Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Hrvatska Elektroprivreda (HEP) Regains Investment Grade Status

ZAGREB, 6 Oct, 2021 - Standard&Poor’s (S&P) ratings agency has upgraded the credit rating of Croatia's state-owned energy producer Hrvatska Elektroprivreda (HEP) from BB+ to BBB-, so that now it is the same as the sovereign credit rating.

It is the first time since 2009 that HEP's credit rating has been restored to investment grade, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

S&P said in its report that the upgrade reflects HEP’s success regarding robust credit metrics in volatile hydrological conditions and commodity prices.

This is a result of HEP’s gradual evolution towards a market-oriented company with a more flexible cost structure. In comparison to what was previously captured in the rating, HEP shows it is able to more effectively and more robustly manage its exposure to commodity prices and lower implicit volatility. A very good track record proves the company is committed to maintaining financial strength, the report says.

S&P "has recognised our continued efforts to improve risk management and our overall financial position in the challenging circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic," the chairman of HEP's management board, Frane Barbarić, said.

He recalled that, thanks to the good business results in 2020, HEP paid a portion of its profit, notably HRK 840.6 million, into the state budget in September. The company has continued to operate successfully, generating a consolidated net profit of HRK 1.25 billion in the first half of 2021, which is 291 million more than in the first half of 2020.

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Friday, 6 August 2021

Plan for Revitalisation of Banovina Envisages Investments Worth HRK 15 Bn

ZAGREB, 6 Aug 2021 - In order to stop and reverse a negative natural increase, stop emigration from and encourage immigration to Sisak-Moslavina County, hit by a strong earthquake in late 2020, the Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry has launched a programme to invest HRK 15 billion in the quake-hit areas by 2029.

The programme is aimed at the social and economic revitalisation of government-assisted areas hit by the earthquake and envisages investments of HRK 15 billion in the period until 2029 or HRK 3.1 billion by the end of 2023, to be used for reconstruction and removal of damage caused by the earthquake, says the Večernji List daily.

An additional HRK 994.72 million will be invested as part of ongoing projects under the 2014-2020 Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme.

The programme of integrated physical, economic and social regeneration of small towns in the once war-affected region envisages investments of HRK 196 million while government decisions adopted after the earthquake in Banovina envisage investments amounting to HRK 500 million.

Under the programme, direct damage caused by earthquakes that hit Croatia in 2020 has been estimated at HRK 41.6 billion, of which Sisak-Moslavina County accounts for more than 90% or HRK 37.5 billion.

According to the latest estimates by the national statistical office, Sisak-Moslavina County has a population of 144,599, with an average population density of 32.37 per square kilometre, which makes it the third least populated county. According to its size, it is the third biggest county.

The county population is estimated to have shrunk by 8.95% in 2019 in relation to 2015.

The ministry's programme proposes priorities for the county's future development, as well as special goals such as increasing productivity and employment and demographic revitalisation.

As for the post-earthquake reconstruction, the programme sets, as special goals, the reconstruction of housing and commercial units and infrastructure as well as the construction of new ones.

The programme is currently under public consultation.

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Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Podravka Group to Invest HRK 5 Bn Over Next Five Years

ZAGREB, 9 June, 2021 - Over the next five years, the Podravka Group plans to invest about HRK 5 billion in the modernisation and digitalisation of production and logistics, marketing and acquisitions, the group said on Wednesday after the Supervisory Board green-lighted its business strategy until 2025.

"The implementation of the adopted strategy includes investment of about HRK 1.7 billion in the modernisation and digitalisation of production and logistics processes, about HRK 1.4 billion in marketing to achieve organic growth, and about HRK 2 billion for acquisitions," Podravka said in a statement.

The group's Food division will focus on product and packaging development and innovation to increase the availability of products and adjust them to the needs and habits of different consumer groups.

The business strategy also sets the criteria for the consideration and selection of acquisitions. With possible acquisitions in the Food division, Podravka aims to strengthen its presence and position on markets to pursue further accelerated growth.

The Pharmaceuticals division (Belupo) will focus on strengthening growth on international markets, notably in central and eastern Europe, expanding its portfolio with products  in additional anatomical, therapeutic and chemical groups, and boosting growth on the domestic market by introducing new products.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

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Wednesday, 12 May 2021

British American Tobacco (BAT) Announces HRK 200 Million Investment in Kanfanar Factory

ZAGREB, 12 May, 2021 - During a visit on Wednesday by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to the British American Tobacco (BAT) factory in Kanfanar, BAT revealed an investment of HRK 200 million in the production of a new category of heated tobacco products (HTP), underlining the importance of the new logistics centre in Rijeka.

