Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Government Hopeful of Shipbuilding Cooperation with China

ZAGREB, May 22, 2019 - After holding talks in Zagreb on Tuesday evening with a delegation of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), which on Monday visited Zagreb's Brodarski Institut shipbuilding institute and on Tuesday the Rijeka-based 3. Maj shipyard, Croatian Economy Minister Darko Horvat said that there was potential for cooperation with the Chinese partners.

Addressing the press after the talks, the Croatian minister said that the 14-engineer expert delegation had toured the Zagreb-based institute and the Rijeka shipyard and that they were now going to submit a report to the company's management.

It remains to be seen which decision the management will make, Horvat said, expressing confidence that the Chinese side would soon inform Croatia of its decision, be it positive or negative.

The Chinese delegation on Monday visited all the 14 laboratories of the Zagreb-based institute and there are currently good indications of possible cooperation in some concrete projects, the minister said. "A step forward has been made toward potential future cooperation."

He added that it seemed to him that the Chinese side is ready to for a joint venture with Brodarski Institut.

When asked by the press what the Uljanik shipyard in Pula could expect, the minister admitted that the talks had focused mainly on shipbuilding in China and shipbuilding in Rijeka.

The Chinese delegation has shown satisfaction with the fact that a segment of the Rijeka-based dock has been upgraded and offers possibilities of cooperation, according to him.

He admitted that there were still no strict deadlines for any future steps.

He also made it clear that the government did not expect the Chinese side to be a strategic partner that would pay off the shipyards' debts from the past.

In the meantime, the Pula-based Uljanik shipyard on Tuesday reported on the Zagreb Stock Exchange that due to bankruptcy proceedings being launched in Uljanik d.d. and, hence, the inability to deliver a Ro-Ro ship to the CLdN shipping company, the client has cancelled the contract.

Late in January, the same client cancelled a contract for the construction of another Ro-Ro ship because Uljanik was not in a position to deliver the ship.

Uljanik closed the deal for the construction of 2+2+2 ships for the Luxembourg client in March 2016.

The Commercial Court in Pazin decided on May 17 to open bankruptcy proceedings in the Uljanik shipbuilding group's umbrella company, Uljanik d.d.

More news about the shipbuilding industry can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Chinese Delegation Visiting Shipping Institute

ZAGREB, May 21, 2019 - Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts Minister Darko Horvat said on Monday that a delegation of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) was visiting the Shipping Institute in Zagreb and that it would be visiting the 3. Maj dock on Tuesday.

Horvat told reporters outside Government House that the Chinese delegation was at the Shipping Institute and that the meeting there could be yet one more good meeting "the delegation had hinted at" the last time it visited Croatia.

The minister said that the delegation would visit the Rijeka-based 3. Maj shipyard tomorrow and would then meet with him on Tuesday evening. "I think that then we will have a little more information about what exactly they have seen and what their feelings are at the moment," said Horvat.

Asked whether the Chinese delegation was interested only in 3. Maj and not the Uljanik shipyard since it had announced only a visit to 3. Maj, Horvat recalled that during its last visit, the Chinese delegation spent a day and a half at Uljanik and only a few hours at 3. Maj.

He said that the visiting delegation was more of a technical nature.

Asked how the Chinese company could become involved in developments regarding the Uljanik shipbuilding group (comprising the Pula-based Uljanik dock and the Rijeka-based 3. Maj) considering that it was not interested in strategic partnership, Horvat said that diversification of production was discussed at the talks conducted during the delegation's last visit and that the Pula and Rijeka docks need not exclusively and necessarily produce only ships.

Asked about a request by the Jan De Nul company for a refund of a down payment for a dredger that is being built at Uljanik, Horvat said that a new proposal had been sent to Luxembourg and that Croatia was not prepared to pay all the interest Jan De Nul had requested as compensation. "We can accept both scenarios - the ship's being completed at the Pula dock or its being towed away. We are negotiating the cost of both options," he said.

Asked whether he still believed that the cost would not be more than 30 million euro as mentioned, Horvat said that about 17 million euro was required to complete the ship. "Any additional risks should not amount to more than 22 million euro, and should we have to pay for towing, the cost will amount to a maximum 30 million that we are willing to pay," he added.

