Thursday, 16 March 2023

Could an Unpopular Measure End Up Being Borovo's Best Solution?

March the 16th, 2023 - Borovo has been swimming in troubled waters for a long time now, but could an otherwise wholly unpopular measure actually end up being the best solution of all for this enfeebled company? Maybe.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, a couple of years ago, it seemed that everything regarding the survival of Borovo had finally fallen into place properly, a restructuring programme was fully drawn up, of which the consulting company KPMG was in charge. Since then, the extension of the CERP guarantees has only been approved in order to postpone the repayment of loans to the state banks for yet another year, thanks to which Borovo is still keeping afloat, and the new deadline for another such decision is coming up in just a month.

In CERP, which is the 100 percent owner of this much loved Vukovar-based footwear manufacturer, the case of its restructuring is considered one of the top priorities in 2023, after several problematic cases in the state portfolio were finally closed over the past two years. At the same time, the process within Borovo stands stagnantly right where it was two years ago - the restructuring proposal prepared by KPMG clearly didn't meet the expectations of the relevant ministries.

However, on the other hand - when it comes to Borovo, no deadline was actually set in which the case should finally be closed, either through a new model of operational and financial restructuring, an attempt at privatisation or the worst case scenario - bankruptcy.

Although bankruptcy is something to be avoided like the plague in Croatia, there are those working within the ministries of economy and finance who see this very solution as the best one. In their opinion, the projections from KPMG's proposal fail to offer what is needed, and instead only work to postpone the solution of the problem and prolong Borovo's limbo and uncertainty. This is because it starts from some basic recommendations for improving business, such as reducing overhead costs and the number of employees, changing the production profile and focusing on more profitable programmes, and finally finding a good strategic partner. According to the assessment of the relevant ministries, Borovo will continue to remain in a difficult state in which it will hardly manage to attract any serious investors seeking a safe project.

For this reason, as has since been learned, it was requested that KPMG define much more clearly what it would to to ensure and enable a long-term solution without bankruptcy threats and then to find a strategic partner, and that the programme be organised so that it can receive the approval of the European Commission (EC). That something is simply not right with the existing solution was also confirmed by the President of the Board of Borovo, Gordana Odor, who said the following:

"KPMG prepared a restructuring plan one year ago, but it hasn't yet been adopted by the relevant ministry and will have to be refined by KMPG. The main complaint of the ministry is the lack of a strategic partner that would be a guarantee for the survival of Borovo,'' said Gordana Odor, adding that when it comes to Borovo, the bigger picture must be looked at.

First, as she explained, it's actually very difficult to find a private investor who is ready to take over Borovo with all of its accompanying problematic buildings on an area spanning 13 hectares. This is full of unresolved property-legal disputes that are being conducted on the territories of both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

According to the current restructuring plan, the state should recapitalise Borovo with 92 million kuna, which would close its existing liabilities to the banks. The share capital of Borovo is at the level of 316.7 million kuna. The assessment of the Management Board and KPMG was that this would enable better positions for the search for strategic partners and investments in the modernisation of Borovo's production, which normally also takes place on machines from 1940, and for which the company could finally rely on European Union funds. In Borovo, they're convinced that, once the company is relieved of all of its loan debts, it can meet all of its obligations and conduct its business properly.

According to the first data for 2022, revenues compared to the previous year have increased by 2% and are at the level of 10 million euros. However, business expenses grew much more. On average, total material costs increased by 23%, wage costs by 6.5%, and the largest increase of 100% refers to gas, while energy costs increased somewhat more slowly, due to government measures, by 20%.

All other input resources had growth trends of 10 to 20 percent, especially leather. An additional cost was a 12% increase in workers' wages, which is a significant increase for a labour-intensive activity, which also increased costs of about 5 million kuna. Overall, the increase in costs resulted in a loss of 9 million kuna for Borovo.

"Under these circumstances, we had to adjust our operations and we placed the emphasis on optimising procurement, production, storage and transportation costs, with the goal of maintaining existing liquidity," explained Gordana Odor. As for the number of employees, currently their number has fallen to the lowest level so far - 563.