"By expanding production in Kanfanar and opening a hub in Rijeka, we are continuing with BAT's significant investments in Croatia. With the introduction of production lines for new product categories, Croatia is additionally strengthening its position on the global map of production sites in the tobacco industry. We are continuing to expand our selection for consumers in Croatia," BAT Adria director Zvonko Kolobara said in a statement to the press.

He added that the increased capacity in Kanfanar would help BAT meet growing demands for HTP in Europe and northern Africa.

Kolobara thanked the government and Prime Minister Plenković for their efforts in creating an investment climate that stimulates further investments.

Plenković expressed satisfaction that BAT is continuing with its investments in Kanfanar and ensuring jobs. BAT's announcement of the investment comes after its announcement that it could leave Croatia due to unfavourable business conditions.

Plenković underlined that the new investment was an example of a good business climate and that BAT did not exert any pressure on the government to meet its demands to continue doing business in Croatia.

"The new, HRK 200 million investment in new products means a new impetus, enthusiasm and a new generator of business and with that, a contribution to Croatia's economy. The company employs 1,600 people and another 800 cooperate closely with BAT and make a living that way. The investment plans have been coordinated with their headquarters in London and all the employees at the factory will be satisfied while the entire economy of Istria County will benefit from BAT's operations," said Plenković.

He noted that the government was open to large global investors.

"It is excellent that BAT has established a hub in Rijeka for products from China that are distributed throughout Europe. That is additional confirmation of Rijeka's attractiveness as an exceptionally important transport and commercial port in the country. As far as BAT's staying is concerned, the government took account of the Croatian economy and creating conditions for all foreign companies doing business in Croatia and investors to have the same treatment. It is obvious that BAT has decided that the Kanfanar factory is important and that it wants to invest and that Croatia is important to it. There was never any pressure," said Plenković.

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Friday, 7 May 2021

Oleg Butković Presents Reforms And Investments For Transport Sector

ZAGREB, 7 May, 2021 - A part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) refers to developing a competitive, energy sustainable and efficient transport system, and it is valued at HRK 5.5 billion, Minister of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković said on Friday.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan totals HRK 47 billion and comprises five components, with the economy component valued at HRK 26.2 billion. That component includes a sub-component on developing a competitive, energy sustainable and efficient transport system, with investments worth HRK 5.5 billion, recalled Butković.

The plan, he said, foresees the continuation of significant investments in modernising transport infrastructure with the aim of developing a sustainable transport system and stimulating the development of smart solutions as well as  reforming rail, road and air transport as well as maritime and inland navigation.

We are prepared to make these reforms and that is an opportunity to continue the current strong investment cycle in transport infrastructure, which amounts to more than HRK 25 billion. With the resilience programme we are continuing that investment cycle which will amount to more than HRK 30 billion by 2030, particularly in railway projects as well as all the other projects, said Butković.

He announced that reforms would include amendment of the Roads Act by 2026 to create conditions for the interoperability of electronic road toll systems and improve road safety.

Answering reporters' questions, Butković said that the Hrvatske Autoceste road management company is well on its way to advertising a tender for a new contactless toll system at all motorways in the country.

He estimates that the tender could be advertised in September or October and that the new system will most likely mean the introduction of a digital vignette.

The plan also foresees the adoption of new laws on maritime zones and sea ports, on inland waterway transport and ports, and on regular and occasional sea transport to ensure uniform implementation of regulations on public port management.

The plan also includes the construction and reconstruction of railway infrastructure, the modernisation of sea ports, the procurement of three passenger ships and three catamarans, new ferry boats, trams, buses, a new photovoltaic power station, and the construction of a new Level 5 autonomous vehicle, said Butković.

According to Butković, HRK 2.8 billion of the HRK 5.5 billion planned to be invested in the transport system would be allocated to the private sector.

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Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Bridge Party Says Investing in Public Sector Won't Result in Economic Recovery

ZAGREB, 13 April, 2021 - The Bridge party on Tuesday criticised the government's National Recovery and Resilience Plan, noting that investing in the public sector will not finance economic recovery but rather cause new scandals and clientelism.

"Each kuna invested in the private sector will yield a return of four kuna and each kuna invested in the public sector means a maximum return of one kuna, if the money is used efficiently, which in Croatia is not the case," Bridge MP Zvonimir Troskot said at a news conference.

He said that he condemned the stigmatisation of people who think critically about the National Recovery and Resilience Plan as "people whose patriotism is dubious."

Ruling HDZ MP Grozdana Perić last week said that those who criticise the National Recovery and Resilience Plan "do not love Croatia."

"Grozdana Perić and the prime minister's special advisor on economy, Zvonimir Savić, are not the only economic strategists. There are the Institute of Economics, the Croatian Employers' Association, the Entrepreneurs' Association as well as independent economists who are saying that the National Plan is not good," said Troskot.

"If entrepreneurs are again disregarded, we won't have money for wages, pensions or COVID allowances," he said.

