Saturday, 9 April 2022

Big Croatian IT Names Invest in Longevity Food Tech Startup Cidrani

April the the 9th, 2022 - The Croatian longevity food tech startup Cidrani has received investments from some big Croatian IT names, including the person behind the wildly successful Photomath.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian longevity food tech startup Cidrani recently presented a new investment round worth 190,000 euros within the Bird incubator, under the auspices of which it has been operating for the last year.

New investors in Cidrani are some very well-known Croatian IT and business names, including the founders of Five, Luka Abrus and Viktor Marohnic, the founder of Photomath Damir Sabor, private equity and venture capital investment expert Mirna Marovic, financial expert specialising in the IT industry and EU grants Tajana Barancic and serial entrepreneurs and business angels Maja and Jonathan Cooper.

Cidrani has imposed a unique concept of organic fermented micronutrients for the health of the digestive microbiome which, if taken as a daily ritual over a long period of time, significantly reduce inflammatory processes in the body and contribute to healthier longevity.

They want to conquer the American market

In terms of revenue, Cidrani is growing at an annual rate of eight times, and their goal is to become the top longevity company in the world. They were the first to introduce personalisation and a monthly subscription to fermented micro-beverages, and in addition to numerous private users, more than ten companies have already included their employees in the community of Cidrani enthusiasts of healthy digestion.

"This year we intend to enter all European markets and enter the large US market. We plan to participate in as many as five of the strongest food fairs, and we're launching our own scientific clinical study, which will further confirm the impact of fermented micro-beverages on general health. We're also working intensively on the development of artificial intelligence (AI), the foundation of a virtual assistant that will support our customers on the path to health and longevity,'' said co-founder Bruno Balen.

Investors Luka Abrus, Mirna Marovic, Tajana Barancic, Maja Jelisic Cooper and the co-founder of Cidrani Nika Pintar revealed at a recently held panel some of their personal and professional reasons behind why they decided to invest in Cidrani, and also talked about the general principles of investing and attracting investments.

The investment of 190,000 euros from some big Croatian IT and business names in Cidrani represents the so-called ''bridge round'' of this progressive startup, which is announcing a new investment cycle at the end of the summer, in order to conquer the US market and further develop machine learning algorithms.

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Saturday, 13 November 2021

FinMin: Credit Rating Important for Capital Price for State, Businesses, Citizens

ZAGREB, 13 Nov, 2021 - The credit rating is important for the price of borrowing for the state, businesses and citizens as its upgrade lowers the risk premium, which has a favourable effect on the price of capital, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić told Hina on Saturday.

The Fitch Ratings agency yesterday upgraded Croatia's rating to BBB, the best in Croatia's history, with a positive outlook.

Marić said the rating was first of all closely related to debt price and the capital price for the state and, directly or indirectly, for the interest paid by businesses and citizens.

The Fitch rating has a positive effect on those processes, he said, but added that the upgrade should be viewed in continuity, recalling that until not so long ago the state paid a considerable amount for interest.

In 2015, the budgetary expenditure for interest was HRK 12 billion, which at that time was almost the entire budget of the education ministry, whereas now that expenditure is HRK 4.5 billion lower.

"Interest used to be 5-6% and now it is about 1% on the ten-year bond," said Marić, adding that the credit rating assessment was important both in times of low and in times of higher interest rates on capital markets.

"We are talking about reference interest rates," he said, adding that the increased money offer in recent years led to a considerable drop in reference rates, but that the total interest paid by citizens, businesses and the state was a sum of the reference rate and the rate related to a specific country and to the risk premium.

"That's where the rating strikes because Croatia can't influence the trend of reference interest rates, but it can the risk premium it pays."

Marić said Croatia had a stable growth, public finances in order, a clear prospect of entering the euro area, and political stability.

"Those are all elements which have an effect on rating improvement, which is then reflected in a better perception and reputation of a country like Croatia in the financial world, and in the end comes the effect on the risk premium," he said. That is important both when reference interests are low and when they are high, he added.

