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Activity in the region has benefited from lower oil prices and the gradual recovery in the euro area, but elevated corporate debt is hindering private investment, according to the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook report. The World Bank, for its part, has commented that a notable revival of investment underpinned economic growth, particularly private investment - both foreign and domestic. Exports are also helping to fuel this growth. Improving productivity, however, remains pivotal for boosting growth in the region.
The banking systems of the countries in Southeast Europe are largely seen as stable and economic recovery is expected to further support lending, in particular in countries which have been lagging behind so far. NPL ratios, which are currently high in some countries, are expected to decline. In Bulgaria, the forthcoming asset quality review of the banking system is likely to lead to the sale of bad loan portfolios and speed up the process of market consolidation.
The eletricity market of Southeast Europe is heating up after earlier in 2016 day-ahead power exchanges were launched in Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia, opening up new opportunities for energy producers, consumers and traders. As a step towards achieving market coupling, in April the power transmission system operators, regulators and energy ministers of six countries in the Western Balkans signed a memorandum of understanding on the integration of their day-ahead markets.
As Southeast Europe returns to steady economic growth, the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market in the region is picking up again and an increasing number of both local and foreign investors push ahead with expansion plans. In 2015 the value of M&A deals in Central and Southeast Europe (CSEE) rose 16.6% to 43.1 billion dollars ($38.4 billion), with IT and manufacturing as the most attractive sectors, according to recent date of global consultancy EY.
The EU’s slow and disjointed response to the massive flow of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and North Africa left Southeast Europe in an unprecedented emergency. In March Slovenia sealed its borders to migrants, triggering a domino effect further south along the so called Balkan migrant route with Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia following suit. The move led to tension on the Greek-Macedonian border where thousands remained trapped, and put Bulgaria under increased pressure from illegal migrants.