Sunday, 30 December 2018

From Clubbing to Camden to Chicken Farming in Croatia, Leaving London on a Hunch

From the booming nightlife of one of the world’s major cities, to helping my mother raise GMO free chickens on a family farm, it’s not the transition in life many young adults would willingly take.

In my introduction to Total Croatia News, I mentioned leaving the fast paced and opportunity “haven” of London instead to start afresh in a small village of the Croatian Zagrebačka region. By small village, I mean one street with a milk depot, several farms and a café bar. There is one bus that runs through at 6am connecting you to the nearest big town but returning is near impossible without a car. In short, I decided to move as I thought I had a sign from the universe to do so.

It sounds more than crazy to move based on a suspected “hunch” to a place famed for war and political corruption, and I was stubborn up until the last minute. There were many reasonable factors that influenced my decision to leave and many just as reasonable telling me to stay: Croatia offered a safer way of life but was lacking in professional opportunity. I was young and it could be a “life changing experience” but I also did not know the language or have a clear plan ahead.

Despite the constant back and forth, the ultimate choice to plunge headfirst into Croatian life was based on instinct and the fact that I thought (half jokingly, but probably more seriously than I will admit) the universe was guiding me to so do. It was this gut instinct combined with the phrase “heck, why not” that dictated most of my decision making process, and later adopting from my mother the philosophy of “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” that guided me to where I am today.

After my family moved, I stubbornly stayed behind with my Grandmother in a small hippie village of East Sussex. Christmas time was upon us and I was desperate to see my family over the festive period. Broke from travelling around the UK and London visiting friends at university, tired of vegan food in the village, I decided to browse online at my potential options in Croatia. To figure out what all the fuss was about.

I would take my laptop to Costa coffee most days to get my daily dose of free wifi and I scoured the internet for university and job opportunities in Zagreb. After a long argument with my mum over the phone about what I will do in the coming future (and subsequent existential crisis in the corner of the cafe with a mocha and brownie in hand), I booked my one way flight to Zagreb Airport and breathed a sigh of relief that I’ll be able to see my family over the Christmas holidays.

I had the intentions of returning and to begin my university degree, but that was until I heard back about one of my job applications in Zagreb. I had been invited for an interview!

Exchanging emails with the representative, eventually we settled on a date. The day after my plane would land, I would have an interview. I sat in the chair surrounded by the miasma of coffee and pondered the success. After months of applications to various jobs in England without success, here, I had an interview ready only a few days after application. Living in England on my own I had encountered many roadblocks and became overcome with loneliness and defeat, but any moves I made directed towards Croatia seemed to fair well with relative ease. I took it as a sign, and realised I had to give Croatia a serious chance when I arrived.

At the time before moving, I saw London as the pinnacle. The huge transport network would take me anywhere I needed to be, which, at my age just meant Pryzm or XOYO. I had my established group of friends and knew more or less how the country functioned - Never count on Southern Rail, Wetherspoons for cheap drinks, and Peckham is the bit you go around. In short, I understood and saw a convenience in London I didn’t want to walk away from.

I am still infatuated with this convenience. I can’t deny that London is a more modern, booming city and I often find myself missing the variety and ease of access it had to offer that Croatia so poorly lacks in. What Croatia does offer in place of convenience for me though, is a sense of belonging. With a strong Russian background, there were many times I simply did not understand or connect with the British culture. I felt the same kind of “click” in Zagreb, as I did when visiting Moscow or our hometown of Yaroslavl.

This “hunch” or feeling of rightness is what kept Croatia in the back of my mind as a legitimate option despite having no real foundations there, only the experience of a few family holidays. So when everything fell into place while preparing to visit, and subsequently when I arrived, I couldn’t help but feel like the universe was screaming at me to go.

On the plane ride over, it was my first time flying totally alone. Nervous and self conscious, I made sure I read every sign and checked my bags over and over. I was petrified. Then on the second plane, connecting me from Warsaw to Zagreb, I had the pleasure of meeting a young Croatian man from Rijeka. We chatted about life in London where he had been working and he prepared me for life in Croatia, giving me advice on the best coffee spots too. We continued our conversation all the way up until we had to depart at the exit of the airport.

I got a taste for what was to come. I felt at ease waiting for my ride, and quietly thanked the universe for showing me what life can bring. What is possible when you give yourself completely up to chance.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Agrokor: Will Russia's Sberbank Sell Share? It Depends...

You know that old British saying ''It ain't over til the fat lady sings''? Well, you could easily apply that to the ongoing Agrokor saga. Yes, things have calmed down enormously, with the company having made a miraculous turnaround from pre-bankruptcy to regaining its strength and operating normally, but the story isn't over yet.

Fabris Peruško, the current extraordinary commissioner leading Agrokor's administration, stated recently that Agrokor is finally back on its feet, and not only that, but that it still has all the potential to remain one of the strongest and largest companies in this part of Europe.

While Agrokor is expected to return to totally normal business next year, under a different name and with Russia's Sberbank as a majority owner, things still aren't all steady, and this is one of them. 

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 5th of December, 2018, Russia's Sberbank, one of Agrokor's largest shareholders, has already begun receiving bids for its huge share in the Agrokor Group.

Maxim Poletajev, advisor to the CEO of Sberbank, stated that Sberbank has already begun receiving bid for its share from various funds from the United States, Canada, and much closer to home in Europe, from the United Kingdom, according to a report from N1.