The investment rating is very important, not just for debt and capital prices but also for capital availability, Marić said.

"The moment you are in the investment zone, you are interesting to many more good investors who can invest in securities," he said, adding that international investors had restrictions and were often not allowed to invest in a country below the investment credit rating.

"That's why it's very good that that has changed for Croatia in terms of Fitch and Standard & Poor's," Marić said, adding that it was also important that Fitch had a positive outlook on Croatia. "That sort of indicates the direction the rating could take."

He praised the media focus on the credit rating, saying that it was good that people became aware of how important it was to know how to manage public money well.

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Saturday, 13 November 2021

Plenković: Euro Area Entry Is Strong Message to Investors

ZAGREB, 13 Nov, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday Croatia's likely entry into the euro area in 2023 was a signal and message to the investment community that the government's economic and fiscal policies were correct, just as in the case of Fitch Ratings, which upgraded Croatia's credit rating.

"The key and anchor of our economic course, as a result of which the European Commission, rating agencies and international financial institutions have increasing confidence in our policy, is accession to the euro area. Further guidance for our entry, which we expect in June and membership in the euro area on 1 January 2023, gives credibility to everything we are doing. People who deal with this matter in greater detail know what it means for the economy and stability. They see this driver of the Croatian economy as the most important one," Plenković told press.

"Croatia has been given the best investment rating in its history. We never had a BBB rating and a positive outlook. This indicates what that agency assesses, following what is going on with our fiscal policy."

A decision on Croatia's euro area entry is expected next June. A positive decision will "automatically signal" to agencies that Croatia will be even more predictable, more stable, and economically and financially even stronger, he said.

Fitch's upgrade and the European Commission's significant revision upwards of Croatia's growth forecast earlier this week are not important just for borrowing on the domestic and foreign financial markets, Plenković said, adding that this kind of "credentials" and legitimacy help SMEs, banks, citizens and the whole system.

Croatia's achieving the highest credit rating in its history, despite a number of negative circumstances, shows that the government knows where it is going and what is good for Croatia, he said.

He said that in the process of achieving its goal to enter the euro area, Croatia found itself in challenging and extremely risky circumstances, including entering the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in July 2020, just five days after a parliamentary election, which he said showed a high level of trust in Croatia.

Another important element is the stability of public finances, he said, recalling that Croatia had a budget surplus before the outbreak of the pandemic and that, had there been no pandemic, Croatia's public debt would have been below 60% of GDP.

Because of the COVID crisis and last year's GDP fall, several steps back were made, but this year already Croatia has returned to the previous public debt reduction course, Plenković said.

He highlighted growths in industrial production, commodity exports, construction and tourism, as well as the abundant EU funds Croatia will have at its disposal in this decade.

He said political stability was very important, as recognised by Fitch, adding that it was the fundamental prerequisite for any economic progress.

Plenković also underlined the importance of COVID vaccination "because it's closely related to the economy and finances."

He went on to say that during his government the relevant agencies have upgraded Croatia's credit rating six times - Fitch three, Standard & Poor's twice and Moody's once.

Asked why Moody's was the only one keeping Croatia's rating in the non-investmen zone, Plenković said every agency had its own approach and that Moody's last rating occurred exactly a year ago. "We hope they will follow what the other agencies are saying."

Fitch yesterday revised its forecast of Croatia's GDP growth this year from 5.5% to 8.9% and the European Commission revised it earlier this week from 5.4% to 8.1%.

Plenković recalled that the Croatian National Bank put the forecast at 8.5%. "If there is verified confirmation of the catchphrase 'let's underpromise and overdeliver', then it was fully confirmed from several competent instances."

He said the Commission's and Fitch's forecasts for this summer's tourist season were above those of the government.

If the season's results are at about 80% of the record year 2019, he said, it means the government and all other actors made a step forward given the pandemic and the related restrictions. This was confirmed by Euronews reports about Croatia as the country with the best tourism results in the Mediterranean, he added.

