Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Croatia's Viktor Lenac Shipyard Busy With Saudi King's Yacht

February the 15th, 2022 - Croatian shipyards might have been struggling significantly for the past few years, since long before the global coronavirus pandemic emerged and caused even more issues, but the Viktor Lenac shipyard has its hands full at the moment, mostly with the ''doing up'' of a yacht owned by no less than the Saudi royal family.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, docking capacities at the Viktor Lenac shipyard have been filled until the month of May, there are now more than 10 ships in that shipyard, and employment is extremely high, the Rijeka-based shipyard revealed.

Board member Sandra Uzelac said that all docks and berths were filled and that now, unlike in the previous half of the year, the Viktor Lenac shipyard's employment is high. Last year, he says, the business was affected by high freight rates, so shipowners used that time more for navigation than for overhaul, and the coronavirus pandemic also negatively affected it.

Therefore, it is expected that the Viktor Lenac shipyard's business roundup for the year 2021 will turn out to have been successful and with a profit, but less so than in 2020. On Thursday, a passenger ship - a luxury yacht which is 147 metres long, sailed into the Viktor Lenac shipyard for overhaul and refurbishment.

It is a large yacht owned by a foreign client, with which the Kostrena shipyard signed a contract for the overhaul and refurbishment worth more than 20 million euros. It is a yacht used by the Saudi royal family.

The complexity of the contracted works is also indicated by the fact that it is planned that the ship will remain in the Rijeka shipyard for one entire year, because the deadline for the execution of all of the works is 12 months.

According to Sandra Uzelac, these are very specific works, and several Croatian and foreign subcontractors will be engaged in order to get it all done. Similar, but smaller jobs of that kind have already been done at the Viktor Lenac shipyard, said Uzelac.

For more, check out our business section.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Financial Agency Proposes Brodotrogir Shipyard Bankruptcy

April the 20th, 2021 - The Croatian shipyard scene hasn't been producing much in the way of positive news for a significant amount of time now, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the economic woes it brings with it haven't aided the situation. Fina is now proposing bankruptcy for the Brodotrogir shipyard.

As Suzana Varosanec/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, just one month after the recent promising messages related to the Brodotrogir shipyard, which were important to the whole group due to the announcement of negotiations with bankers and the sale of the marina there to save business operations, as well as the survival of the parent company, there has unfortunately been a reversal.

To be more precise, the Financial Agency (Fina) filed a motion with the competent commercial court to open bankruptcy proceedings for the debtor of the Brodotrogir shipyard.

As stated in the proposal, back on April the 16th, this debtor in the register has recorded unexecuted bases for payment in an uninterrupted period of 137 days, in the total amount of 3.895 million kuna, which includes interest and fees due to Fina for the implementation of foreclosures on cash. According to the data held on the number of employees submitted to the Financial Agency by the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute, the Brodotrogir shipyard has 51 employees. It remains to be seen what developments will follow in this somewhat complicated case, given the previous and current announcements as well as the not-so-rare practice of settling debts that are the reason for the account blockade in the first place.

The Brodotrogir shipyard published losses of 305 million kuna back in pre-pandemic 2019, of which about 72 million kuna was covered from retained earnings, but the rest of the approximately 233 million kuna was transferred to the position of carried forward loss. These losses were mostly, at least according to official business documentation, due to reduced business activities when compared to previous years and also due to increased expenses, among other things, owing to the impairment of fixed assets and investments in subsidiaries, as well as value adjustments of unsecured receivables of the debtors who have faced financial problems, bankruptcy or late payments for more than one year.

In the pre-bankruptcy proceedings of this debtor which were opened approximately two years ago at the Commercial Court in Split, the Brodotrogir shipyard was released from its then cumbersome financial blockade and continued its regular business operations, with the established liabilities at the beginning of July 2019 amounting to around 319 million kuna in total, of which the largest amount - 214 million kuna, was determined according to unsecured creditors.

In addition to the above, according to the auditor's report, there are also debt obligations on loans from SCT, Kairos Shipping LLC I and Kairos Shipping LLC II. According to the notes, by the end of that year, the company had issued a large number of promissory notes in favour of the banks and the Ministry of Finance in the amount of approximately 1.6 billion kuna, guaranteeing the debts of the companies within the Brodotrogir Group and other affiliated companies amounting to about 423 million kuna back on the 31st of December, 2019. In addition, the settlement reached was overturned on the basis of a lodged appeal.

