Thursday, 20 January 2022

Contactless Terminals at INA Petrol Pumps Never Made Operational in 18 Months of Testing

January 20th, 2022 - INA plans to implement contactless pay at their petrol pumps, but the terminals installed in the pilot phase haven’t had a trial run in over a year

Croatia’s leading oil company INA has been testing contactless payment at petrol pumps for a year and a half, reports Jutarnji list/Dora Koretić.

Petrol pumps at INA’s petrol station in Resnik were fitted with contactless payment terminals in 2020, aiming to limit close contact during the pandemic by allowing customers to pay for fuel without having to enter the store.

The terminals were recently removed because the company decided to test ‘other technical solutions available on the market’. This wouldn’t be an issue in itself, but as it turns out, the contactless payment terminals at the Resnik station were never made operational, making it unclear what exactly INA has been testing over the last 18 months.

The company stated this was a pilot project aiming to gather user feedback on contactless payment at petrol pumps using bank cards or fleet cards.

‘Customer satisfaction is our no.1 priority, which is why the company continuously works on developing new solutions to enable customers to purchase products and services at our stations in the simplest way possible. [The project] is still in the pilot phase, and for the sake of establishing the best technical solution the terminals have been removed temporarily. Installation of new ones is underway so that we could carry out an analysis of other technical solutions that are available on the market’, stated INA.

Despite how long it’s been since the pilot project was launched and the fact that the terminals were never put into use, INA state they consider digitalization a critical factor of business, especially in a time where preventative measures, such as maintaining physical distance and limiting the number of customers in stores, are of great importance.

The company has so far introduced contactless payment at the pump through the INA PAY mobile app, which is currently only available for corporate users holding an INA card. Coffee machines at INA  petrol stations are also equipped with contactless terminals. However, it still hasn’t been determined when mobile payment or other forms of contactless pay at the pump will become an option for private customers.

In contrast, many petrol stations in Slovenia offer customers the option to pay contactless at the pump. This mode of payment gained in popularity after the Slovenian government made Covid certificates a prerequisite for in-store payment at service stations, but not for contactless payment at petrol pumps.

 

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Croatia Postpones Buyback Proposal for INA, Launches Review of UNCITRAL Decision

ZAGREB, 30 Dec 2021 - The government decided on Thursday to suspend the buyback of INA from MOL due to new legal circumstances stemming from the Supreme Court's final ruling against former PM Ivo Sanader, who was found guilty of receiving bribes from MOL executive Zsolt Hernadi.

Sanader was given six years and Hernadi, who is beyond the reach of Croatia's authorities, was given two years in this graft case.

The Andrej Plenković government also decided to launch a review of the 2016 ruling of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) under which Croatia lost an arbitration case it brought against MOL before that court based in Geneva.

The government authorized the Economy Ministry to request the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland to review the UNCITRAL decision so as to declare an amended contract on the relationship between the shareholders in INA and a contract on the gas business, both signed in 2009, null and void.

The ministry is also authorized to continue activities concerning Croatia's participation in the arbitration process which the Hungarian oil and gas company MOL initiated in 2013 before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an arbitration institution in Washington.

In February 2017, Croatia filed a lawsuit with the Swiss Federal Court requesting the annulment of the arbitration ruling in the case Croatia v. MOL that was conducted in line with UNCITRAL arbitration rules. However, the Swiss court rejected Croatia's request in October that year.

In late December 2016, UNCITRAL overruled Croatia's request to nullify amendments to a 2009 contract on management rights in the oil and gas company INA and a gas business master agreement, finding that evidence was not sufficient to prove that the amendments were the result of corruption activities.

This prompted Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to state on 24 December 2016 that his government had decided to regain ownership of INA by buying the entire stake held by MOL.

In August 2019 the government chose the Anglo-French investment bank Lazard as a consultant for its plans for the buyback. Lazard presented a preliminary report on due diligence in June 2020 and a final report in September 2020, giving an estimate of INA's value.

