Thursday, 2 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Is Chinese Rescue of Croatia's Burdened Shipyards Inevitable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Monday, 29 April 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 26 April 2019

Darko Horvat Discusses Prospect of Chinese Investment in Uljanik

Next week, a delegation of eighteen people from the largest Chinese shipyard, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, are set to visit Croatia's ailing Uljanik.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 26th of April, 2019, this is the second day is the National Economy and Entrepreneurship Consulting conference, organised by the Ministry of Economy and Entrepreneurship in Vodice. Economy Minister Darko Horvat told N1 televizija that the Republic of Croatia ''wants to become a country of investment and development, even if it isn't there yet".

"What I do dare to say, and with full certainty, is that Croatia has an innovative network, we have to make every effort to create positive trends, but we can't expect a big boom in just one or two intensive years, but the trends are changing. What makes me happy is that our own accumulation which has been earned by entrepreneurs is slowly returning back into circulation, that this money is no longer sitting in banks, in accounts. This gives us the encouragement that we'll gain that momentum this year, too,'' Darko Horvat stated.

How much have the problems with Uljanik slowed the economy down?

"They stopped any acceleration. Given the fact that so far, we've spent nearly three and a half billion kuna on guarantees,'' Horvat said.

The Dredging and Maritime Management company, owned by the Jan De Nul Group, requires Uljanik to refund all advance payments plus interest on a dredger which is being built in the Pula shipyard, whereby a refund of part of the advance has been secured by state guarantees. Such an outcome could cost the Croatian state almost one billion kuna.

"The contracted period is seven days, but I'm not sure that will happen in that time because Uljanik has no liquid funds and we'll have to continue talks and negotiations with Jan De Nul. And Mr. De Nul is aware that these talks end up going nowhere if he decides on the forcible charging of advances, he's aware that the shipyard in Pula isn't ready to complete that vessel. 

If the Chinese do decide to invest in Uljanik, then there are two variants, Horvat said: "to enter as a strategic partner, or to buy one shipyard, and the other, and become the 100 percent owners."

The court decision in Pazin has, for the third time, postponed the bankruptcy hearing for Uljanik. 

"Regardless of the court's decision, we'll continue talking with the Chinese," Horvat said.

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

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Why Do The Chinese Really Want To Invest So Heavily In Croatia?

From the construction of Pelješac bridge to planning to build a car factory in southern Dalmatia's Neretva valley, to displaying interest in potentially rescuing the enfeebled Croatian shipyards Uljanik and 3 Maj, the Chinese are no strangers to showcasing their investment interest in Croatia.

Croatia has earned itself a less than positive reputation among foreign investors, alright, let's not be so politially correct and say that Croatia is a burning hot mess in the eyes of foreign investors. ABC has come to mean ''Anything but Croatia'' in foreign investment circles, and many are simply bypassing the country entirely. That's not to talk about local, Croatian investors who have been dragged through the proverbial mud twice or even thrice the amount. Given the somewhat depressing statistics, just why are the Chinese suddenly so deeply interested in investing such huge sums of money in Croatia?

While many have welcomed the money-laden offers of the Chinese, others have remained cautiously optimistic, and some have made no qualms about being vocal in their dismay at the thought of the Chinese coming and ''taking over'' by investing heavily in Croatia's many pressing strategic projects. The motives that push the Chinese towards closer and closer ties with Croatia tend to end up as mere hearsay and solacious gossip in the comment sections of various portals, but what do the experts believe?

As Novac/Marina Karlovic Sabolic writes on the 12th of April, 2019, the Chinese are truly incredible people. They come to Croatia every ten years, and the Croats immediately forget about all of the Chinese "bofl" goods they've spent their lives purchasing and throwing away. They suddenly become blissfully unaware of the dreaded "Made in China" mark that everyone gets so sick to the back teeth of seeing plastered all over basically anything. Instead, their innermost desires display blurry images of an ailing Uljanik, of Tito's rotting memorial complex in Kumrovec, of Rijeka's port, and even football stadiums, Slobodna Dalmacija writes.

Does anybody bother to ask in this country what the Chinese will ask for in return, however? Entering into the dubious and somewhat unpredictable world of Croatian shipbuilding, constructing a much needed railway line and maybe rescuing a port in Rijeka all before dinner time will come with a price tag, and likely a hefty one. The situation when that bill inevitably arrives is one that tends to be what fills the militant online naysayers with fuel, and dread.

''Don't be afraid, China will not demand that the Communist Party be established in Croatia or that it rules the country,'' prof. Dr. Vlatko Cvrtila, one of the most prominent Croatian geopolitical experts, stated. He also added that in its long-term strategic plans, China really doesn't have any sort of idea of ​​introducing a single-party system in the countries in which it invests its money. Their interest, claims Cvrtila, is of quite another nature.

''The Chinese don't invest because they have a lot of money and they want to go around giving it out. There's no philanthropy in international relations. All they invest in is related to their global strategy of creating influence and linking the Eurasian world in a continental way. By investing in infrastructure, ports, roads and railways, they enable their goods to reach their customers more easily,'' says Cvrtila.

