The year 2017 developed in line with our expectations. Increased power plant deliveries supported some growth in net sales, while profitability was in line with the previous year. The highlight of the year was the order intake growth seen in all of our business areas. This provides a sound foundation from which we can develop our business in the coming years.
Services’ net sales remained solid, thanks to steady demand for power plant related service work, and healthy activity in the cruise and gas carrier markets. While this performance was satisfactory, bearing in mind the challenges we faced in the offshore and merchant segments, our ambitions are still higher. Central to achieving growth is developing stronger partnerships with our customers, and providing them with greater value in the form of new service concepts, and through utilising the opportunities provided by digitalisation. The strategic partnership with Carnival Corporation, announced in the beginning of the year, is a compelling demonstration of where we are headed. The agreement emphasises continuous joint improvement efforts, and targets the increased safety, reliability, and operational efficiency of Carnival’s cruise vessels. This will include using the latest digital solutions.
In the energy industry, many emerging countries are now prioritising increased access to clean and reliable power to support their economic and social growth. Meanwhile, in the developed markets, the demand for operational flexibility is becoming increasingly relevant. This is largely because the decline in solar and wind prices is increasing the competitiveness of renewable sources of energy. These converging trends have together created a strong demand environment for our energy solutions during the year. I am pleased that there has been an increase in orders, both for our traditional engine-based plants, and in newer business areas, such as LNG-terminals and solar PV plants.
2017 saw a recovery in vessel contracting from the record low levels of the previous year. Although overcapacity and a lack of financing continue to burden the marine industry, an increased confidence in economic growth resulted in improved sentiment, particularly among our merchant customers. This, in combination with a favourable vessel mix and our broad offering of solutions, was supportive of growth in Marine Solutions’ orders received.
During the year, we launched our company purpose – enabling sustainable societies with smart technology – to provide an even stronger sense of direction to our work, both now and in the future. Central to the purpose is our commitment to promoting a low emissions economy, and providing intelligent ways of producing and using energy. Equally important is being at the forefront in developing new technologies and new business models that create increased value for our customers.
Indicative of this is our acquisition of Greensmith, which was a strategic response to the transformation that is taking place in the energy industry as the world moves from traditional baseload generation to renewable energy. Through Greensmith, we strengthen our system integration capabilities, and expand our offering to include storage technology and advanced software. This complements our portfolio of flexible power generation solutions, and supports our Smart Energy vision by positioning us at the very core of future energy systems.