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INTERVIEW - Bulgaria's Sopharma Trading to enter Serbia's hospital market

Author Radomir Ralev
INTERVIEW - Bulgaria's Sopharma Trading to enter Serbia's hospital market Milos Ristic, CEO of Sopharma Trading Serbia

BELGRADE (Serbia), July 5 (SeeNews) - Bulgarian drug distributor and retailer Sopharma Trading [BUL:SO5] plans to enter the Serbian hospital market in the short term as it targets a leadership position in the country, the head of the company's Serbian unit told SeeNews.

"In the short-term, we plan to enter the hospital market – first with medicines and later on with other product groups," Milos Ristic, CEO of Sopharma Trading Serbia, told SeeNews in an e-mailed interview this week. 

Currently, the main operations of Sopharma Trading in Serbia are in the pharmacy segment, Ristic explained.

"Of course, we are also looking at the retail and medical equipment segments, but it is too early to share any details. In this way, step by step at a dynamic pace, we will build the same successful diversified model we have in our homeland market."

Sopharma Trading is leader in the pharmaceuticals sector in Bulgaria, where it offers a variety of nearly 10,000 pharmaceutical products, logistics solutions, distribution services related to the supply of all products of the company's portfolio to hospitals and turnkey solutions for hospital construction projects as well as marketing and advertisement services, according to information published on the corporate website.

In August 2017, Sopharma Trading said it completed the acquisition of a 70% stake in Serbian drug wholesaler Lekovit active in the supply to pharmacies and other healthcare institutions for an undisclosed sum. Lekovit says it has around 100 employees and works with some 900 pharmacies across Serbia.

"Now when the integration phase is over, we are ready for a real merging of the businesses to use every synergy and to grow together a strong, nationwide player in Serbia. We will work even harder, combining the innovative, large-scale operations of the Bulgarian investor with the strong local knowledge and reputation of Lekovit," Ristic said.

The combined financial result of Sopharma Trading Serbia and Lekovit maintains its upward trend. In the last year, the two companies focused on using every synergy, Ristic noted.

"We are optimistic that the link between our financial goals and strategic priorities will benefit the pharmaceutical sector in Serbia and the whole region," he added.

Sopharma Trading said last month it planned to expand its operations on the Serbian market and become a strategic investor in SEE by implementing its successful diversified business model across the region, bringing the world's best practices, technology and innovations. The first step would be to become a leader in Serbia by expanding significantly the company's operations and logistics potential, Dimitar Dimitrov, CEO of Sopharma Trading, said back in June.

Sopharma Trading plans to have countrywide operations in Serbia as a basis for growing in the region of Eastern Europe through mergers and acquisitions, Ristic noted.

"We can promise that we will grow and expand fast to become a leader in Serbia and the region."

In November, Dimitar Dimitrov said the company expected sales revenue from Serbian operations to double in the next three years, as the degree of maturity of the Serbian market is a prerequisite for achieving high growth rates.

However, being a leader does not only mean to be first by financial results; leadership means having an innovative approach and that is why Sopharma Trading always strives to be the first to offer the latest world-leading innovations and best practices, Ristic noted.

"As innovators, we create new and modern business models, we bring new technologies and best world standards to the local markets."

Sopharma Trading sees not only Serbia, but the whole region of Eastern Europe and the Balkans as a vast opportunity for growth, as consolidation and integration in the sector will accelerate in the coming years, Ristic opined. 

Companies in the market are expected to begin joining forces in larger formations to cope better with the challenges of intensifying competition, to have more capital for investment, and to implement innovations faster. They will also step out of their prime role and integrate vertically and horizontally in the delivery chain, Ristic said.

"In this way the classic roles of producers, wholesalers and retailers change and new business models emerge. That is what we are expecting to see more and more in the next years not only in Serbia, but regionally and globally."

Sopharma Trading started its regional expansion in 2015 by opening a subsidiary in Serbian capital Belgrade focused on exclusive brands in the health and beauty segment, and establishing its own retail outlets in the pharmacy market in the country under the brand SOpharmacy.