"Borovo is aware that in times of crisis it has to make business adjustments for the conditions ahead, but we certainly need help and the involvement of the state, which we have been talking about for several years now,'' concluded Gordana Odor, noting that we're still talking about the largest employer in the entire Vukovar area which employs mostly women, and that they have spent most of their working lives working for Borovo and have no other qualifications.

The problems faced by Borovo will be on the agenda of the CERP Board of Directors as early as next month, in order to consider another extension of the guarantees for loans that the company has in the amount of 6.1 million euros each, for which the state's shares in Podravka, Koncar and HT are pledged as insurance.

However, before that, representatives of the Management Board, KPMG, CERP and the relevant ministries will need to sit down together in order to shed light on the current ambiguities surrounding the preparation of the final proposal on which the future of the company depends entirely. The reason that no expedient solution has been found for many years lies in the fact that Borovo is not only a commercial and economic issue, but is also burdened by the political context and inter-ethnic relations between Croats and Serbs, as well as conflicting relations between local and state authorities, which further complicates matters.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Limited Edition Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival Startas Sneakers Designed to Celebrate Culture and Tourism

June 7, 2022 - Limited edition Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival Startas sneakers are painted with fairy tale motifs and are handmade in Croatia by the popular Vukovar footwear factory Borovo!

The Ogulin Fairytale Festival, in cooperation with Borovo, the most famous footwear factory in Croatia, has created special, limited festival sneakers inspired by the Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival, reports Jutarnji List

The sneakers were painted by a young Ogulin artist Miss Ura, or Ana Salopek, a famous illustrator of children's books and award-winning author who will present her first book called "What If?" at the Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival this year.

This is the first time that this legendary Vukovar footwear factory and the Ogulin Tourist Board have cooperated to promote the 17th edition of the Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival. The cooperation arose through the idea of promoting and connecting Croatian culture, heritage, and original Croatian products.

"Connecting a cultural and tourist event such as the Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival with the original Croatian footwear brand is a kind of upgrade of the entire event. Considering that the Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival has been organized for many years with the wholehearted support of the Ministry of Culture and Media, Karlovac County, Croatian Tourist Board, Karlovac County Tourist Board, and the City of Ogulin, this cooperation was a logical sequence for us, and we are very proud that we made it happen," said the Ogulin Tourist Board.

The limited-edition sneakers will be available in Borovo shoe stores and on the brand's webshop for 229 kuna.

The traditional cultural and tourist Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival is ready to take place in Ogulin from June 10 to 12. This summer, the festival will celebrate fairy tales and fairytale creations across three days through a vibrant artistic and cultural program intended for children, youth, and adults. Admission to the Ogulin Fairy Tale Festival is free for all ages.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 19 November 2021

Does Government Have Plan for Continuation of Borovo's Business?

November the 19th, 2021 - The Vukovar-based company Borovo, which has always been synonymous with Croatia's Hero City, has been suffering with issues since long before the coronavirus pandemic struck. But does the government have a plan?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, yet another year has passed, and the restructuring programme of the Vukovar footwear manufacturer Borovo still hasn't been placed on the agenda of the Government and the Assembly. It's a complex issue and because of the area in which this once large industrialist is located, it's also a sensitive case involving a problematic state-owned company which has already passed the stages of pre-bankruptcy settlement and financial consolidation.

A new plan to save production, which still employs about 600 workers, has been in the works for a long time for Borovo. At the beginning of last year, the consulting company KPMG began preparing the restructuring programme, which was requested by the majority owner of the Centre for Restructuring and Sales (CERP). More precisely, as explained by Borovo's management, KPMG has arranged the framework of the programme. The first phase included looking deeply into the current situation, the second phase involved the analysis of the future situation and proposing business improvement measures, but the third phase, which is crucial for implementation, has yet to be determined or confirmed. It envisages the recapitalisation of Borovo that would be carried out by the state, but the details on it haven't been published.