The Brodotrogir shipyard, an umbrella company 95 percent owned by Kermas Energija, manages the shipbuilding company Hrvatska brodogradnja Trogir, the company Brodotrogir Cruise, which builds cruisers, and BT Hull, which equips ships. Brodotrogir Cruise, according to sources from the group itself, took over some of the workers of HBT and BT Hull.

For more, make sure to follow our dedicated business section.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Despite Economic Woes, Kraljevica Shipyard Full of Vessels

In a sea of negative news headlines and depressing economic forecasts, some good news arrives from the Kraljevica shipyard - it is currently full of Jadrolinija vessels.

The Croatian shipbuilding industry didn't need any other knockbacks. Long before the coronavirus pandemic began, the industry had been in dire straits, needing guarantee after guarantee from the government. This ailing industry saw the strike of its unpaid and overworked staff, and the enfeebled shipyards Uljanik (Pula) and 3 Maj (Rijeka) shipyards were only ever in the press for the wrong reasons.

The coronavirus pandemic was the absolute last thing this industry needed, and yet we find ourselves in a situation in which the entire domestic economy is under threat from an invisible enemy. That being said, it isn't also so bleak, and the Kraljevica shipyard has plenty of work on its hands despite the dark days we're currently in the midst of.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 1st of May, 2020, as many as four of Jadrolinija's vessels are currently ''housed'' at the Kraljevica shipyard. The ships in question are the catamaran "Adriana", the ferries "Mate Balota" and "Laslovo", and "Sveti Juraj" which requires some more extensive works.

After the economic downturn and the dramatic events of March 2020, followed by paralysis, deep uncertainty and fears that everything was truly about to go under over the coming months, a sigh of relief can be felt at the Kraljevica shipyard, where they're dealing with all of the ships that have come to them for various repairs, Novi List writes.

The "Faros" ferry should also have arrived from the Viktor Lenac shipyard, and in the following days, the "Cres" ferry from Losinj is also due to arrive at the Kraljevica shipyard. There are also two fishermen, the White and the Celestial, on a regular overhaul, and there is also Tito's Galeb, the upkeep of which is the subject of constant controversy, whose restoration and conversion into what has been imagined as ship-museum is also underway.

If nothing else, the uncertainty factor is now smaller, but the contours of post-coronavirus business operations, at least of some sort, are becoming mildly visible on the horizon.

Ivan Ivic, the owner of the aforementioned shipyard, made sure to note that they are still not working at full capacity, they are at a mere 75 percent, and it is quite likely that when they do the calculations at the end of this second quarter, they will be down by about 30 percent.

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Saturday, 1 February 2020

MUP Orders Two Patrol Boats - Discrimination Against Croatian Shipyards?

As Novac/Jozo Vrdoljak/Privredni.hr writes on the 1st of February, 2020, the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) has launched a public tender for the construction of two patrol vessels intended for border control worth 39.5 million kuna excluding VAT, but the conditions defined in the tender are such that no Croatian shipyards can fulfil them.

Some who know the business have claimed that according to their analysis, MUP's tender looks like it was done exactly according to the design of something an Italian shipyard could do.

''The tender evaluation criteria was deliberately set up to discriminate against Croatian shipyards. For example, a delivery period of fifteen months is scored with 0 points, while an eight-month delivery is scored with 10 points. This indicates that the contracting authority has the knowledge that the shipyard already has a finished project and therefore has an advantage over other shipyards that don't. Because such a delivery time can only be respected by a shipyard that has the project ready,'' says Tomislav Smirčić, CEO of the Croatian shipyard Tehnomont in Pula.

It is also discriminatory to evaluate how many similar ships a shipyard has built in the last five years: everyone knows, Tomislav claims, that Croatian shipyards haven't constructed more than one similar ship in the last five years because there was no demand for anything like that.

The Dubrovnik-based Global Group, which has taken over Montmontaza Greben shipyard from Vela Luka in its bankruptcy, said they already have two unfinished patrol ships that were to be delivered to the Greek Coast Guard and could be completed within two months.

''Unfortunately, neither of our ministries has shown any interest in these two ships being completed, despite the great need for these ships. These are the best ships of their kind in the Mediterranean,'' claims Milan Dragovic, the owner of Global Group. He adds that a job like this would mean a return to the market for the enfeebled Vela Luka shipyard.