Such an approach, he points out, is legitimate for a country that has boasts such great economic potential at this time like China does. Their mega-project, the Silk Road, which would increase the possibility of land transport, aims to reduce overall dependence on maritime traffic restrictions.

Cvrtila notes the US administration's estimates and warnings that China will one day turn its massive economic influence into strategic power as well. This is something that United States, which is already competing with Russia, doesn't think well of. However, China is now quietly placing all of its cards on the economic side of the story.

''In order to maintain its economic growth, China must have a market. In infrastructure projects, they actually make the market more widespread. China can't stop, while it's riding the bike it needs to rotate the pedals. The Chinese are present everywhere where they can create prerequisites for the distribution of goods. In Greece, they're in the ports, in Montenegro, they're dealing with the construction of a motorway, in Croatia, they're building Pelješac bridge. This is a win win situation for everyone, because in the long run, any investment in infrastructure can improve a country's economic performance,'' says Cvrtila.

China has, therefore, created the 1 + 16 formet in Southeastern Europe where its usually large-scale investments help countries that otherwise don't have a lot of foreign investment.

''Europe has survived a difficult financial crisis and there is no "free finance" which would enter JI Europe. China's investment is actually beneficial for Europe, because along with China, the European Union has developed non-competitive but increasingly strategic economic relations, realising in time that they [the Chinese] can contribute to its economic growth,'' emphasises Cvrtila.

Croatia, according to him, is fortunate because it is strategically quite well positioned: it is closer to the heart of Europe than it is to Northern Europe. And, de facto, it is located at the intersection of the roads between the East and the West.

Unfortunately, Croatia hasn't used its geostrategic advantage yet. LNG terminal stands, as do the new train lines. It's also important to revitalise the Port of Rijeka so that Croatia can profit in the fast transport of goods to European consumers. We don't have our own investments, Europe has no capacity anymore, which is why the Croatian Government is seriously considering deals from China,'' concludes Cvrtila.

Therefore, there's no need for Croatia to be afraid of the Chinese, but rather actually use them for its own interests.

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

 

Click here for the original article by Marina Karlovic Sabolic for Novac/Jutarnji

Thursday, 11 April 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 29 March 2019

Silence Reigns as Bankruptcy Knocks on Uljanik's Frail Door

At the start of the enfeebled Uljanik's bigger problems, the Croatian Government's view was either restructuring or bankruptcy, and now there's no time to devise any sort of new solution.

As Marija Brnic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 28th of March, 2019, the government rejected the offer of strategic partner Brodosplit for Uljanik's restructuring, and thus, although the prime minister tried to avoid actually saying it, a process that would have a domino effect on all the companies operating within the Pula-based group system was launched.

The fact that there is no longer a strategic partner for Uljanik, which was the main argument for the postponement of the opening of bankruptcy proceedings in the previous proceedings on the 3 Maj shipyard and Uljanik's other companies, is changing the situation and it is now clear that no matter how much room the government initially left for some possible new solutions, the judge in Pazin doesn't have much of a choice today and will determine that the conditions for declaring bankruptcy for the Uljanik shipyard are now fulfilled. Such a decision automatically withdraws what the Rijeka court stated and opens bankruptcy proceedings for the 3 Maj shipyard.

All the speculations that there could be another possibility for Uljanik, for which Prime Minister Andrej Plenković left space in his statement, are empty stories, not only because of the fact that right at the very beginning of Uljanik's growing woes, the government's position was that the only possible scenarios for Uljanik's rescue were restructuring or bankruptcy, but also because of the fact that now, there is definitely no more time available to come up with a new solution for the burdened shipyard. When it comes to the question of the possibility of the continuation of shipbuilding in Pula and Rijeka as a whole, the key question remains the same - how many ships could buyers actually be found for, and then arrive other questions regarding financing through bankruptcy.

Two ships that are now in their final stages of construction in Pula were de facto detained over the past few days by the company's emotionally exhausted employees, and Uljanik's workers aren't finishing the job, because "other" workers, not from that shipyard, are working on Scenic's polar cruiser, while Jan de Nul is awaiting the government's decision to pay the requested difference of 22 million euros and to take over and finish it in Trieste, Italy.

From Pula, the request was for the completion of construction to be carried out in Uljanik, but the government didn't even discuss that yesterday, so it remains unknown as to whether the Ministry of Finance has worked to meet the necessary conditions, and if so, when it intends to pay any price differences and deal with the issue of the contracted vessels.

Although it's quite impossible to describe the situation surrounding Uljanik and Croatian shipbuilding as a whole as anything remotely positive, its rather lucky, analysts agree, that all of this happened and seems to have finally reached its peak in a year in which a surplus was recorded, but that doesn't minimise the issues Uljanik faces, nor does it even begin to confront the shipyard's overworked and well and truly underpaid employees.

The interesting thing which always happens in Croatia is the intertwining of business and politics. Just like with the messy Agrokor situation that has dominated the Croatian media for the past couple of years, there is always a political element, and if there isn't really one, someone will make you believe there is. The Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) has accused the Croatian Government of purposely trying to cause issues by using the Uljanik saga to its benefit, even claiming that the ''government's lack of action and indecisiveness'' is an attempt to destabilise Istria.

Make sure to stay up to date by following our dedicated business and politics pages for much more.

 

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

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