"The model of refinancing our liabilities and recapitalisation is an integral part of the restructuring plan, which is in the final phase of the agreement and we can talk about it more precisely after its adoption," said Gordana Odak of Borovo. However, she hasn't offered much of a glimpse into the reasons as to why the case hasn't yet found itself firmly on the table of the government.

All that has been stated is the expectation for the plan to be completed by the end of the year, so that it can be adopted and implemented at the beginning of the year. It sounds incredible, because neither the City of Vukovar, nor the state, nor the programme of Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem, have come up with a final solution to this case, which is obviously less than comfortable for any government to try to deal with. The weak point they refer to in closer circles is the question of whether this restructuring programme should be sent to the European Commission for approval before adoption. Meanwhile, the company, which is already struggling to maintain its business, is additionally struggling in the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the report for the last business year, Borovo's management states that the company "isn't able to independently settle all of its regular due liabilities and independently maintain and finance current operations". This burden has been inherited, as have the emerging problems from lengthy lawsuits. The pandemic is yet another weight to carry. One of the details from the list is that Borovo has an unresolved property issue in the amount of 150 million kuna, of which a significant part is the issue of interstate agreements. The biggest "weakness" are liabilities to Croatia Osiguranje (Insurance) for a loan of 6.1 million kuna.

Last year's revenues totaled 89.5 million kuna and were 28 percent lower than in pre-pandemic 2019. The President of the Management Board says that last year's retail revenues fell by 22 million kuna compared to 2019, and compared to the pre-pandemic results from 2019, these revenues from the first nine months of 2020 were lower by as much as 6 million kuna. The only very slight increase hasn't provided much satisfaction to Borovo, which is aiming for 2019 levels, and there is full awareness that the recovery from the consequences of the ongoing pandemic will take longer than expected.

KPMG's restructuring programme, which refers to the situation and the necessary measures for maintaining business across a five-year period, envisages a reduction in sales outlets and the number of employees, a change in the production process itself in which the leather range should be reduced and an increase the share of rubber products and specialised work footwear should occur.

According to official data, Borovo currently has 74 stores, and the restructuring plan envisages the permanent closure of 10 to 15 outlets that are now unprofitable, and this process would be realised gradually, over a five-year period. The number of employees would be reduced at the same pace, with the figures not being communicated for the time being, but it has been emphasised that this procedure will go through a gradual natural outflow with retirement.

For more, check out our business section.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

PM Says No Room for Intolerance in Croatia

ZAGREB, 6 May 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday condemned hate speech used by a group of football fans in Borovo Selo near the eastern town of Vukovar, underscoring that there is no justification for last Sunday's incident and that there is no room for intolerance in Croatian society.

The incident occurred on the day of commemorations of the 30th anniversary of the killing of 12 Croatian policemen who lost their lives at the start of the Homeland War, and also coincided with this year's Easter celebrated by Orthodox believers according to the Julian calendar.

"There is no room for intolerance in Croatian society against the Serb minority or anyone else. We will always be strongly opposed to that and clearly condemn hate speech against anyone of our compatriots because we advocate a society in which everyone feels good and experience Croatia as their home," said Plenković opening Thursday's cabinet meeting.

He added that the 2 May incident was contrary to Croatia's interests and certainly was not a patriotic act, but just the opposite.

It is not hard to imagine that in such incidents there will be some people that will try maliciously to equate the victim and aggressor, finding some sort of abortive justification for their atrocities 30 years ago. That is all the more reason for clear condemnation, he added.

In an effort to appropriately punish those responsible, the police reacted immediately and arrested the participants involved in that provocative and impermissible incident, he added.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Incident in Borovo Strongly Condemned By Many

May 3, 2021 - The incident that occurred on Sunday morning in Borovo, when a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans, was condemned by the HDZ and SDP Vukovar branch, the SDSS, the Joint Council of Municipalities and the county Serb National Minority Council.

"Unfortunately, today's unfortunate event in Borovo is a dark stain on the commemoration of the death of 12 special policemen, it is not what we were left by those who we pay tribute to today. Therefore, we strongly condemn any hate speech, whether by individuals or groups," the Vukovar branch of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said.

