Construction of the Peljesac Bridge and the debt-for-equity settlement plan of the Agrokor food and retail group were voted 2018 Business Events of the Year in the annual business award ceremony on Monday organised by Vecernji List and Poslovni Dnevnik dailies.
The Peljesac Bridge as the event of the year was selected by the two dailies' readers, while the Agrokor settlement was picked by a jury of business experts.
Receiving the Peljesac Bridge award on Monday evening, CEO of the state-owned road management company Hrvatske Ceste, Josip Skoric, said that the bridge is much much more than an important piece of road infrastructure, and that building the bridge would be a major construction project bound to leave a lasting mark on the the entire generation working today in Croatia's construction sector.
Hrvatske Ceste and the Chinese consortium China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) had signed an agreement in April to build the bridge connecting the Peljesac peninsula in southern Croatia with Croatia's mainland, worth 2.08 billion kuna (€281 million) without VAT. The 2.4-kilometre-long and 55-metre-high bridge is expected to be completed in three years.
The bridge, which is intended to serve as a major road connection towards the southernmost part of the country, bypassing a small strip of coastal land belonging to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been designated by the government as a strategically important project. The total value of the project is €526 million including VAT, including €357 million of EU funding.
Another award winner, the state-appointed emergency administrator at Agrokor, Fabris Perusko, said that the company's settlement plan with its creditors is the single most important business process which was underway in Croatia in 2018, and added that great effort was invested to reach the deal, which was a key requirement to stave off bankruptcy and secure long-term sustainability of the company.
"It wasn't easy, the volume of what had to be done was enormous, the deadlines were very short, it was very tense and we had to make many compromises. But in the end, the support creditors expressed for the plan in the court hearing where the majority voted for it showed that the agreement we made was good," Perusko said.
The special law, dubbed Lex Agrokor, which allowed state-appointed administration to take over management at troubled companies deemed systemically important for the nation's economy, was passed in April 2017. The goal of the law was to reach a deal with the company's many creditors and suppliers so that it can survive and continue doing business profitably.
"This process proved that in terms of legal framework Croatia is capable of enabling companies to perform major financial restructurings," Perusko added.
The settlement, approved by most creditors in July, is a 7,300-page document, and the total claims of creditors allowed to vote for the deal were 33.7 billion kuna (€4.5 billion).
In a panel discussion which preceded the ceremony, Economy Minister, Darko Horvat, said that his ministry is currently preparing a list of potential investors for major projects in the country. He added that he would consider it a success if even as few as 20 percent of those listed eventually invested in Croatia over the next two years, as that would mean around 20,000 highly qualified and well paid jobs created.
(€1 = 7.41 kuna)