Bridge against banning "For homeland ready" salute

Bridge MP Nikola Grmoja commented on initiatives to ban the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready."

"As regards the insignia of the Croatian Defence Force (HOS), that is a legal unit of the Croatian Army. We are not for bans but rather for education and clear distancing from all totalitarian regimes, Fascism, Nazism and Communism alike," said Grmoja, noting that one should not link HOS with the 1941-45 Independent State of Croatia and the Ustasha.

"Banning symbols turns them into a fetish, and we don't want that," he said.

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Thursday, 8 April 2021

STARS Project Gives Guidelines For €5 Billion Made Available to Agriculture Sector

ZAGREB, 8 April, 2021 - Documents resulting from the Strategic Transformation in Agriculture and Rural Space (STARS) project will help determine how around five billion euros that have been made available for Croatia's agricultural sector will be spent, Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said on Thursday.

The Agriculture Ministry and the World Bank cooperated on the STARS project, and the agreement on project cooperation was signed in October 2018.

Analyses, studies and guidelines made during the project have thus been significantly used also in making a draft agricultural strategy for the period until 2030, which has been put to public consultation, and in making a national aquaculture development plan for the period 2021-2027. Both documents are aimed at enhancing the sectors' competitiveness and adapting them to current conditions.

Numerous domestic and foreign experts, sector stakeholders, employees of the Agriculture Ministry and other Croatian institutions and universities cooperated on the project, with Vučković noting that the start of work on the project had coincided with debates about the future of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, which will affect financing priorities and development of agriculture in all member states.

The project served to reexamine the situation and needs of the Croatian farm sector, as well as the measures that are being implemented, and its documents will be used in deciding how the roughly five billion euros intended for Croatian agriculture will be used, Vučković said.

Great chances for development of Croatian farm sector

Project coordinator Svetlana Edmeades of the World Bank said that the World Bank strongly believed that Croatia had great chances for the development of its farm sector.

Farm producers have central place in the project, which identifies as national strategic goals an increase in productivity and in the resilience of farm production to climate change, stronger competitiveness of the agricultural and food sector, revival of rural economy and improving living conditions in rural areas.

Edmeades underlined the importance of knowledge and innovations, noting that the development of Croatia's agriculture should be green, resilient and inclusive, which includes, among other things, production of organic food, sector resilience to shocks, as well as greater involvement of smaller producers in existing value chains.

She said the project achievements were a number of reports that should serve as guidelines for the ministry and farm producers towards a green, resilient and inclusive agriculture.

The World Bank official said that the analyses were expected to significantly contribute to the government's programme with regard to specific targets in the farm sector, in the making of a national agricultural and rural development strategy, participation of agriculture in the national recovery and resilience plan, and national strategic planning within CAP.

Value of agricultural production to be raised to HRK 30bn by 2030 

State secretaries Tugomir Majdak, Zdravko Tušek and Šime Mršić presented the draft agricultural strategy for the period until 2030 and the national plan for the development of aquaculture in the period 2021-2027.

The officials said that the projected effects of the strategy until 2030 were an increase in labour productivity of 60% and the consequent increase in the value of farm production to HRK 30 billion, for which funds in the amount of €7.5 billion were envisaged.

This should be achieved, among other things, by a 35% increase in the number of locally bred fattening pigs, a 20% increase in cattle breeding, expanding areas under permanent crops by 5,000 hectares and areas where crops are grown under glass by 500 hectares, a 20% increase in the share of the food industry in GDP and a 30% increase in the number of producers in short supply chains.

The national plan for the development of aquaculture in the period 2021-2027, which is being made, will put emphasis on stronger competitiveness and the creation of 15% more jobs in the rural and coastal economies in the aquaculture value chain, including an increase in total production volume of 30%, a 35% increase in added value in the processing of aquaculture products, and an increase in the average annual consumption of aquaculture products per capita by as much as 50%, the Agriculture Ministry said.

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Thursday, 8 April 2021

HRK 20 Million For Areas Populated By National Minorities

ZAGREB, 8 April, 2021 - The government on Thursday made decisions on the implementation of programmes for financing local infrastructure and rural development projects in areas populated by national minorities, for which HRK 20 million was earmarked in this year's budget.

The programmes pertain to areas that are markedly below the national development average in which national minorities make up at least 5% of the population according to the 2011 census.

Regional Development Minister Nataša Tramišak said the programmes would ensure the minimum standards of municipal and social infrastructure as well as financial instruments for family farms.

The government also adopted a regulation on the financing of national minorities' public needs to enhance their rights and protect as well as promote their cultural, national, linguistic and religious identity.

Waters Act amendments

Also today, the government sent to parliament amendments aligning the Waters Act with EU legislation.