MOL is the single largest shareholder in INA, holding 49.1% of the stock (4,908,207 shares), while the Croatian government holds 4,483,552 shares or 44.8%. Private and institutional shareholders hold 608,241 shares or 6.1%.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Croatian Government Pauses Buyback of MOL's Stake in INA

ZAGREB, 30 Dec 2021 - The government is pausing the buyback of the Hungarian energy group MOL's stake in the INA oil and gas company because of new legal circumstances arising from a Supreme Court verdict and is launching a review of the shareholders' agreement and the gas business agreement, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday.

Speaking at the start of the cabinet meeting, Plenković said that proceedings against the first amendment to the INA shareholders' agreement and the gas business agreement were being launched because the government believes that in light of the Supreme Court's final judgment the agreements cannot be sustained.

In late October, the Supreme Court upheld the trial court verdict sentencing former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to six years in prison for taking a bribe from MOL CEO Zsolt Hernadi. Hernadi, who remains beyond the reach of the Croatian authorities, was given two years in prison.

Plenković said that the government's decision was based on legal opinions, adding that the government had consulted the State Attorney's Office, the International Law Department at the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Law, and the government's legal representatives in proceedings with MOL.

"In these changed circumstances, we consider it opportune to pause the process of the possible buyback of shares which MOL holds in INA until this new legal circumstance has been resolved," the prime minister said.

The Croatian government and MOL signed the first amendments to the INA shareholders' agreement and the gas business agreement on 30 January 2009.

Under the amendments, the number of Supervisory Board members was increased from seven to nine, with five seats allocated to MOL, three to the government, and one to the employees. The Supervisory Board chair is designated by the government.

The Management Board has six members, of whom three represent the government and three MOL, while MOL nominates the Management Board chair, who has a casting vote.

The master gas business agreement provided for the sale of the Okoli gas storage facility and the gas trading company to the government. In December 2009, the government and MOL signed the first annex to the gas business agreement under which the government's obligation to buy the gas business was delayed until 1 December 2010.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Greenpeace Collecting Signatures for Fossil Fuel Advertising Ban in Rijeka

ZAGREB, 16 Oct, 2021 - Greenpeace activists on Saturday held a news conference in the northern Adriatic port of Rijeka, warning that INA's gas platform Ivana D, which sank into the sea a year ago, was still in the Adriatic.

The activists warned that the gas infrastructure was obsolete and called on the Croatian authorities to deal with the problem.

The Greenpeace boat Arctic Sunrise is visiting Rijeka again after eight years and Greenpeace activists will be collecting this weekend signatures for a petition by the European Citizens' Initiative seeking an EU ban on fossil fuel advertisements and related sponsorships.

Along with Greenpeace, the campaign was launched by more than 20 European organisations and its aim is to collect one million signatures in a year, after which the European Commission has the duty to respond and consider implementing the campaign demands into EU laws, it was said at the news conference, held on the Arctic Sunrise.

Greenpeace programme director Petra Andrić spoke about the danger of methane leaks during fossil gas extraction.

She said that the fossil industry had been reassuring the public for decades that its plants were safe but that accidents happened globally during fossil fuel extraction, transport and storage, with frequent methane leaks from gas units.

One such accident happened last year in the northern Adriatic, where the gas platform Ivana D disappeared, with the relevant authorities not knowing for days where it was and what had happened, Andrić said, noting that the gas platform was still lying on the seabed.

Explaining why they were so concerned about natural gas, Andrić said that what was called natural gas should be called fossil gas because it was a fossil fuel.

It is perceived as a transition, less harmful fossil fuel, she said, adding that the main component of fossil fuel was methane, a greenhouse gas with a huge potential for global warming if it leaked directly into the atmosphere.

Greenpeace wants the Croatian government and INA to check all off-shore gas platforms for possible methane leaks and to inform the public of their findings, she said, noting that the government should ban investments in fossil infrastructure in the Adriatic and turn to renewable energy sources, primarily solar energy.