Asked whether it might have been cheaper for the state to have paid workers their wages to complete the ships under construction and thus avoid the enforcement of guarantees, considering that it would pay about 5 billion kuna in all for the shipyards, including interest, Horvat said that over the past 18 months the state had exploited every legitimate method to help workers.

He said that representatives of the Croatian Employment Service would inform workers of the Pula-based Uljanik dock, for which bankruptcy proceedings have been opened, about their rights. "The state is doing all it can within its remit," he said.

Asked about three ships that will be transferred to state ownership and what the state intended to do with them as well as whether they would be completed in Uljanik or some other shipyard, Horvat said that the government was willing to become involved in the completion of those ships only and exclusively as part of the bankruptcy plan and on a market basis.

"If we manage to invest less for their completion than their market value and if we will have a buyer when they are completed, then we can discuss the completion and interim financing by the government. If there is no market basis, then the government won't enter any such process," he said.

Considering that Uljanik's former CEOs were released from investigative custody earlier in the day, reporters wanted to know if the public would ever know "who is guilty," to which Horvat said that he did not wish to comment on the court's decision.

The County Court in Rijeka on Monday ordered the release of six suspects in the Uljanik fraud case from investigative detention.

More news about Croatian shipbuilding industry can be found in the Business section.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Chinese Builders of Pelješac Bridge Interested in New Rijeka Container Terminal

Seven companies from Europe, the Middle East and the Far East have expressed interest in the construction of the new container terminal in Rijeka, the Rijeka Port Authority director Denis Vukorepa said, adding that he was not allowed to disclose their names and references, reports Jutarnji List on May 19, 2019.

However, sources close to the government have disclosed that among the interested companies is the Chinese consortium Ningbo Port and CRBC (China Road and Bridge Company), the company that is constructing the Pelješac Bridge and the port of Singapore.

After analysing the documents received, which is expected in the next 15 days, all seven applicants (or perhaps fewer, depending on the quality of their references and project visions) will be invited to send their final bids for a 50-year concession. The estimated value of the concession (excluding VAT) is 20.5 billion kuna.

"These are respectable port terminal operators. We are very pleased because we were hoping for such a response. It turned out that this transport route is very interesting," said Vukorepa. The first stage of the concession process formally concluded on Friday, and the plan is to sign a contract for the Zagreb Deep Sea terminal by the end of September.

The tender is looking for a concessionaire for the performance of construction works and the provision of services, with the obligation of investing about 70 to 80 million euro in the construction of the terminal which is now 400 meters long and was partially built as part of the project with the World Bank and the European Union.

During the recent visit by the Chinese prime minister to Croatia, it was announced that Chinese companies were interested in the concession, but Vukorepa did not want to comment on this information.

The intention is to build the Zagreb Deep Sea terminal in the second phase up to a total length of 680 meters. If the concessionaire is not interested in this, the concession would be reduced to 30 years. The Port Authority is offering to the concessionaire a ten-year exclusivity, meaning that no new capacities for container shipment would be built during that period. The main advantage of the new terminal is that it will be able to receive ultra-large container ships because the sea depth is 20 metres.

The Port Authority says that it is expected that the ports of the northern Adriatic will reach their maximum capacity by the next year, which means that the new terminal will be constructed in just the right moment. It will be able to transport more than 400,000 TEU per year in the first phase, and at least 800,000 to one million TEU per year when it reaches full capacity, foreseen for 2030.

Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Gordana Grgas).

More Rijeka news can be found in the Lifestyle section.


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Chinese Investors Give Offer for Communist Party School in Kumrovec

ZAGREB, May 7, 2019 - The Zhongya Nekretnine real estate company has submitted a bid to the State Assets Ministry of almost 14.1 million kuna for the Hotel Zagorje in Kumrovec, northern Croatia, instead of the almost 12 million kuna asked, and the government is expected to decide on the bids soon, the ministry said on Tuesday.

Bids for the property were to be submitted from March 23 until today and Zhongya Nekretnine's is the only complete and valid bid.

The devastated state-owned Hotel Zagorje is a former Communist Party political school which covers 27,000 square metres. Chinese businesswoman Yu Jiang has visited Kumrovec a number of times and said she wants to convert it into a real hotel as well as create a memorial park honouring former Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito, who was born there.

Yu is behind the Zhongya Nekretnine company. If the government okays the bid, a contract will be signed with her.