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Saturday, 18 September 2021

Investment Rating Confirmation of Good Gov’t Policy, Says PM

ZAGREB, 18 Sept, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday the affirmation of Croatia's investment rating and forecast of a 6.5% economic growth this year were a confirmation of the government's good policy, which retained Croatia's economic and financial stability during the pandemic.

"The Standard & Poor's agency has affirmed Croatia's investment rating with a stable outlook and raised the economic growth estimate in 2021 to 6.5%! This is another confirmation that Croatia has retained economic and social stability as well as jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic with the government's measures for the private sector," the prime minister tweeted.

With a successful tourism season behind and the implementation of reforms and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan thanks to European funds, Croatia is on the path of a strong and fast recovery, he wrote.

"Another priority is to go back to the policy of public debt reduction and budgetary stability. Entry to the eurozone will contribute to the further strengthening of the credit rating," he added.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Significant Croatian Telecom Investment Increases Connectivity

December the 8th, 2020 - Croatian Telecom/Hrvatski Telekom (HT), the largest private investor in the digitalisation of the Republic of Croatia, has started implementing the most modern optical infrastructure in the area of ​​the city of Porec and its suburbs, and this hefty Croatian Telecom investment is sure to please many.

As Novac writes, this latest Croatian Telecom investment stands at an enormous 2.5 million kuna, and about 1,100 households in Porec's city centre will have the opportunity to enjoy gigabit speeds, and the realisation of this investment is planned to be completed in the first half of 2021.

A Croatian Telecom investment of an additional two million kuna on top of the above will enable the inclusion of vectoring and supervectoring technology, which will enable 100 Mbit / s internet speeds for 2,100 households in the areas of Varvari, Buici and Musalez by the end of 2020, CT announced.

With a superior experience of home internet connection, distance learning and enjoying entertainment such as gaming, the implementation of this project will improve the use of advanced digital products and services such as e-Citizens, e-schools, e-health, e-parking and other smart city projects being rolled out. High speeds and the availability of the Internet all over will also improve the tourist offer of this Istrian city and contribute to the further development of entrepreneurship and economic activity.

Back in September, Croatian Telecom signed a grant agreement with the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds and the Central Agency for Financing and Contracting of EU Programmes and Projects for a broadband infrastructure development project in the City of Porec and the municipalities of Funtana, Kastelir-Labinci. Sveti Lovrec, Tar-Vabriga, Tinjan, Visnjan, Vizinada and Vrsar.

Within this EU project, CT and its project partner, the City of Porec, will build a new generation broadband network infrastructure on the project's spatial scope, so that broadband access will be provided to 11,189 potential users (apartments, business and public users) at the identified 7,979 addresses. Access speeds of at least 100 Mbit / s symmetrically connected to the optics (ultrafast access) will be provided for 90 percent of households and business and public users.

The project implementation period runs from the 31st of January 2021 to the 30th of September 2023, and the total value of the project stands at a massive 68,596,456.66 kuna, of which grants in the amount of 27,924,952.44 kuna have been awarded.

''Croatian Telecom is continuing to invest in optical infrastructure even during these challenging times, and I'm glad that fast and quality Internet access will enable the entire community of the City of Porec to increase its economic activity and the quality of life of its citizens. At the beginning of next year, we'll will start implementing an EU project that will provide a quality optical infrastructure with its project partner, the City of Porec, in the area of ​​Porec and all of its surrounding municipalities,'' said Boris Drilo, a member of CT's Management Board for Technology and Information Technology.

''As mayor, I welcome this valuable investment that will ensure the fastest and highest quality telecommunications network for citizens and visitors to Porec with open arms. In addition, we're working on a large broadband internet project for the entire Porec region, which will provide areas with fixed optics for faster internet. As a city, we're striving to constantly work on projects that will further improve quality of life here. Along with all other investments - such as the construction of schools, kindergartens, roads, drainage - today, quality and fast internet can really help us to have the best possible everyday life and offer for guests. I'm sure that through this investment, we'll make a big step in that direction as well,'' concluded Loris Persuric, the mayor of Porec.