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Wednesday, 15 September 2021

INA Considering HRK 2 bn Bond Issue

ZAGREB, 15 Sept, 2021 - The INA oil company said on Wednesday it was considering issuing bonds on the domestic capital market in the nominal amount of HRK 2 billion maximum, with one-off principal maturity after five years maximum.

The Board today decided to issue the bonds and list them on the Zagreb Stock Exchange.

The issuing and the listing will be done provided that all regulatory permits are obtained in line with regulations and subject to acceptable market conditions.

INA hired Erste & Steiermärkische Bank, Privredna Banka Zagreb and Raiffeisenbank Austria as the issue agent.

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

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

INA to Donate HRK 1.4 Million To Healthcare Sector

ZAGREB, 5 May, 2021 - The INA oil company will donate HRK 1.4 million to healthcare institutions this year, aware of the exceptional circumstances that the system is faced with due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company said in a press release on Wednesday.

In the wake of last year's earthquakes in Sisak-Moslavina County, INA has donated HRK 500,000 to the Sisak General Hospital and an additional HRK 900,000 to other institutions.

INA plans to donate HRK 150,000 each to the Oncology Department of the Hospital for Children's Diseases in Zagreb and the Clinical Hospital Centre (KBC) in Rijeka as well as HRK 100,000 each to KBC Osijek, the tissue and cell bank at the Sisters of Mercy Hospital in Zagreb, the Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb, the Cardiology Clinic in Split and two civil society associations.

The Sisak Health Care Centre and the Special Children's Hospital in Gornja Bistra will receive HRK 50,000 each.

The donations are intended for the improvement of diagnostics, procuring new equipment and improving accommodation for patients and working conditions for medical workers.

In addition to money donations, the hospitals will receive a total of 500 litres of INA's Dezinol disinfectant which was developed by INA during the pandemic.

In the past 10 years INA has invested HRK 6.5 million in healthcare in Croatia.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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

Thursday, 29 April 2021

INA's Q1 Net Profit HRK 50 Million

ZAGREB, 29 April, 2021 - INA posted the net profit of HRK 50 million in the first three months of 2021, according to the latest quarterly financial report released by this leading Croatian oil group on Thursday.

For the sake of comparison, in the Q1 2020, INA registered a loss of HRK 178 million.

In the first three months of 2021, the group's revenues totalled HRK 4.17 billion, rising by 0.6% on the year, whereas the expenditures contracted 19.7% to 4.11 billion kuna.

The statement reads that "the beginning of 2021 was marked by a more favorable external environment compared to 2020, which was one of the most challenging years for oil & gas industry."

"Although world economy is still far from recovery and demand is limited, impact of gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions is visible," it says.

"EBITDA reached HRK 467 million and Profit for the period amounted to HRK 50 million, in contrast with the losses in 2020 caused by a large drop in hydrocarbon prices and consequent negative inventory revaluation," INA reported in its financial statement.

"Exploration and production benefited from the increased hydrocarbon prices but natural decline continued with production level below 28 th boe/d, 12% lower compared to Q1 2020. This drove the segment’s EBITDA to HRK 401 million, 5% lower compared to Q1 2020."

In Q1 2021, INA entered a new concession in Egypt, following efforts to partly compensate for the natural decline of production on domestic fields.

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

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Zagreb to Get First Hydrogen Buses in Two to Three Years

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - Zagreb should in two to three years get its first 20 fuel cell buses in public transport, an investment worth €25 million, it was announced on Thursday at the signing of a cooperation agreement between INA and the City of Zagreb on the introduction of hydrogen in public city transport.

President of the Management Board at the ZET city transportation company, Ljuba Romčević-Žgela, said that the agreement was between the City of Zagreb and Ina, as well as the City and ZET, on further investments in alternative fuels, that is, the purchase of hydrogen buses.

