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Southeast Europe: Weekly rundown April 29 - May 3

Southeast Europe: Weekly rundown April 29 - May 3

SOFIA (Bulgaria), May 3 (SeeNews) - The sale of a bank, two deals for a gold and a gold/copper mine and a robotic process automation startup raising $568 million marked the past week in Southeast Europe this week. Following are the details:


French banking group Societe Generale said on Friday that is has signed an agreement for the sale of Slovenia's SKB Banka and its subsidiaries SKB Leasing and SKB Leasing Select to Hungary's OTP Bank.

"The sale of SKB Banka is expected to have a positive impact on the Group’s CET1 ratio of around 7 basis points and to reduce the Group’s risk weighted assets by around 2.3 billion euro," Societe Generale said in a statement.

The deal will also have a negative impact of 67 million euro ($74.8 million) on Societe Generale's first-half 2019 results, due to goodwill impairment.

Slovenia will be part of the cooperation agreement signed between the two banking groups, which encompasses the provision of mutual services in various fields.

"I welcome the strategic agreement reached with OTP which will allow us to continue to serve our clients in Slovenia and in many Balkan countries in various fields including investment banking, capital markets, corporate banking, cash and liquidity management," Philippe Heim, deputy chief executive officer of Societe Generale Group, said in the statement.

The completion of the transaction is subject to obtaining approval from Slovenia's central bank, the European Central Bank and the respective antitrust authorities.

Last month, Slovenian daily Dnevnik reported that OTP placed the best bid for Slovenia's third-largest lender Abanka, offering to pay about 300 million euro. Subsequently, OTP Bank dismissed the report, saying it has not yet placed a final offer for the acquisition of a 100% shareholding interest in the Slovenian state-owned banking group.

Earlier this year, OTP Bank wrapped up the acquisition of Societe Generale's units in Albania and Bulgaria. In February, OTP also signed agreements to acquire Societe Generale's unit in Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia.


A unit of Chinese group JCHX Mining Management's unit has signed a 252.8 million yuan ($37.5 million/33.5 million euro) contract with Serbian miner Rakita Exploration for the construction of a gold and copper mine in the Timok project in eastern Serbia, the Chinese group said.

The contract was signed by JCHX Kinsey Mining Construction doo Bor, a wholly-owned subsidiary of JCHX Mining Management, the Chinese group said in a filing with the Shanghai Stock Exchange on Monday. 

The construction works are expected to start on July 1 and to be completed by July 2021, JCHX Mining Management said.

In 2017, Rakita, owned by Canadian company Nevsun Resources and US-based Freeport-McMoRan, said it expects to complete the construction of a mine in the Cukaru Peki Upper Zone of the Timok copper-gold project in 2021. 

Nevsun said in December 2018 that China's Zijin Mining Group was successful in the offer to purchase all of its 276,820,575 issued and outstanding common shares for 6.0 Canadian dollars ($4.4/3.9 euro) apiece. The shares represent 89.37% of the total issued and outstanding Nevsun shares on a fully diluted basis.

The Timok project consists of the Cukaru Peki Upper Zone and Lower Zone. Nevsun Resources owns 100% of the Cukaru Peki Upper Zone. Nevsun owns a 46% stake in the Cukaru Peki Lower Zone, while Freeport - McMoRan Exploration Corporation owns the remainder.

The project is located within the central zone of the Timok Magmatic Complex (TMC), in the Serbian section of the East European Carpathian-Balkan Arc. The TMC has one of the highest concentrations of copper enrichment in the Tethyan Belt.


Australian copper-gold exploration company Raiden Resources said that it has signed an earn-in and option to purchase agreement over the Vuzel project in southern Bulgaria with local geological consultancy Ridge Consulting.

"The signing of the earn-in and option to purchase agreement over the Vuzel project is a significant milestone for the Company and represents the first step on executing our strategy of securing additional highly prospective projects in the prolific Western Tethyan belt," Dusko Ljubojevic, managing director of Raiden, said in a statement last week.

"We are highly encouraged by the geological setting within the project and believe that the Vuzel project has the potential to host significant gold mineralisation, such as at the Ada Tepe mine, which is located within 30km of the Vuzel permit in Bulgaria," Ljubojevic added.

The Ada Tepe deposit holds the Krumovgrad gold mine, operated by Dundee Precious Metals.

Under the terms of the agreement, Raiden can earn an interest of up to 90% in the project in three stages. First, the company can earn a 51% stake through investing 350,000 Australian dollars ($246,000/219,000 euro) in exploration works within the first two years from the exploration agreement coming into effect.

Raiden can then boost its interest to 75% by incurring a further 650,000 Australian dollars in exploration expenditure within two years of earning the 51% interest.

Finally, Raiden can increase its interest to up to 90% by defining a resource reported under the Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves (JORC code).

Raiden also has the right to exercise at its own discretion an exclusive right to purchase 100% of the project from Ridge Consulting.

Raiden can acquire the 100% interest for 100,000 Australian dollars within the first one year of the exploration agreement coming into effect, or for 300,000 Australian dollars within the following 12 months.

If Raiden gives a stage two earn in notice, at any time during the 12 month period commencing 24 months after the date of signing of the exploration agreement, Raiden may acquire a 100% interest in the Vuzel Permit for 400,000 Australian dollars.

Ridge Consulting was engaged as a sole license holder of the Vuzel exploration permit by Bulgaria's energy ministry in August 2018. Further formal granting of Vuzel exploration permit by the government and execution of an exploration agreement with the Ministry of Energy is expected shortly, Raiden said.


UiPath, a robotic process automation (RPA) startup founded in Romania, said on Tuesday that it has closed its series D funding round, raising $568 million (510 million euro) at a post-money valuation of $7 billion.

At the $7 billion valuation, UiPath is one of the fastest growing and highest-valued AI enterprise software companies worldwide, UiPath said in a press release.

"We are at the tipping point. Business leaders everywhere are augmenting their workforces with software robots, rapidly accelerating the digital transformation of their entire business and freeing employees to spend time on more impactful work," UiPath CEO and co-founder Daniel Dines said.

Since closing its Series A funding in April 2017, the company managed to cultivate the world’s largest community in RPA, now exceeding 400,000 users worldwide across 200 countries, to increase annual recurring revenue from $8 million to over $200 million and to increase headcount to over 2,500, a 16x increase during the period, it added.

At end-March, UiPath opened on Tuesday in Bucharest its first immersion lab in the EMEA region following a 500,000 euro investment, and said it plans to open more around the world.

Last year, UiPath managed to grow its market value to over $1.1 billion following various successful financing rounds, thus becoming the first Romanian unicorn company. 'Unicorn' is a business term used when a startup company is valued at over $1 billion.

UiPath was created in 2015 on the foundations of DeskOver - a company established in 2005 in Bucharest by entrepreneurs Daniel Dines and Marius Tirca.

UiPath is currently US-based and is present with 21 offices in 45 countries in North America, Europe and Asia.

($=0.8982 euro)