More Kumrovec news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Chinese Business Delegation Visited Shipping Institute

ZAGREB, May 6, 2019 - A China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation delegation visited the Shipping Institute in Zagreb during last week's visit to Croatia and outlined proposals for it, Economy Minister Darko Horvat said on Monday.

"Talks are under way with one of the world's largest ship manufacturers and possible partners from China. They left Croatia on Wednesday and it's too soon to ask them for relevant information. We'll need a little more patience. Let's wait to see their point of view," Horvat told the press.

He added that aside from the Uljanik and 3. Maj shipyards, the Chinese had also visited the Shipping Institute "and they have certain proposals regarding that company too."

Asked to comment on the demand by the Blokirani association of citizens with frozen bank accounts that the state should help Uljanik's workers, Horvat said that "aid from the state budget is not the government's prospect" and that a strong strategic partner was needed to restructure Uljanik.

Horvat said that last year the state had paid for wages in Uljanik and 3. Maj, and that nearly 1 billion kuna had been spent on that and to service suppliers' claims.

"If we did that, then the government would have to respond identically about every ailing company, and we are aware that there's no such possibility right now," he added.

More news about relations between Croatia and China can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Potential Chinese Investors Visit Uljanik

ZAGREB, April 30 (Hina) - A delegation of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) talked with members of the management and supervisory boards of the Uljanik shipbuilding group for four hours on Tuesday, showing interest in the technology and special-purpose vessels, a member of Uljanik's supervisory board said after the meeting in the northern coastal town of Pula.

"I am glad to see that there are people who are interested in both shipyards, considering the situation we are in. The talks focused on the past, present and future of the shipyards in Pula and Rijeka, on shipbuilding and technology," Samir Hadžić told the press.

Expressing his satisfaction with the meeting, Hadžić said that the Chinese had primarily shown interest in the technology and special-purpose ships which Uljanik had built until now. He added that they did not discuss money or any kind of interim financing.

Hadžić noted that the Chinese asked for concrete answers, analysing each item, "and when they will make their final decision, only they know."

"We cannot force anyone to make a final decision in a short time. It's a process, but I hope it won't take much time, because the workers in Pula and Rijeka have no more time to wait," he said.

The high-level Chinese delegation was led by CSIC CEO Hu Wenming, and the meeting was also attended by the Croatian Assistant Minister of Economy, Zvonimir Novak.

After Pula, the Chinese delegation travelled to Rijeka to visit the 3. Maj shipyard which together with the Pula-based Uljanik forms the backbone of the Uljanik shipbuilding group.

More news about Uljanik can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Chinese Officials Meet with Plenković about Shipyards

ZAGREB, April 29, 2019 - A delegation of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) that was briefed about the situation in the Uljanik and 3. Maj shipyards at a meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday, said they would voice their opinion about the docks after touring them.

The chairman of the CSIC Board of Directors, Hu Wenming, said PM Plenkovic presented the situation in the two docks in detail.

"We will tour the shipyards and we will give a serious thought to it" Hu said after the meeting, adding that they realise the two shipyards are an important topic in Croatia.

Hu also said the CSIC delegation also included lawyers and investment bankers.

Croatian Economy Minister Darko Horvat said the talks with the Chinese delegation were very constructive, adding however that details had not been discussed. "We will have an opportunity to discuss details after Wednesday," Horvat told the press when asked about today's talks. Asked if he was optimistic, the minister said he had been optimistic for the past year.

Uljanik Management Board president Emil Bulić said today's meeting was aimed at getting to know potential investors in Croatia. "The prime minister presented the situation thoroughly and in detail. In a way, it was an introduction meeting," Bulić said.

Earlier this month, Plenković announced that executives from a Chinese shipbuilding company will visit two Croatian shipyards to explore possibilities for cooperation.

The announcement came after a high-level Chinese delegation, led by Premier Li Keqiang, visited Croatia earlier in April as part of the summit of 17 Central and Eastern European countries and China in Dubrovnik.

More news about shipyards can be found in the Business section.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Croatia Participating at Belt and Road Forum in Beijing

ZAGREB, April 26, 2019 - Croatia and China have turned a new page in their relations and China has recognised Croatia as a partner in Europe, Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said in Beijing on Friday, during his talk at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which is being held on April 25-27.

Krstičević took part in a theme debate called "People connectivity", saying that he was honoured to be representing Croatia at the forum, the Croatian Defence Ministry said in a press release.