The signatories of the agreement have undertaken to invest in alternative fuels. More specifically, it is about the procurement of 20 hydrogen fuel cell buses, and the construction of a hydrogen fuelling station at ZET's depot in Podsused is also planned.

Žgela expects that the project will be implemented in the next two to three years, with the first year being spent on the preparation of technical documentation.

Head of City Office for Economy, Energy and Environment Protection, Mirka Jozić, underscored that this was the first project to start mass application of hydrogen in Zagreb and Croatia.

"We are creating a new market for this energy source of the future. The estimated value of 20 hydrogen buses and supporting infrastructure is €25 million, and this will be financed by non-repayable EU funds," she said.

According to her, ZET's bus fleet today consists of 441 buses with an average age of 10.9, which cover a total of 29 million kilometres a year. Over the past few years, she said, the fleet has been modernised, so a good number of buses run on gas.

INA Management Board member Niko Dalić said that hydrogen was a clean fuel, with no harmful gases, and that hydrogen vehicles did not make noise. He is satisfied that ZET and Zagreb have recognised the advantage of hydrogen.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

INA-MOL Saga: Hungarians Seeking Far More Than Croatia is Offering

February the 20th, 2021 - The INA-MOL saga has oulived both the Agrokor (remember that?) and the fighter jet purchase sagas, and the Hungarians are now wanting much more than Croatia has to offer in that regard.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, the Hungarian MOL confirmed recently that talks with the Croatian Government about the INA-MOL saga, more precisely on the sale of a controlling stake in INA are continuing, and Bloomberg and Hina both quoted MOL CEO Jozsef Molnar as saying that their views on the price of that stake were "quite far apart".

In a recent conversation with analysts, held after the announcement of MOL's business results for last year, it was said that MOL was never against the agreement, but that wanted to sell its stake in INA at a price that would properly compensate it for its investments in the Croatian company.

If you haven't followed the INA-MOL saga in detail, the Hungarian MOL is otherwise the largest individual shareholder of INA, as it holds 49.1 percent of INA shares (4,908,207 shares), while the Croatian state holds 44.8 percent (4,483,552 shares), and private and institutional shareholders hold 6.1 percent of shares (608,241 shares).

Back in early February this year, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Coric said that talks were underway with MOL to buy out its stake in INA and that the whole story about the Croatian oil company should not be prolonged beyond the second half of this year.

At a press briefing held on February the 10th, he said that a series of meetings had been held to buy MOL's stake in INA and that the government had made its offer to buy MOL's stake in INA back in November last year, without providing any further details about the offer.

“Over the next few months, let's say over four to five months, we're going to have to know exactly which direction has been chosen. If the transaction is needed after that, it will all take some time,'' said Coric.

Coric also said that the direction that the Croatian Government doesn't support and which is not optimal for Croatia is to maintain the status quo, while from the beginning they've wanted an agreement to be reached between the Croatian Government and the Hungarian side on the purchase of shares in INA.

The latter direction potentially includes a third party, in the sense that the Hungarian side leaves the ownership of INA entirely and is replaced by someone else. In addition, if the Hungarian side is ready to sell its shares in INA, there is an option for Croatia to buy them itself, ie through an arrangement of legal entities from Croatia, which would certainly, at least in one sense, affect the increase of public debt, which was not the Government's wish.

As a third option, if no agreement is reached on the purchase price in the INA-MOL saga, he stated that the agreement would then in the direction of redefining the relationship between the partners within INA, in a way that would see a balanced relationship between the two shareholders, including positions in the company's management, with all of the accompanying obligations and rights implied.

It's worth mentioning that back at the end of 2016, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic announced that the Croatia Government had decided to buy MOL's entire stake in INA, after Croatia lost the lawsuit against MOL before the arbitration court of the United Nations  UN) Commission for International Trade Law in Geneva.

An investment advisor in that transaction, the consulting company Lazard, presented a preliminary report on the in-depth survey of INA's business and its value in June last year, and in September 2020, a final report on the assessment of INA's value was made.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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