in the sawmill industry. In other important segments, such as electronics, electricity-related products for construction and installation customers, as well as in waste and recycling, the business situation has been favourable. In wind power, demand remained stable until the final quarter of the financial year when we saw the market slow down to a certain extent. The major infrastructure investments required to meet increased energy needs generated continued favourable demand for our companies active in the expansion of regional and national grids.
Geographically, the Nordic markets developed strongly over the year as a whole. Norway was slightly weaker than the other Nordic countries, mainly due to a continued low willingness to invest in oil and gas. Our major markets beyond the Nordic region, DACH and the UK in particular, strengthened over the year, providing favourable conditions for our companies operating in these markets.
Acquiring carefully selected companies that complement and strengthen our niche strategies is an important part of our business model. Our acquisition rate remained high and we conclude the financial year having completed thirteen acquisitions, followed by another four after the end of the year. In total, these seventeen acquisitions have added approximately SEK 1,650 million in sales and 486 new employees to the group.
In line with our strategy, the proportion of acquisitions outside the Nordic region has increased, as have our acquisitions of companies with a clear sustainability profile. A crucial parameter in all of our acquisitions is the cultural match, as this is a key element in our decentralized responsibility structure and also fosters conditions for various forms of collaboration in the networks that our business units form. It is this strong culture, with a focus on entrepreneurship and networking, that continues to attract many privately owned companies to become part of Addtech. An attractive acquisition pipeline, combined with our strong balance sheet, means that we perceive favourable opportunities for continuing to maintain a good acquisition rate in the future.
Despite the fourth quarter’s historically high level of invoicing, we are entering the new financial year with strong order books and currently have continued stable demand. With our sharpened niche strategies, we are well positioned in structurally driven areas of development, such as the transition to renewable energy sources and the ongoing and increasing process of electrification. We retain, nonetheless, a respectful view regarding the uncertainty associated with continued supply chain disruption, rising inflation and how the ongoing war in Ukraine may change market conditions. However, I firmly believe that the strength of our decentralised model will once again enable us to act accordingly.
In conclusion, I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to all of our committed employees whose excellent handling of the challenges made it possible to meet the high level of customer demand over the year. I look forward with great confidence to a new financial year continuing to build long-term and sustainable value.
In conclusion, I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to all of our committed employees whose excellent handling of the challenges made it possible to meet the high level of customer demand over the year. Again, it is our decentralised model, in which decisions are made close to customers and suppliers, that makes the difference. I look forward with great confidence to a new financial year continuing to build long-term and sustainable value.
President and CEO