"I would like to express my satisfaction with the fact that Croatia and China are strengthening their cooperation and strategic partnership. We have turned a new page in relations with China and I am glad that China has recognised Croatia as a partner in Europe. The new Pelješac Bridge that is being built by a Chinese company on the Croatian coast is a symbol of that cooperation," Krstičević said.

He recalled that the international forum in China was taking place after the successful China + 17 summit held in the southern Adriatic resort of Dubrovnik. Croatia recently hosted the biggest summit held as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

"The Belt and Road Initiative can follow our motto from Dubrovnik: 'We build new bridges through openness, innovation and partnership," Krstičević said, adding that on April 27, Croatia and China were marking the 27th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

The theme debate in Beijing was also attended by the deputy prime ministers of Indonesia and Uzbekistan, the foreign and economy ministers of Argentina, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Russia, Singapore, Syria, Somalia, Grenada, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tajikistan and Bangladesh.

The Beijing forum is attended by 37 leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and the heads of state of the 10 ASEAN (Association of South-east Asian Nation) states. Delegations from 150 countries and high representatives of 90 international organisations in all are attending the event.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made the keynote address. The Belt and Road Initiative must be green and sustainable, Xi said opening the forum on Friday, adding that that major infrastructure and trade plan had to result in high quality growth for all the countries involved.

More news on relations between Croatia and China can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Chinese Business Delegation Visits Primorje-Gorski Kotar County

ZAGREB, April 26, 2019 - The head of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, Zlatko Komadina, on Thursday met with a delegation of the China International Chamber of Commerce for the Private Sector (CICCPS) and the Huzhou Mingshuo Optoelectronic Technology company, who were informed of cooperation possibilities in the city of Rijeka and the rest of the county.

The Chinese delegation expressed interest in cooperation in developing new technologies and smart cities and were shown local potential in that regard, including enterprise zones and the possibility for Chinese partners to position themselves in the region as the door to Europe, said Komadina.

He recalled that the county had been cooperating with the Chinese province of Liaoning for years.

A representative of the Chinese delegation, Feng Weidong, said that the delegation was investigating the possibility of making Rijeka a basis for expansion to the European market.

"Our transformation into a smart region is the right way to make both the region and its cities interesting to partners, in this case Chinese partners," said the head of the county development agency, Vedran Kružić.

The CICCPS, approved by the State Council and Ministry of Civil Affairs, brings together around five million business people and it has been working on helping establish cooperation between Croatian and Chinese entrepreneurs.

Huzhou Mingshuo Optoelectronic Technology, based in Beijing, provides high-power LED-lighting equipment and integrated lighting solutions and it has shown interest in improving public lighting in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, county officials have said.

More news about relations between Croatia and China can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Osijek-Baranja County to Utilise China's Economic Expansion for Its Projects

ZAGREB, April 21, 2019 - Osijek-Baranja County wants to utilise the opportunities stemming from China's economic expansion and investment possibilities created in Croatia's cooperation with that country, and one of local projects suitable for such investment is the river port and airport, it was said at a meeting between county officials and the Chinese-Southeast Europe Business Association (CSEBA).

After visiting the sites of the river and air ports, County Prefect Ivan Anušić recalled that contacts with Chinese partners were established a few months ago, primarily regarding tourism and now at the enterprise level.

Osijek's river port at the Drava has potential because it can enable connections to the Black Sea via the Drava and Danube rivers, which is one of the few inland waterways to the Black Sea. The airport is in a favourable location because of its geographic position and potential for passenger and freight transport, Anušić underscored, adding that the county needed investments that won't be solely in buying concessions but investments that will "bring jobs and generate turnover of goods and people."

Speaking about the possibilities of future investments, Chinese entrepreneur Jian Yu said that this is the first visit to Osijek and now the investment team needs to analyse the possibilities and prepare an evaluation as a starting point.

CSEBA president, Mario Rendulić recalled that during his recent visit to Croatia, China's Prime Minister Li Kequiang said that the intention is to included Croatia in investment plans and economic cooperation, adding that this "year is an ideal opportunity for that."

The Chinese are considering possible projects and potential for investments and cooperation and possible joint-venture system or cooperation with local companies that already exist here are not ruled out, Rendulić said.

More news about Osijek-Baranja County and the possible Chinese investments in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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