Smircic states that a two-stage limited public procurement procedure has also been designed to benefit some shipyards and not others.

''This is because the first round [of the tender], published on December the 27th, 2019, just in time for the festive period, requires the complete design of the ship and the completion of all of the technical specification and the adjustment of all necessary designs and budgets. Such a job for a shipyard that doesn't have a ready-made project takes a very long time. And one month, over the festive period, is not enough to prepare all the documentation. The new deadline for the client is February the 14th, 2020, but that changes nothing because it still isn't enough time,'' he explains.

The estimated value of procurement isn't realistic either, they believe. Dragovic calculated that the real cost of building each individual ship, when the shipyard will not earn anything, is around three million euros per ship. So about six million euros excluding VAT or 7.5 million euros with VAT would be the real value of the tender.

''No Croatian shipyard has delivered ships worth 39.5 million kuna without VAT within the last five years, which is required by the tender. Namely, in Croatia, there has been no search for or contracting of similar vessels in the last five years,'' he stated.

''The shipyard needs to meet both the financial and the technical criteria, and neither of those things even come into it for Croatian shipbuilders. It's arguable that the two of the criteria are linked by the fact that the ships that would be built must be done within the prescribed budget, which Croatian shipyards cannot do.

In the last five years, no patrol boats have been built in Croatia. Only two were built here in Vela Luka for Greece and one at Tehnomont. The patrol vessels in our shipyard were worth 4.6 million euros, while the patrol boat built by Tehnomont was worth 2.7 million euros, and this tender is asking for a value of 5.3 million euros without VAT as a reference,'' Dragovic explains, believing MUP's tender should be scrapped and replaced with another, fairer one.

MUP: "Everything is being done according to the regulations"

The Ministry of Interior claims that the stated condition of technical and professional competence is defined in accordance with Article 268 of the Law on Public Procurement. They point out that a preliminary consultation was conducted for this procurement process on November the 19th, 2019, during which none of the potential bidders raised an objection, and that the financial framework and basic conditions that the vessel must satisfy were not arbitrarily defined.

''Under the Internal Security Fund (ISF), the European Commission has secured 123.6 million euros for the procurement of equipment to be made available to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Using the aforementioned funds, the Ministry of the Interior nominated the project of the construction of two vessels for state border surveillance. Funding is provided by the Fund in the amount of 90 percent, while the remaining 10 percent of the co-financing will be borne by Croatia,'' they explained.

To that end, they claim, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency has set the required minimum maritime requirements for the aforementioned ships, as well as the equipment requirements.

''According to the technical guidelines and requirements related to the characteristics of the vessel determined by the European Agency of the competent service, technical specifications have been drawn up,'' MUP clarified.

Follow our dedicated business page for more on Croatian shipyards.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Cruiser Marella Dream Arriving for Repair at Viktor Lenac Shipyard in 2020

The state of Croatian shipbuilding has been far from healthy over the last few years, with things reaching boiling point with the large Pula shipyard Uljanik, who saw its workers strike owing to not being paid. Rijeka's 3 Maj has also struggled endlessly, but as 3 Maj contracts its first vessel in over four years, and as the Viktor Lenac shipyard, also in Rijeka, has a cruiser coming to it for repairs early next year, could things slowly be heading in the right direction?

As Morski writes on the 30th of December, 2019, it isn't uncomming to see vessels belonging to Marella Cruises docked in Rijeka, and nobody bats an eyelid since these vessels are regular guests of the City of Rijeka during almost every season. This past season, Rijeka's residents saw the Marella Celebration cruiser, and they will get to see it once again next year.

However, early next year, more precisely on January the 6th, 2020, Rijeka's citizens will get to see the 243 metre long Marella Dream cruiser, which will be arriving not owing to pleasure but on business, at the Viktor Lenac shipyard for a very extensive overhaul.

As yet, the details of the deal struck between the aforementioned large cruise company and Rijeka's Viktor Lenac shipyard haven't been publicly revealed, but it has been pointed out that Viktor Lenac's expert workers are going to overhaul the vessel in order to see the condition of the ship and to ensure that their clientele receives the highest possible standard of service.

According to the portal Ships in Rijeka (Brodovi u Rijeci) from sources close to the Viktor Lenac shipyard, the ship will go to berth 10 and then after that, it will be moved to Dock 11.

