SKOPJE (Macedonia), October 8 (SeeNews) – France-based EuroViva Financial Group plans to develop its life-insurance business in Macedonia and may launch investments projects there in two or three years' time if the Balkan country's market proves reliable enough, the group's president Dejan Stankovic told SeeNews in an interview.
EuroViva Group is active in finance, insurance, real estate, industry, agriculture, trade and environment. Its Macedonian unit EuroViva Financial, a company researching the local insurance market, was opened last October.
Luxembourg-registered EuroViva is also present in Serbia, Montenegro, Germany, Austria, Russia and Ukraine. Its partners include Dresdner Bank, Luxembourg-based April Group, and German-based Allianz Group, which manages EuroViva’s financial assets. EuroViva does not invest in stocks and uses the funds raised from its insurance business to finance its own projects.
Here is what Dejan Stankovic told SeeNews:
Q: Why have you decided to enter the Macedonian insurance market and the life-insurance sector in particular?
A: The first reason is that transition to market economy in Macedonia is at its end, so sooner or later the country should become a prospective market. The second reason is that so far, there is neither developed awareness, nor a structure that will operate seriously in the life-insurance segment in terms of savings and generating an additional and cumulative capital for the needs of families, and generally for the population. Also, we think we have quite a sufficient commercial and logistics base to start our own development here.
Q: Currently you are offering life insurance through the head office in France? Do you plan opening an insurance unit in Macedonia soon?
A: Sure. We have examined the legal framework for operations here, so we are well acquainted with the legal conditions for a market entry. We are representing a serious Western insurance company, so we do not want to make experiments on this market. Certainly, the medium-term goal of the company is to open an insurance unit, besides its current representative office. But, firstly, a clear prospective of this market must be seen, and a solid business to be launched, indicating that a deeper presence through a local insurance unit would be indispensable.
Q: You opened a company for insurance market research here. How do you estimate the Macedonian market based on your experience so far? Is there potential for growth?
A: There is a real potential, first of all due to the existence of a legal framework, since Macedonia has adopted legislation compliant to a great extent with European Union standards. That means that the legal framework here is wider than the existing knowledge and comprehension of the financial market, thus we must educate people how to apply the existing legal frames. The laws allow for the development of a much more serious financial market [...] so there is a very wide space for expansion.
Q: Do you plan expansion elsewhere in Southeastern Europe? Where, when and in what businesses?
A: We are already present in Serbia and Montenegro, first of all as investors in real estate. We do not plan a long-term and wide presence in all Balkan countries. For now, Bulgaria is a completely unknown market, but it is very interesting. It will be particularly interesting in 2-3 years, following its complete assimilation into the European financial market.
Q: How much have you invested in projects in Serbia and Montenegro so far?
A: Seven million euro ($10.3 million) of our own capital was invested in Serbia, plus over 20 million euro through banks […] in real estate, hotels. An identical sum was invested in Montenegro as well, and the projects are similar. We are working on Radisson projects and we also invest in agriculture in Serbia.
Now, we are building the first Moët et Chandon winery [one of the world's largest champagne producers] on the Balkans with a French technology. It will have 42 hectares of vineyards located near Vrsac, in Serbia. This investment will cost over 10 million euro.
Q: Can we expect similar projects in Macedonia in terms of investments?
A: Gladly. The weather conditions for development of intensive agriculture production and all other conditions, including the quality of the workforce, with additional educational methods that would be applied, are going to open good prospects for investments. But, first of all, we want to see how Macedonia will show itself as a market that is acquainted with the contemporary finance and insurance flows and how warmly it will welcome us, in terms of confidence. Then, we will know how to respond accordingly with investments.
Q: Can we specify a timeframe for possible investments in Macedonia?
A: In the next 2-3 years we will start investments here, I hope.
Q: Did the global economic crisis affect your company?
A: The financial crisis was predictable and artificially created, so it did not surprise us. In anticipation of such a financial crisis, we have never come out on bourses, given that primarily this is a crisis of stock markets and banks. We did not experience it in terms of drop of our assets solely because we have been using our own capacities to the maximum. Yet, the crisis has had its consequences on the international financial market, which is going to see changes globally and these changes would also be felt here very soon.