"Everything will depend on the price, we're currently considering offers," Poletajev stated very briefly. He also said that Russia's Sberbank was currently in talks with various investors who could potentially take part in refinancing Agrokor's debt.

Fabris Peruško should become the president of the board, Poletajev added.

As the Agrokor story continues to write its own pages and as its former owner, Ivica Todorić, pays a million euros in bail to leave prison and announce his entry into the Croatian political world, it's more and more difficult to predict exactly what will happen next, but in any case, follow our dedicated business and politics pages to stay up to date.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Despite Recovery, Todorić's Legacy and Agrokor's Debts Paint Bleak Picture

Ivica Todorić has returned to Croatia after more than a year in London, having landed on the territory of a country in which he is no longer the owner of the largest regional company. Exactly one year after handing himself in in the British capital, living under the watchful eye of the Metropolitan police and after an agonisingly long court battle, Agrokor's former untouchable main man returned to his homeland utterly powerless. A far cry from the not so distant reality Todorić once enjoyed, having once owned his own private island, Smokvica.

As Jutarnji/Vanja Nezirovic writes on the 9th of November, 2018, unlike back on the 10th of April 2017, when he signed Lex Agrokor, which activated the law to allow the Croatian Government to step in and rescue Agrokor, and unlike in the autumn of the same year when he temporarily "emigrated" to London, Agrokor's largest single owner is now Russia's Sberbank with a 39.2 percent stake. The settlement was a long and painfully complex process, however, in order to execute such a settlement, creditors, primarily financial lenders, had to write off a large part of their claims, around 60 percent.

Namely, the exact amount and percentage of the final write-off of the creditor's claims will be known at the time when Agrokor is sold. To recall, on April the 10th, 2017, Agrokor had 7.7 billion euro in debt, of which about 1.5 billion euro was debt within the group, which means that the debt to third parties actually amounted to about 6.2 billion euro.

If we know that the framework calculations of Agrokor's value are projected at about 2.3 billion euro, this would mean that the creditors, primarily financially (based on this nominal projection), were forced to give up an enormous total of about 4 billion euro. This was the price of the survival of Agrokor, which for now, following these write-offs, has a debt of 1.06 billion euro in so-called roll up loans.

Agrokor's medium and large suppliers have so far averaged 60 percent of their claims for goods and services, were paid 500 million euro in cach for old debts, with 46 percent of them having a return of between 80 and 100 percent. When the rest of the debt is paid out over four years, and when part of Agrokor's property is converted, their return will amount to about 80 percent. The bonds' return rate ranges between 40 percent and 80 percent, while the largest number of domestic and foreign financial institutions and other creditors will have an average return on demand of up to 20 percent.

At the time of signing Lex Agrokor, Todorić's Agrokor Group was blocked in the amount of 3 billion kuna, and it was naturally expected that this dire situation could lead to Croatia into a short-term recession. The possibility of Agrokor's bankcruptcy could have, according to CNB/HNB (Croatian National Bank) projections, lead to several smaller banks entering into a very dangerous situation indeed, yet while the banking system luckily remained stable, the losses bigger banks suffered were felt almost immediately.

Even with the implementation of a specially regulated bankruptcy proceeding through Lex Agrokor, several contract suppliers ended up in bankruptcy or having to undertake pre-bankruptcy proceedings, some stabilised the recapitalisation of third parties, some are still awaiting ownership and business restructuring, but a stronger economic and social shock was thankfully avoided.

Today, Agrokor's debt has been reduced to levels that should be viable, things are generally much more stable and the company is expected to return to normal function in 2019. The results of companies like Jamnica and Ledo, are once again very good, Konzum seems to be more than just recovering, but some other companies from within the large Agrokor umbrella, like Velpro and Konzum BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina) are still very vulnerable.

It's also clear that agricultural companies such as Vupik will need some more time to recover properly, but the overall picture of the company today is much more healthy than it was a year ago, thanks to the current extraordinary commissioner, Fabris Peruško.

That means that the Croatian economy, a much more than significant part of which is made up by Agrokor, has gone from being under grave threat, to being more stable, more safe, and more competitive.

Want to keep up with the latest news and detailed information on Ivica Todorić and his swapping of London for Remetinec prison? Make sure to follow everything here.


Click here for the original article by Vanja Nezirovic for Jutarnji List

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Equipment from Croatia Helps Upkeep of Russian Nuclear Plants

The Croatian company deals with liquid flow control technology and the designing and manufacturing of electro-hydraulic equipment.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Croatian Beer Market Still Feeling Effects Of World Cup High

Croats are turning more and more towards craft beer, and this summer many craft beer bars had TV's showing the World Cup, contributing to beer sales.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

More Tourists Choose Croatia After World Cup Success

Croatia's Vatreni did much more for the country than just bring a silver home.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Ante Gotovina Sends Message of Support to Zlatko Dalić and Team

The words of support are coming in from all sides.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Israeli Kid Who Got New Heart from Croatia Celebrates Success in Russia

Amid the heightened adrenaline and sporting euphoria lies a beautiful story through the eyes of an Israeli child, born in Russia, with a Croatian heart.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Agrokor's Future Boss, Sberbank's Maxim Poletaev Reveals Priorities

What does the future hold for a foreign owned Agrokor?

Page 4 of 6