Over 100 tonnes of steel (formwork, decks, tanks), the rudder, valves, the main engine, the ventilation system, formwork painting and other standard works are expected to take place at Viktor Lenac during 2020's maiden month, and the current deadline for the completion of the work on the vessel is February the 22nd, 2020.

The last overhaul of Marella Dream was done last year in Cadiz in Spain and lasted for twelve days in total, and the shipowner plans to sail this vessel by the year 2024.

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Thursday, 2 May 2019

Chinese Interested in Croatian Shipyards, With One Condition...

The Chinese interest in Croatian projects is continually growing, or so it seems, and there is now room to dare when it comes to the potential Chinese rescue of Uljanik and 3 Maj at the eleventh hour.

As Marija Brnic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 2nd of May, 2019, the Chinese CSIC representatives currently visiting Croatia to see the state of Croatia's ailing Uljanik (Pula) and 3 Maj (Rijeka) shipyards have expressed clear interested in new projects with Croatia's shipyards, but only if the Croatian state covers the cost of what has already failed, there have also been mentions of the diversification of production, but they don't want guarantees.

If there is an agreement between the Croatian Government and the Chinese CSIC about reviving Uljanik and 3 Maj, it will be done so with regard to a combination of the models which were discussed with the previous two strategic partners, Darko Končar and Tomislav Debeljak.

According to the explanation given by Minister of Economy Darko Horvat after the final talks and the three-day visit of CSIC's representatives, the Chinese are indeed interested in starting with new projects, while the state should cover the cost of old, failed projects, meaning it will need to take place on a clean slate. It's also more than likely that the sites of today's Croatian shipyards will see other projects developed there, that is to say, the diversification of activities will occur.

"If they don't see the possibility of continuity of shipbuilding at this time, we want other industries to take place here, and not just those exclusively involved in shipbuilding," Minister Horvat stated. Therefore, unlike Danko Končar's initial idea, Chinese diversification would not be a real-estate business, but would involve some sort of other, new production aside from shipbuilding. And the clean starting position the Chinese have indicated that they want, which is similar to what Tomislav Debeljak sought but is unlike his idea, almost certainly means declaring the bankruptcy of the two shipyards.

"We don't expect them to finance failed attempts to build ships that haven't been completed. The starting position means new projects,'' stated Horvat in reference to the wishes of the Chinese.

The continuation of construction in Pula and Rijeka in partnership with CSIC would in any case have a completely different financing philosophy. The Chinese say, after the talks, that they are completely astonished at the reliance of state guarantees for shipbuilding. To repeat what Finance Minister Zdravko Marić stated recently, it's much too early to talk about exactly what changes might occur in this context following their entry into Uljanik and 3 Maj. Over the next few weeks, CSIC's senior people will analyse the collected information and determine whether or not, and indeed in what form they're interested in entering into the structures of Croatia's enfeebled shipyards.

At this moment in time, Darko Horvat has merely announced that any form of Chinese entry would involve a new way of financing, with different sources, a different way of drafting project documentation, and would involve no state guarantees. After the final talks at Zagreb Airport, Horvat didn't provide any more specific information, nor the deadlines within which he expected to receive feedback from the Chinese, but he did appear to try to leave the impression that he was optimistic about the whole situation. The Chinese representatives themselves, however, didn't give any media statements.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for more information on Chinese-Croatian business relations, Chinese projects and investments in Croatia, doing business, working and investing in Croatia and much more.

 

Click here for the original article by Marija Brnic for Poslovni Dnevnik

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Marić on Potential Chinese Investment: Too Early to Talk About Anything

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 30th of April, 2019, Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Tuesday that he still needs to see if there really is specific interest from the Chinese shipbuilding company, whose representatives are visiting the ailing shipyards in Pula (Uljanik) and Rijeka (3 Maj), saying that it's too early to be able to say anything and that we "need to be completely realistic".

When aked by a journalist about the expectations of the Croatian Government, given that a delegation from the Chinese shipbuilding company China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) has visited the Uljanik and 3 Maj shipyards, Marić said that first of all, we should be realistic and after CISC's representatives get a proper look at the state of affairs with those shipyards and answers to the questions they are interested in, we will need to wait and see what their response to all of it will be.