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Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Porto Baroš to be New Marina for Super Yachts? Possible Expansion Outside Baroš Controversial

March 30, 2021 - The talk of the new marina for super yachts in Rijeka, Porto Baroš, brings both the hype of development and concerns for public interest.

Porto Baroš in Rijeka, a marina with the potential of 500 ties, is the subject of a public call to be assigned the concession for the next 30 years. The call offers the possibility of expanding to the travel port's entire area, reports the Rijeka-based Novi List daily newspaper. The call was open a month ago. The decision is expected to be known in the following ten days, after which the Ministry of Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure will decide to assign the concession that will be delivered to the Croatian government.

The trading company ACI-Gitone, owned by ACI (Adriatic Croatia International Club) and Lürssen (German yacht company), answered the public call with an investment offer of 363,7 million kunas.

As Novi List learns, ACI- Gitone plans to ask for the expansion of concession to the area owned by Rijeka Port Authority and currently functions as „the port for big yachts". If approved, the Rijeka marina would become the biggest in all of Croatia.

Oleg Butković, minister of the Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure, is very happy about the offer of ACI-Gitone.

„This investment makes me happy as we know that with such a marina capable of hosting megayachts comes a series of additional services. Rijeka and its surroundings must take such opportunity", said minister Butković.

Mayoral candidate critical of the offer

On the other hand, the left-green party Možemo! (We can!) mayoral candidate for Rijeka Nebojša Zelić is opposed to the investment, says Novi List.

Zelić adds he has no problem with the concession for Baroš, but he has issues with the idea of expanding concession to the larger area of Travel coast and Molo Longo.

nebojsa_zelic.jpg

Nebojša Zelić, screenshot / Možemo! Politička platforma

„This is against public interest given that the concession is given to a minimum of 30 years and there is a possibility that the citizens could be denied access to the sea. That's problematic as it opposes the law of concessions which forbids changing the subject of the public call and in this case that is the expansion of the concession", said Zelić.

He points out that Rijeka's waterfront and Molo Longo unlike Baroš are not nautical tourism and that experience showed how much these places are valuable to the locals. „If these places are shabby, that's the problem of bad management by Rijeka's Port Authority and citizens can't be the hostages of bad management by the Port and the City of Rijeka", said Zelić. He also accused the leading party Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) for controlling the most valuable city property through Port Authorities. Zelić's party colleague Sandra Benčić said that the current General Urban plan in Rijeka disables nautical tourism port on Rijeka's waterfront and Moro Longo. She says that can change and that HDZ is counting on it if they get the majority in the city council on the upcoming local elections in May.

„I believe that Rijeka citizens will know to say no to denying access to the sea. We will publicly step out in front of the government to disrupt the expansion of the concession and prevent HDZ's interest being above the public's interest, and we will fight in the parliament too", announced Benčić.

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Tuesday, 16 March 2021

$480,000 Invested in Upgrade of Rijeka's Offshore Emergency Response Centre

ZAGREB, 16 March, 2021 - The refurbished building housing Rijeka's Maritime Crisis Centre for Faster Response to Any Disaster off Croatia’s Coastline was officially opened on Tuesday.

The investment into the upgrade of this offshore emergency response centre in the biggest Croatian seaport totalled US$ 480,000, and the lion's share of the investment was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

During the ceremony, the state secretary of the Croatian Sea, Transport and Infrastructure ministry, Josip Bilaver, thanked the U.S. administration and military as well as the US Embassy in Zagreb for this donation in the amount of HRK 3.2 million.

The ministry has invested a million kuna, while the local county authorities provided 100,000 kuna for the project.

"The U.S.-Croatia partnership at sea is essential to the two countries’ NATO military cooperation and shared security. That is why the United States, through the U.S. Military’s European Command (EUCOM), provided assistance to the Croatian Ministry of Sea, Transportation and Infrastructure and the Rijeka Harbor Master’s office to advance training and emergency-response capabilities at sea," the embassy said on its website.

The U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Victoria Taylor, who today joined State Secretary Bilaver for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, expressed satisfaction with the completion of this project.

Over the last decade, the USA has set aside HRK 4.5 billion to support numerous civilian and military projects in Croatia, she said.

The Rijeka centre is described as a a renewed facility that will become "the central point for planning, training, and management in response to emergencies at sea, from supporting persons and vessels in need to addressing maritime accidents and oil pollution."

"The upgraded center will therefore play a critical role in maintaining the safety and environmental stewardship of Croatian coastal waters, ensuring quick action in response to a potential environmental disaster. Protection of the environment is a key priority for both Croatia and the United States, and joint capacity to mitigate against incidents and accidents at sea can make all the difference in a crisis."

The embassy recalls that "Rijeka is already a hub for U.S.-Croatia cooperation, with the port city benefiting economically from nearly 900 million kuna in contracted services by the U.S. Navy for ship maintenance and support since 2011."

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