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Friday, 21 February 2020

HZ Infrastructure and Swietelsky Embark on Project Worth 365.7 Million Kuna

As Suzana Varosanec/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 20th of February, 2020, HZ Infrastructure has signed a contract with Swietelsky for the reconstruction of the Zagreb West Railway Station - Savski Marof line, worth a massive 365.7 million kuna (VAT excluded), of which the majority (210 million kuna) is financed with a World Bank loan for reconstruction and development.

The implementation deadline is 27 months from the date of the conclusion of the contract, and according to World Bank Director for Croatia Elisabette Capannelli, this investment will help eliminate critical infrastructure issues, improve efficiency and safety, and achieve the financial sustainability of the Croatian railway sector.

It regards a section of the 17.8-kilometre two-lane railway line on the RH1 corridor, which is extremely important for international freight and suburban transport. It takes an average of about 160 trains per day. Once completed, trains will run at a speed of 120 km/h, railway safety and interoperability will be increased, the cost of maintaining the railway line will be reduced, and the ability to carry more passengers in daily migration will be improved.

According to the Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butkovic, this is another contract that marks a huge investment cycle that has been launched in the rail sector. The President of the Board of HZ Infrastructure, Ivan Krsic, also pointed out that it is a continuation of a series of activities on modernisation and construction of railway infrastructure in the Republic of Croatia.

''Recently, we've witnessed numerous contracts signed by HZ Infrastructure, the value of which is measured in billions of kuna. The projects we're working on throughout Croatia will make the railways better, more efficient and more competitive with other types of traffic. The reconstruction of the section from Savski Marof to Zagreb West Station is a project that, when completed, will strengthen the most frequently used railway route in Croatia.

The renovation of the existing infrastructure will increase the level of safety, allow for faster train speeds, greater railway load capacity, and make suburban transport better and more attractive to passengers. At the same time, it will open up the possibility of unburdening roads from vehicles, which will ultimately contribute to a positive environmental impact,'' Krsic said.

Swietelsky has been present on the construction market in Croatia for more than twenty years now, and, according to its representative Zvonko Dunkovic, has upgraded more than 500 kilometres of tracks of the railroads managed by HZ Infrastructure. The ones which stand out are Ogulin - Split, Mrzlo Polje - Ogulin, Vrbovec - Botovo, Osijek - Beli Manastir, Vrpolje - Slavonski Samac and Zagreb Borongaj - Dugo Selo.

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Friday, 14 February 2020

Investment in Croatia: Indian Entrepreneur Investing in Petrinja

An agreement on a very large and rather surprising investment in Croatia signed today in the continental Croatian town of Petrinja between the town and an Indian entrepreneur called Arvind Kapur.

As Novac writes on the 14th of February, 2020, the Indian entrepreneur, who is the owner of a pizzeria chain and the director of Capitel Group, an investment and technology company, has expressed his interest in investing around 50 million euros in growing hazelnut, walnut and chestnut plantations in Petrinja. He contacted the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture (HPK), and President Mladen Jakopovic connected him to Petrinja's Mayor.

The Indian entrepreneur has announced that it is possible that hazelnuts and other things grown in Petrinja will be bought by major European confectioners, for example, Ferrero Rocher, the manufacturer of Nutella, with whom he would make a deal. It is difficult to find reliable information about the Indian entrepreneur on the internet, except for his LinkedIn profile, but HPK President Jakopovic assures that he is a serious investor and that his business has been verified through the Indian Embassy.

In signing the agreement, the Kapur said that he hoped this investment in Croatia ''would come to fruition."

''We believe that we can offer good technologies and processes in agricultural production. We have a policy to involve local farms and farmers in our business so that they can work together to improve their agricultural production. The agricultural production we're planning to launch will be based on organic production, which will reduce the impact on climate change,'' Kapur said.

The agreement, more specifically the non-binding Memorandum of Understanding, was signed with the Indian by the Mayor of on the premises of the town's local government. 