At this point, it's still too early for that, he added, recalling yesterday's introductory meeting between the Croatian prime minister, his ministers and the aforementioned Chinese delegation at Banski Dvori in Zagreb, where everything was transparent and very clearly presented.

"A really high level team from the perspective of that company has arrived, but on the other hand, we need to be completely realistic. So, today they will spend all day in both Rijeka and Pula and then after that, of course, we can't expect it immediately but within a reasonable time frame, they'll determine what they saw, state what they think about it, and whether or not there is a certain level of interest,'' said Marić when answering journalists' questions after attending the annual European Investment Bank (EIB) press conference.

The CSIC delegation, headed by Hu Wenming, arrived at the enfeebled Uljanik on Tuesday morning, where talks with the members of Uljanik's management board and its supervisory board took place. Assistant Minister of Economy Zvonimir Novak has also been participating in these talks.

Several representatives of the aforementioned Chinese company arrived at Uljanik as early as Monday afternoon, where they viewed the plants and made an unofficial assessment of the capabilities of the Pula shipyard's production facilities, ie, they got better acquainted with its technical capabilities, the processes that take place there, the technology and its general capacities.

What will coe of the visit is anyone's guess so far, but despite suspicion from some, an injection of Chinese money could truly be Uljanik's very last hope.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for more information on Chinese-Croatian business relations, Chinese projects and investments in Croatia, working, doing business and investing in Croatia and much more.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Is Chinese Rescue of Croatia's Burdened Shipyards Inevitable?

If the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) gives up, it will be difficult to find another candidate for the ailing Croatian shipyards Uljanik (Pula) and 3 Maj (Rijeka) which is in the shipbuilding industry and is also a strong and respected player. Could a Chinese investment be on the cards?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes on the 29th of April, 2019, after yesterday's meeting with Prime Minister Andrey Plenkovic and his government ministers, Hu Wenming, Chairman of the Board of China's largest shipbuilding company China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) confirmed that they are indeed moving towards serious consideration regarding the enfeebled Uljanik and 3 Maj shipyards, which have undergone months of turmoil.

''The prime minister gave us a very serious and detailed presentation of the whole situation,'' Wenming said, adding that they saw that these two shipyards were a very important topic for the Croatian public. "Not only did we bring people from our company - they're in charge of planning, we've already called on lawyers and investment banks, so we will outline what their views on the matter are after visiting the shipyards," Wenming stated.

With that, a key ''tour'' begins, because if CSIC ends up actually not being interested in putting its money into the situation, it will be a hugely difficult task to find another candidate in shipbuilding, which is a big player and has an interest in joining the European shipbuilding industry. Otherwise, this would be the first case of a Chinese takeover of a foreign shipbuilding company, so it is speculated that extensive calculations are being made, and of course whether they even want to have their first European shipyard is being considered. The CSIC is looking at the situation deeply and from all possible angles.

This event all began with the recent announcement of the arrival of the CSIC in Croatia with the aim of visiting the troubled shipyards in Pula and Rijeka. As was then announced, the CSIC chairman contacted Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang during his stay in the Republic of Croatia where he attended the summit "16 + 1" and after talking with the Croatian PM about the dire state of Croatian shipbuilding.

As things currently stand, the general belief is that the Chinese decision won't take long to come - it will be a simple and express "no" or "yes", while the third option, more specifically an unconditional "yes", will likely need to be waited for a little longer.

What the outcome of the potential Chinese presence in the Croatian shipbuilding industry is anyone's guess, and while some remain very suspicious of Chinese motives in Croatia in general, despite them already working on the long-awaited Pelješac bridge down in southern Dalmatia, whatever comes of their potential entry has got to be better than the current situation, especially for Uljanik.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for more information on Chinese-Croatian business relations, Chinese investments and projects in Croatia, doing business and investing in Croatia and much more.

 

Click here for the original article by Suzana Varosanec for Poslovni Dnevnik

Monday, 29 April 2019

Will Chinese Invest in Croatian Shipyards? Could Uljanik Rescue Happen?

There has been much talk, both positive and negative, about the potential for Chinese investment in Croatia. They're already building the long awaited Peljesac bridge down in Dalmatia and have since expressed great interest in the Port of Rijeka and in constructing a railway line linking Rijeka to Karlovac. 