It stressed that "those who gave the most defending the Homeland, gave us freedom and sovereignty, independence and institutions and that is the path we must go down and seek justice for the killed special policeman as the foundation for future peace". Vukovar's HDZ branch said that "the policy of fomenting division led by some political options" was not the path on which a better future could be built.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) also condemned the incident, saying they are horrified by what they saw on the footage and that such behaviour deserved condemnation and punishment.

A joint statement from the the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), the Joint Council of Municipalities and the Vukovar-Srijem County's Serb National Minority Council read that it was devastating that the incident occurred while police were present.

"We have been advocating for the normalisation of relations between the majority people and the Serb community in Croatia for over 20 years since the peaceful reintegration. We try not to do anything that could worsen relations and take us a step back. We expect the same not only from politicians but also from all relevant factors in the society," it was said.

The Vukovar-Srijem Police Administration said that the identity of the group of men who had chanted anti-Serb slogans in Borovo on Sunday morning had been established, stressing that the group was under the supervision of police office who identified the best time to act.

The incident in Borovo which occurred on the day of the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the death of 12 members of special police forces from Vinkovci, killed on 2 May 1991, and on the day when Orthodox Christian, who are majority in Borovo, celebrate Easter, was also condemned by the government, President Zoran Milanović, the Serb National Council and others.

To read more about news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page


Sunday, 2 May 2021

President and Government Condemn Borovo Incident

ZAGREB, 2 May 2021 - President Zoran Milanović has condemned an incident that occurred in the eastern town of Borovo on Sunday morning when a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans, calling it shameful and heinous hate speech.

"In Borovo today a group of men tried to incite violence using heinous hate speech against our fellow citizens Serbs. That is a disgrace and deserves absolute condemnation," Milanović wrote on Facebook. 

He criticized the police, whom he called the police of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Serb leader Milorad Pupovac, for not taking pre-emptive action to prevent the incident.

The Vukovar-Srijem County Police Department has confirmed that around 6.30 am on Sunday, after laying wreaths at the monument to 12 police officers killed by Serb paramilitaries 30 years ago, a group of about 20 young men went into the town chanting anti-Serb slogans, including "Kill the Serbs". The police responded promptly, identifying the perpetrators. Footage of the incident was posted on the town's Facebook account.

Government strongly condemns the incident

The government also strongly condemned the incident, calling it a scandalous act of provocation and hate speech by a group of football fans. It said that it would always oppose and condemn hate speech against any fellow citizens.

"In Croatian society, there is no room for such outrageous behavior and intolerance towards members of the Serb ethnic minority, who celebrate Orthodox Easter today, or any other minority," the government said in a statement. 

"We will always strongly oppose and clearly condemn the stirring up of hatred against any of our fellow citizens. The Croatian police responded promptly and are investigating to bring those responsible to justice," the government.

For more about politics in Croatia, visit our dedicated section.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

30th Anniversary of Death of 12 Special Policemen Commemorated in Borovo

ZAGREB, 2 May 2021 - Commemorative events were held in the village of Borovo on Sunday in tribute to 12 special policemen killed there by Serb paramilitaries in an ambush on 2 May 1991.

The 12 Croatian policemen were killed in an ambush in the night between May 1 and 2, 1991 after coming to Borovo in an attempt to rescue two of their colleagues who were captured the night before by Serb paramilitaries.

After negotiations on their release failed, a group of members of special police forces from Vinkovci were sent to Borovo on May 2. In a conflict with Serb paramilitaries that followed, 12 of them were killed and another 21 were wounded.

The policemen who were killed were Stjepan Bošnjak (born in 1955), Antun Grbavac (1961), Josip Culej (1966), Mladen Šaric (1965), Zdenko Perica (1965), Zoran Grašic (1969), Ivica Vučić (1961), Luka Crnković (1970), Marinko Petrušić (1966), Janko Čović (1965), Zeljko Hrala (1968) and Mladen Čatić (1971).