With regard to the location, Kapur visited several possible locations in the Petrinja area, more specifically the areas of ​​Donja Bačuga, Gornja Bačuga, Jošavica and Šušnjar.

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Saturday, 25 January 2020

Slovenian Company Petrol Not Hiding Investment Interest in Croatia

The new head of the Slovenian company Petrol confirmed that they are indeed looking at possible acquisitions.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 25th of January, 2020, the Slovenian company Petrol remains interested in investing and expanding into the markets of Southeastern Europe, including the Croatian market, even after the appointment of the new president of the board of directors, Nada Drobna Popovic, according to Slovenian media.

She confirmed to Slovenian Radio that the company is interested in growing in Slovenia and across into other markets where it has been present so far, the most important of which is its presence in the Republic of Croatia.

According to Delo, a Slovenian publication, this statement from the Slovenian company Petrol comes as somewhat of a surprise since, at the initiative of the former supervisory board that Popovic chaired, Petrol director Tomaz Berlocnik had to resign three months ago as the new director felt that his plans for potential investment and acquisitions abroad were much too ambitious.

Popovic is expected to prepare a strategic plan for Petrol's development by 2025 this year, and as Delo states, they do not want to comment on the purchase of the Croatian company Crodux because of interest in its ninety fuel stations, which would boost the Slovenian company Petrol and its position in the sale of petroleum products here on the Croatian market.

The Croatian agency for the protection of market tenders (AZTN) approved the concentration of Petrol over part of Crodux Plina's (Crodux Gas) business last year, since Petrol's market share on the Croatian market for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) does not exceed twenty percent after the acquisition.

The aforementioned Croatian agency also previously allowed part of the acquisition of control of Petrol over a portion of Crodux Gas's electricity-related business.

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Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Croatian Startup ''Worig'' Aims to Help Dire Long Term Rent Situation

Instead of interventionism and a new web search engine, the duo behind this Croatian startup wants to solve the problem of housing shortages on fintech principles.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Bernard Ivezic writes on the 10th of September, 2019, Worig is the first Croatian startup for long-term rental apartments. While answers to this burning problem all over Croatia is most often sought in state and city interventionism or in the creation of more advanced web search engines, this Split duo, brothers Nino and Deni Ćosić, approached the problem in a different way and created an impressive fintech startup.

Nino Ćosić, CEO of Worig, says that the key to the problem on this market, as well as unusual and exorbitant conditions for renters, is a chronic lack of information about both renters and those who seek rental agreements.

"Worig wants to introduce a credit rating system for renters in Croatia and beyond, across the EU, which would give reliable tenants the opportunity to rent an apartment on more favourable terms, while reliable renters could get better tenants, thereby providing security and protection," explained Ćosić. This innovative Croatian-made system, which combines banking, lending and insurance, is not entirely new. It exists in various forms in Switzerland and Germany, but Ćosić points out the fact that it has not been digitised there.

"There are places where, because of the lack of such a service, especially in tourist destinations, renters think that it's always better to go for short-term rentals. However, this really isn't the case, and Worig would help them see this in terms of market principles. For people who decide instead to buy an apartment, it could help them discover how much of a cost-effective option that is,'' Ćosić says.

Although there are still similar startups that exist across the EU, a number of potential investors have shown considerable interest in this Croatian startup over the last six months. At the beginning of the year, the new Croatian startup entered the shortlist of the best at one of Europe's largest startup festivals, TNW in Amsterdam. Then, EIT Digital invested a very welcome 15,000 euros in it.

Worig then entered the largest Slovenian startup accelerator, ABC, which is the only regional partner of EIT Digital. Finally, in the last two weeks, Worig won the Croatian finals of RBA's Elevator Challenge - winning 5,000 euros, then the largest Croatian VC fund, Fil Rouge, gave them an initial investment of 50,000 euros.

Worig's market is quite large. According to Eurostat, 102.7 million EU citizens live in market-rented apartments, an additional 51.3 million live in free-of-charge apartments, while the remaining 359 million live in their own apartments.