Many believe that the apparently huge interest of the Chinese (and their money) is a bad omen, and that Croatia will end up trapped by yet more debt it can't pay off in the end. Others see it as a welcome move, despite their suspicions. Whatever the truth behind China's interest in Croatia is, the EU aren't too pleased with it, especially in the case of Peljesac bridge. Peljesac bridge is one of the most important strategic projects in the history of the country, and it has been financed mainly by European Union funds, the fact that a Chinese company has been chosen to construct it hasn't filled the European Union, nor the Commission, with much joy.

What will be the situation with one of Croatia's most pressing issues of late, its ailing shipyards? As Uljanik's dire situation continues to worsen, could the already suggested investment from China be its saviour at the eleventh hour? Maybe.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 29th of April, 2019, a delegation from China's largest shipbuilding company, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, headed by Hu Wenming, the head of the company, will arrive in Zagreb on Monday, as N1 reports.

The Chinese delegation will first be welcomed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his government ministers at Banski dvori in the heart of the capital city. After exchanging all of the usual diplomatic pleasantries, they will discuss the burdensome issue of Uljanik (Pula) and 3 Maj (Rijeka), which the Chinese guests will visit on Tuesday.

At today's meeting between the Croatian premier and the Chinese delegation from CSIC, the bosses of Uljanik and 3 Maj, Emil Bulić and Edi Kučan, will present, as was confirmed to N1 by the Croatian Government.

Will the giant Chinese company actually agree to invest in Croatia's ailing shipyards, however? The answer to this question could be known definitively in as little as ten days, Economy Minister Darko Horvat announced last week.

Concerning the potential interest of the Chinese for the Uljanik and 3 Maj shipyards, Minister Tolušić said that this really is "probably the last chance to do something." If there is any possibility whatsoever that the Chinese will enter into some sort of investment arrangement to rescue the shipyards, they'll enter. If there's no possibility, they won't. We'll leave it up to them.'' stated Horvat.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for more information on Chinese-Croatian business relations, Chinese investments and projects in Croatia, doing business and investing in Croatia, working in Croatia, and much more.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Chinese Reveal Interest in Croatia's Enfeebled Uljanik and 3 Maj Shipyards

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 10th of April, 2019, Chinese interest continues to grow as the Republic of Croatia and China opened a new, ambitious chapter of economic and trade relations on Wednesday, deepening their relationship even more after talks between the two prime ministers who both considered the talks to be a "fruitful turnaround".

Relations between Zagreb and Beijing initially reached a higher level after the Chinese company China Road and Bridge Corporation was chosen as the much anticipated Pelješac bridge builder.

The two countries readily signed six agreements, which cover the segments of rail, agriculture, digital technology and tourism. Four more will be signed on Thursday and Friday down in Dubrovnik at the 16 + 1 summit.

"We have signed a memorandum on a much more serious, transparent and easier cooperation between companies, on the transfer of capital from China to Croatia, as well as a two-way transfer, and the possibility of capital from Croatia being invested in China. This opens up the possibility of trust and a much stronger and more serious transfer, investing and manufacturing, and we've been able to talk about other large-scale structuring projects, especially given the fact that a Chinese company is building Pelješac bridge,'' said Croatian Economy Minister Darko Horvat for RTL.

He also noted that at this point in time, Croatia has a bilateral economic exchange with China which is somewhere close to the level of a billion euros, in a much larger deficit on the Croatian side.

Horvat also confirmed that Chinese companies are offering to be the ones to construct the Rijeka-Zagreb line.

"This project has to happen, the Chinese side has shown its interest. Whether that is going to come in the shape of a long-term concession agreement or in another model... Minister [Oleg] Butković is engaged in very intensive negotiations [on that matter] at the moment,'' stated Horvat.

In conversation with RTL, Horvat also revealed that they now have a clear signal that there is interest from the Chinese side to invest in Croatia's burdened shipyards, Uljanik and 3 Maj, in Pula and Rijeka.

"The real conversations are just starting, and I'm sure we will have some concrete figures tomorrow,'' he added briefly.

When asked whether or not Chinese could end up becoming the strategic partner needed to finally save Uljanik, the economy minister simply said that nobody was trying to hide the fact that the Chinese had been called upon.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and politics pages for more information on the blossoming China-Croatia relations, why some remain suspicious, why the European Commission has raised its eyebrows at the fact that a Chinese company is building a bridge funded primarily with EU money, and much more.

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