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Southeast Europe: Weekly rundown April 15 - 19

Southeast Europe: Weekly rundown April 15 - 19 Image by Twitter, @skyspecs

SOFIA (Bulgaria), April 19 (SeeNews) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) aims to invest again around 1.1 billion euro in the Western Balkans this year; financial and insurance group Eurohold Bulgaria was granted exclusivity in talks with Czech energy group CEZ over the sale of the group's assets in Bulgaria, while Japan's Terra Drone acquired a stake in Slovenian aerospace solutions provider C-Astral Aerospace  - following are these, and more of our top stories this week:



Financial and insurance group Eurohold Bulgaria [BUL:4EH] said on Wednesday that it has been granted exclusivity in talks with Czech energy group CEZ over the sale of the group's assets in Bulgaria.

Eurohold Bulgaria will participate in the procedure for acquiring the assets on its own, and will use own funds, with additional support to be provided by leading Western European banks, the Bulgarian holding company said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, CEZ press officer Alice Horakova told SeeNews in an emailed statement that the company has started exclusive talks with Eurohold over the sale of its Bulgarian assets.

CEZ was considering offers from Eurohold Bulgaria and India Power over the sale of its assets in Bulgaria.

Earlier this week, CEZ told SeeNews that the company has terminated a contract to sell its assets in Bulgaria to Sofia-based Inercom due to "unlawful obstructions" by Bulgaria regarding the closing of the deal.

"The reason for the termination of the contract by CEZ, a. s., is frustration of the fulfilment of the conditions precedent, and thus closing of the contract, by unlawful obstructions of the Bulgarian State," CEZ press officer Alice Horakova said.

CEZ Group launched the procedure for selling its assets in Bulgaria in 2017 and signed an agreement with Inercom in February 2018. According to data from CEZ Group's annual financial statement for 2017, the deal with Inercom valued the group's Bulgarian assets at some 326 million euro.

The deal was then banned by Bulgaria's Commission for Protection of Competition, which expressed worries about the combination of Inercom's renewable energy assets and CEZ's control of the power distribution grid in northwestern Bulgaria. The regulator's decision was appealed before court by both CEZ and Inercom. 

Subsequently, Inercom divested its renewable energy portfolio and asked the competition regulator to look into the deal for a second time. However, the competition authority said that it will not look into the updated notice until the Supreme Administrative Court rules on the complaints filed by the two companies against the Commission for Protection of Competition's initial decision.

In December 2018, CEZ announced that it plans to start parallel negotiations with India Power over the sale of its Bulgarian assets, but the deal with Inercom remains valid.

CEZ's assets in Bulgaria comprise power utility CEZ Distribution Bulgaria [BUL:3CZ], power supplier CEZ Electro Bulgaria [BUL:1CZ], licensed electricity trader CEZ Trade Bulgaria, IT services company CEZ ICT Bulgaria, solar park Free Energy Project Oreshetz, biomass-fired power plant Bara Group and CEZ Bulgaria.



The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) aims to invest again around 1.1 billion euro ($1.24 billion) in the Western Balkans this year, with a focus on the private sector, connectivity and transition to green economy, EBRD president Suma Chakrabarti said.

"We are a long-standing partner of the region, committed to support the building of an economy that allows its people, especially the young, to deploy their talents and reap the benefits of their efforts in their own country. We need strong growth to finance the needs of the countries, but it also needs to be sustainable and inclusive growth to serve their people," Chakrabarti told SeeNews in an emailed interview earlier this week ahead of an official visit to Kosovo.

In Kosovo, the EBRD is aiming at a significant increase of its investment - up to 100 million euro a year over the coming period, from 52 million euro in 2018.

"In total, we have invested 363 million euro in 63 projects in Kosovo to date. The challenges we want to tackle are similar to those of the wider region: foster the private sector’s potential, strengthen integration and address the energy challenge," Chakrabarti said.

In 2018, the international lender invested more than 1.1 billion euro in the Western Balkans through 67 projects.

"Our priorities are the development of the private sector as the engine of growth, jobs and innovation; connectivity as a concept supporting the integration of the region not only in a physical sense (infrastructure), but also through helping trade and regional investments and to create the conditions for EU approximation; and transition to a green economy by addressing urgent environmental challenges and also increasing the countries’ reliance on renewable sources of energy," Chakrabarti explained.



German food retailer REWE said it plans to invest over 2.32 billion lei ($550 million/487 million euro) in its PENNY Market network in Romania over the next seven years.

REWE plans to open 20-25 stores annually, aiming to expand its network to 400 PENNY Market stores by the end of 2025, it said in a press release on Tuesday.

In the coming years, REWE plans to open its fourth logistics centre in Oltenia region, as well as to modernise and streamline the network of existing stores.

"2018 was very good for us. Moreover, we are proud our local performances have positioned our team as having the best results in terms of sales growth within the group. We will continue the development process, as a clear sign that we have confidence in Romania, a market where there is great potential for a long-term investment plan," REWE Romania general manager Daniel Gross said.

PENNY Market reported a turnover of 3.45 billion lei in fiscal year 2018, up 15% year-on-year. In 2018, REWE invested over 346 million lei in modernizing and expanding the PENNY network. The contribution of PENNY Market stores to Romania's state budget in 2018 exceeded 167 million lei.

During 2018, REWE inaugurated 15 new PENNY Market stores and completed the remodelling of 170 Future Store stores across the country. The remodelling process started in March 2015 and ended in November 2018 following investment of 120 million lei.

PENNY Market entered the Romanian market in 2005. Currently, over 70% of the products on its store shelves are purchased from local producers and suppliers. Its entire network is served by three logistics centers located in Stefanestii de Jos, Turda and Bacau. PENNY Market in has 237 stores in Romania and employs 4,500.



Japan-headquartered Terra Drone Corporation said it has acquired a stake in Slovenia-based aerospace solutions provider C-Astral Aerospace for an undisclosed sum.

“As a global company looking to expand our portfolio, we have had discussions with many drone developers. But we were especially impressed with the advanced technology, mission flexibility, and the full spectrum of solutions offered by C-Astral,” the CEO of Terra Drone, Toru Tokushige, said in a statement last week.

C-Astral Aerospace specializes in the manufacturing and services of fixed-wing small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), with a specific focus on high-productivity and high-endurance surveying, security, and remote sensing. The company's UAS will be coveted by various markets all over the world and Terra Drone’s global network will help them rapidly increase their sales volume, Tokushige noted.

C-Astral is looking forward to collaborating within the Terra Group to strengthen its global sales and support network, Nejc Trost, co-founder of the Slovenian-based company, said.

“We are also excited about the synergistic effects of systems utilization from within the group to further our R&D and adapt to the most demanding market opportunities,” Trost noted.

Established in 2016, Terra Drone is an industrial drone solutions provider which has more than 20 group companies already in its network.