The situation is different in Croatia. The percentage of tenants is half of that of the European Union and is around 10 percent (approximately 400,000 citizens). In addition, around 90 percent of tenants in Croatia, according to Eurostat, have either preferential or free leases. And while in some countries, such as Germany, the market is so regulated that interviewees from the development industry have no doubts about the figures there, the Croatian market is said to be extremely grey and so unregulated that they consider Eurostat's statistics for Croatia to be entirely incorrect.

Among other things, they claim that the number of people who rent apartments in Croatia is much higher, and Ćosić believes the same.

"My estimate is that in our country, 12 percent of citizens rent apartments, similar to the situation in Slovenia, but in our country, this ia a market that is completely unregulated and very grey," Ćosić stated.

Eurostat's data, furthermore, doesn't do well to indicate that the number of rental apartments varies by country and by year, and this also leads to distrust in such statistics. In the United States, the Pew Research Centre states that the number of apartments offered for rent from 1965 to 2016 has doubled to 43.3 percent, and jumped by about ten percentage points in the last ten years. Namely, Americans are renting apartments more than ever before. On the other hand, the supply of rental apartments has stabilised in the last decade, to 75 million units.

Ćosić says that similar trends are followed in the European Union, and especially here in Croatia.

"This tourist season in Croatia has shown that there will be no room for all apartment owners on the day-to-day rental market, and Airbnb has already seen a 30 percent increase in long-term rental apartments," Ćosić says. He added that he does not expect that, on September the 15th, when PSD2 regulations are put into service and their service starts, that their startup will become an instant hit in Croatia.

Initially, he sees opportunities in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. "In Switzerland, you have these credit ratings, but they're not digitised, nor are all of them applicable to rentals, rather just to buying an apartment," Ćosić said.

Make sure to follow our dedicated Made in Croatia and business pages for much more on Croatian startups, companies, technology and innovation.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Just How Interesting are Companies with Seats in Croatia to Investors?

As Novac/Viktor Vresnik writes on the 15th of July, 2019, Axel Kalinowski, director of the London Stock Exchange for Central and Southern Europe, has been working hard for years with representatives of Croatia's market as part of his task of building a bridge between the new Europe and London as the centre of global financial and capital flow.

Novac and Kalinowski talked at the Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb, where he was Deloitte's main guest at a capital market conference.

The Croatian market is very small, even if we look at it together with the Slovenian market. Does it make sense to have a local stock market in such a market?

''This is a question that is constantly being repeated, and can be put everywhere in Europe. Every European country today has its own stock market. Some have more of them, such as Germany, where there are seven, though, despite the size of the market, the capital market culture is in fact not significantly developed.

Our idea is to concentrate activity and regulation in one place. It's a job I've been dealing with for a while. European and even Croatian companies don't compete solely on local markets, they're also struggling for their place on the regional and global markets.

The lack of strategic capability for access to funds on a large capital market can be considered a handicap compared to the companies whose access to that is secured, which are therefore far more liquid and ready for investment exploits. Europe must do everything in its power to make it easier for its companies to access money sources.

These aren't just capital markets, there are also a variety of alternative funding methods that diversify the traditional ways of collecting money. Europe is too bank-oriented. Banks are, of course, important, but when they become the main source of capital, then that becomes dangerous.''

London is a huge market, one of the largest in the world, and the most important in Europe. Can it keep hold of that position after Brexit?

"It depends on what sort of Brexit we have in the end. Only then will we understand how close our relationship will be.

The London Stock Exchange has always been very closely connected with the continental part of Europe. We're a very European organisation, we are the owners of the Italian Stock Exchange, parts of the French market... I think Brexit will ultimately not prove crucial to our business. The London Stock Exchange is over 200 years old, older than the very first idea of ​​the European Union.

It has always been one of the world's largest markets. If London loses out on the EU's political map, it doesn't mean that it will come out of the market. Europeans will then use the London Stock Exchange as one of the overseas markets on which their companies are listed. Such a separation is probably a mistake, but I don't think that it will harm the position of London as a global capital and finance centre in the end.''

