The year 2015 was marked with big structural changes in Bittium: the sale of the Automotive business and he new company name. The distribution of the proceeds from the sale was executed during the third and fourth quarter through a voluntary public tender offer for the company´s own shares and stock options. The offer was executed in October resulting to a decrease of EUR 493.5 million in total in the company´s cash balance and equity. The total number of shares decreased and was 35,600,168 at the end of the year.
In 2015, the net sales grew by 7.8 percent from the previous year and was EUR 56.8 million. The share of the product-based net sales was EUR 13.1 million. Operating profit grew and was EUR 2.3 million.
In 2015 we continued our R&D investments in our own products and product platforms aiming at growth especially in the international defense, information security and public safety markets. The R&D phase of secure Bittium Tough Mobile LTE smartphone, targeted for the mobile security and public safety markets was finalized and the first product deliveries were made at the end of the year. We also launched Bittium Secure Suite™, certified device management and encryption software that complements the Bittium Tough Mobile smartphone by improving the security of the device with new software and services, such as secure data transfer and remote management.
Bittium Tough Mobile and related management system and VPN encryption, Bittium Secure Suite, was the first mobile solution to receive official encryption product classification in Finland. With this mobile solution classified material can be transferred between Bittium Tough Mobile smartphone and connected back-end solutions on top of creating and processing of classified information. Bittium Tough Mobile has generated lots of interest in the markets; however, the sale of the devices is expected to develop moderately according to the pace of the authorities markets.
Bittium Secure Suite is based on the BittiumSafeMove® high-end security solutions that we acquired in January 2015. SafeMove products and services have strengthened our competitiveness as a provider of secure communication solutions. Bittium SafeMove software is used also in securing the connections in our IoT (Internet of Things) services and solutions.
The demand for Bittium´s R&D services has remained stable. In the beginning of May we announced a major deal with the Ministry of Mexican Communication and Transportation to develop Android-based mobile devices that use both terrestrial and satellite connection for their MEXSAT system. Due to the failed launch of the customer´s first satellite the overall project schedule was delayed, nevertheless the development work of the devices has continued well during the year.
The development of the tactical communication system Bittium Tactical Wireless IP Network (TAC WIN), used by the Finnish Defence Forces, continued. We also continued the product deliveries for the communication system during 2015, and at the end of the year we received an order for a new system product delivery for 2016. In the fourth quarter we received an order from the Finnish Defence Forces for the further development of the TAC WIN waveform, and an order to start the productization of the European high data rate radio waveform developed in the ESSOR program by porting it to the Bittium TAC WIN system.
We continued our efforts to bring our defense market targeted product portfolio to the international defense markets, and delivered our first pilot delivery of our Tactical Wireless IP Network system to a customer abroad. We aim for similar international openings during this year. The sales cycles in the defense markets are long by their nature and winning significant deals take several years.
At the end of the year we made a decision to build new facilities for Bittium in Oulu. The plans for the new facilities are based on centralizing the operations to improve efficiency and achieve cost savings. The agreement signed with NCC Rakennus Oy is a design and construct contract by nature. The facilities will be ready for use by the end of the year 2017 and will be located at the intersection of Ritaharjuntie and Tietolinja in Oulu. The new facilities will consist of approximately 8,600 square meters, and the total cost of the project is approximately EUR 15 million including land property and fittings.
We have been able to turn Bittium to growth path. We are pleased with the increase in our net sales as well as with the improvement in the operating result during the last year. In 2016, the focus will be at the internationalization and enabling growth. We will be investing in developing our operations further for long-term growth, which affects also to the operating result outlook for the year 2016. We will also continue to look for inorganic growth opportunities according to our strategic guidelines.
The growing need for wireless connectivity, increasingly growing amount of data transfer and the need for secure data transfer create demand for Bittium´s competence, products and product platforms, and Bittium has good conditions to continue its success also in the future. I want to express my appreciation towards our personnel, customers and partners for the great cooperation and valuable achievements in 2015.