For more about the homeland war in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Strongest Croatian Brands Survived and Succeeded After Independence

January 4, 2020 – A map showing production across the former Yugoslavia details the sustained prosperity of many Croatian favourites as some of the strongest Croatian brands are shown not only to have survived but have succeeded following independence

Media across Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia have surprised younger readers and reminded older readers with the publication of a map detailing production in the former Yugoslavia. While this trip down memory lane has caused a range of reactions across the countries of the former republic, looking at the map from a purely Croatian perspective gives some enlightening information. Namely, many of the strongest Croatian brands visible on the map are recognisable today. Some of the strongest Croatian brands not only survived independence but have since grown.
Bajadera - one of the most popular products made by Zagreb-based chocolate and confectionery manufacturers Kraš

Zagreb-based chocolate and confectionery manufacturers Kraš, Požega-based confectionery and drinks manufacturers Zvečevo, oil company INA, Koprivnica-based food company Podravka and Koprivnica-based pharmaceuticals company Belupo, vitamin drink Cedevita, Varaždin-based food company Vindija, Vukovar shoemakers Borovo, Varaždin clothes designers and manufacturers Varteks and multi-use condiment Vegeta are just some of the strongest Croatian brands that are present on the map. You are still likely to see these brand names on many Croatian high streets. Some have succeeded in reaching further into international markets since Croatian independence.

1440xauto_1474445556Vegeta_SAD_1_kg.jpgCroatian-made condiment Vegeta is sold all over the world

Of course, not every brand visible on the map of Yugoslavia production has fared so well. In their coverage of the map, Ri.portal reminds that “Some of the Yugoslav products were used by literally the whole world - ships, cars, planes, trucks, weapons and even computers were produced... However, many of these companies no longer exist or are bankrupt.”

In their coverage of the map, Bosnian website Klix reminds that Croatian shipyards Uljanik in Pula and 3 Maj in Rijeka were at world level and produced large ships for customers from all over the world. Split-based shipyard Brodosplit, which can also be seen on the map, survives to this day.
Croatian vitamin drink Cedevita comes in a range of flavours

Ri.portal goes on to remember that Yugoslavia was one of only five countries in Europe at the time that manufactured its own computers. “Probably the most famous is the Galaxy, while the first computer produced was the CER-10,” they say. One of the Yugoslav computer makers on the map, popular in the late 1970s, was Digitron, based in Buje in Istria.

Sadly, not all of the strongest Croatian brands have made it until today. Famous tractor and agriculture equipment manufacturer Tomo Vinković of Bjelovar is no longer in production. Their famously-reliable machines are much in-demand on the secondhand market. Two new tractor manufacturers, Hittner doo and the Prima tractor factory still make tractors in Bjelovar.


Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Borovo Management Requests Postponement of Croatia Bank Loan Repayment

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes on the 9th of November, 2020, even following the implementation of operational and financial consolidation, Borovo still isn't able to independently maintain and finance its current operations, and a new restructuring process is needed. Gordana Odor, president of the Borovo management board, stated this in her financial report for last year, the problems of which most often become a topic in the days when the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar is being marked.

Borovo and its privatisation is an extremely sensitive issue for the Croatian Government due to a number of circumstances, from the importance for the Vukovar region where Borovo is the largest employer with more than 600 employees, to the lack of interest of investors and the unresolved status of its property that remained inaccessible in the former republics of the former state, without the solution of which - everything obviously remains blocked.

The state is coming to Borovo's aid, and with the loan insurance in 2018, it enabled the closing of the company's obligations from its pre-bankruptcy settlement which was agreed in 2014 and mostly brought to an end. However, the repayment of the aforementioned loan of six million euros to Croatia bank has already been prolonged, and the adoption of the restructuring programme that the state requested from the Borovo management board when approving the guarantee has also been postponed.

The Borovo management board president has since confirmed that she has already submitted a request to the bank for an extension of the loan repayment, which, she says, is a possibility provided by the annex in the contract. As for the development of the restructuring programme, the first concrete step was finally made - a consultant was selected. The procedure was launched back in February, but, as Gordana Odor explains, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, it had to be repeated and finally KPMG was selected to assess the company's condition and make proposals for its restructuring.