Could Brexit actually be good for London because it puts a strong market in the position of being on neutral ground?

"We already have the opportunity to see some companies which list their shares in London, even though they're already on one of the world's major stock exchanges. We mustn't forget that today, money plays a big role on the market, money from the Middle East, from Asia... for them, London has always been a neutral point, unburdened by European political turmoil. In the long run, Brexit could really boost London towards the position of an actual global market. It's difficult to foresee what the situation will be in the short term. Anything can happen in that respect.''

Does Trump's chaotic US economic policy help you there?

''There's no doubt that his sentences often have an impact on the US market, and everything that affects the US market then has a global impact. We've noticed that the interests of North American companies for the London Stock Exchange have become significantly higher over the last few years.

I don't think that's just because of politics, I think it's more about structural issues. The London market is more neutral, internationalisation is more mature when talking about medium and small businesses. The American market is huge, but it's oriented towards the largest corporations like Google, Facebook, Amazon... If you're small, you can quickly get sucked up there. The London market is not marked by these megatranslations, but it has the most stable flow of money in both large and small companies. The ecosystem in London is far more sophisticated and more lively than that of New York. We offer a better environment for middle business, and they have recognised that fact.''

What exactly is your job as the head of the Eastern European Division of the LSE?

''Today, around 2,200 companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange and they come from 110 different countries.

We're trying to strengthen our presence in areas where we don't think we've fully exploited the potential and where there are opportunities for companies to better understand what the capital market is. We think that this part of the world, Middle, Eastern and Southern Europe, isn't yet sufficiently serviced.

The market culture here lags behind other parts of Europe. We're trying to build a bridge that will link local companies to global investors. That's my role. To help companies understand the role, as well as the capability of capital markets, as well as numerous other, alternative business financing opportunities. Break the fear of ''big'' London, which people who sit far from the centre sometimes make out is a big, weird, dangerous place, full of predatory banks and institutions.''

The London market has strict rules, many companies fail, nor do they want to play under those rules...

''Yes, the rules are firm and have been being applied like that for a long time now, but I think the fear of such an approach on the continent is exaggerated. London is, above all, a place of great networking and exchange of ideas. It's a meeting point.''

Which markets have you recognised as the most developed in the part of Europe for which you're in charge?

''It's an exciting region, a region that, at growth rates, suggests a potential that is bigger than the one in old Europe, where the lowest growth rate is still considered good today.

That's why new Europe is more interesting to investors than old Europe is I think the people from this region suffer from the prejudice that the global investor community is't interested in it. That's wrong.

That is wrong here in Croatia, too, where many aren't interested in London investors as they're based in Croatia. It's true that companies in the vicinity of Croatia have recognised the opportunity use the London market very successfully. Romania has an excellent privatiaation program, and their privatisation agency is listed on the London Stock Exchange. There are a large number of large, formerly state-owned companies which are listed on the exchanges in Bucharest and in London. Slovenia has recently listed the new Ljubljana bank in London, which we consider to have been a success, as well as the selling off of Serbian bonds at historically low interest rates...''

Two large Croatian companies, Pliva and Zaba, left the London Stock Exchange because it did not pay for them to be there...

''This has happened a long time ago, today things are different, the stock market offers far more opportunities than it did before and we're more open to different types of companies.

There are several different segments of the market with different standards. AIM, a market oriented towards small and medium-sized companies, has very simple standards today, all of which aare aligned with the needs of the investor.

There is no minimum threshold for listing, and given the fact that we're talking about new companies here, we don't investigate their financial history. Even on the regular market today, we have a split into two segments. The standard segment follows the rules of the EU, which apply to most European markets, and even in Croatia, only the premium segment applies the specific rules of the United Kingdom which, I would say, are at a more strict level than the continental ones are.

However, this regulation is based on good business practice, which is significantly different from that of the US, where strict rules must absolutely be followed. Our philosophy is different. If you don't abide by any of the rules that have been set, you must be given the opportunity to explain why that is. If that's acceptable to investors and regulators, then it can be adopted.''

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