A few years ago, when the government requested the development of a restructuring programme, it was intended to go into a recapitalisation in which the state would participate, because there was no serious interest from any investors in the procedure. At that time, the goal was to raise Borovo's share capital of HRK 316.7 million by around HRK 90 million.

The development of the programme due to the EU guidelines on state aid implies the process of harmonisation and obtaining the approval of the European Commission, and for some reason the preparations for that have stopped, leaving Borovo in an unenviable position.

When asked which direction the new phase of Borovo's restructuring will go, Gordana Odor answered that this will primarily be determined by the consultant's assessments, and KPMG has already started preparations. The president of Borovo's management board expects that this will primarily result in a realistic balance sheet, since Borovo has an unresolved property issue in the amount of HRK 150 million, of which a significant part is made up of inaccessible property, the resolution of which is subject to interstate agreements. As far as potential investors are concerned, there is no interest in conditions in which a major settlement is still awaited.

There are, in fact, many proponents of bankrupting Borovo, assuming that the production of footwear for the state isn't a strategic activity, but as far as can be felt in government circles, the view is that the company's regional importance provides a basis for supporting Borovo. The problem is the dynamics in the procedure and the slowness in making decisions, but to some extent at this moment Borovo is also helped by the fact that the business has been further disrupted by the coronavirus crisis. In particular, in the case of Borovo, revenues fell significantly in the retail segment this year, by as much as 28%, which the Borovo management board has explained as a direct consequence of the coronavirus crisis and the lockdown, as well as the reduction in consumer spending owing to fears of a deeper economic crisis.

However, the president of the Borovo management board also pointed out that even in such difficult conditions, they stil managed to compensate for a part of their reduced revenues with new significant contracts with larger wholesale customers. Owing to that, the decline in total revenues in 10 months was still mitigated at the level of 10% when compared to the same period last year.

''Borovo is operating in difficult conditions due to the current situation with the coronavirus crisis. We're working at a reduced capacity, production is divided into two shifts due to the penetration of coronavirus into the company, we have introduced reduced working hours and the work of directing staff is divided into teams that don't meet each other, all in an attempt to reduce contact,'' added Gordana Odor.

Borovo is, by the way, the third largest producer of footwear here on the Croatian market. The only companies stronger than Borovo are HAIX from Mala Subotica, which generated a total of HRK 211 million in revenue last year, and Ivancica from Ivanec, which generated more than HRK 144 million in revenue. Last year, Borovo generated HRK 102 million in total revenues and recorded a decrease compared to the year before, when they were at the level of HRK 138 million.

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Thursday, 21 May 2020

Croatian Government Gives Borovo a Loan, Not a Permanent Solution

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes on the 21st of May, 2020, the well known Croatian Borovo factory proved to be the topic of a turning point in the relations between Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava and his departure from HDZ.

Both politicians, despite their differences, are right in their own respective ways when they talk about the role the state actually plays in Borovo's operations and business.

The company is being kept afloat only thanks to the extraordinary income from various combinations with assets, and loans guaranteed by the Croatian state.

However, Borovo must pay back the last loan in the amount of 6.1 million euros, which was rescheduled back at the end of 2019, in just half a year. This poses a tremendous problem because so far, Andrej Plenković's government has not dealt with a long-term solution, nor has it sought a buyer despite there having been many inquiries. Instead, it just provided the aforementioned state loan with the prescribed time limit attached.

As such, very quickly following its formation, the next Croatian Government will have to take a formal position as far as is possible in regard to the beloved brand Borovo.

Footwear production is not of strategic importance for the state, but due to the area in which it is located, Borovo with its 600 employees has a special status.

Prior to approving the penultimate long-term loan, the Croatian Government requested that the management board of Borovo draw up a restructuring programme within a three month period, but in the meantime, this has been unfortunately all but forgotten.

The fact that there is potential for production has been shown by the fact that the German Ricosta, which has been operating there for several years, recently invested as much as eight million kuna in expanding production.

For more, follow our dedicated business page.

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