Could an Unpopular Measure End Up Being Borovo’s Best Solution?

Lauren Simmonds

Updated on:

Davor Javorovic/PIXSELL
Davor Javorovic/PIXSELL

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, a couple of years ago, it seemed that everything regarding the survival of Borovo had finally fallen into place properly, a restructuring programme was fully drawn up, of which the consulting company KPMG was in charge. Since then, the extension of the CERP guarantees has only been approved in order to postpone the repayment of loans to the state banks for yet another year, thanks to which Borovo is still keeping afloat, and the new deadline for another such decision is coming up in just a month.

In CERP, which is the 100 percent owner of this much loved Vukovar-based footwear manufacturer, the case of its restructuring is considered one of the top priorities in 2023, after several problematic cases in the state portfolio were finally closed over the past two years. At the same time, the process within Borovo stands stagnantly right where it was two years ago – the restructuring proposal prepared by KPMG clearly didn’t meet the expectations of the relevant ministries.

However, on the other hand – when it comes to Borovo, no deadline was actually set in which the case should finally be closed, either through a new model of operational and financial restructuring, an attempt at privatisation or the worst case scenario – bankruptcy.

Although bankruptcy is something to be avoided like the plague in Croatia, there are those working within the ministries of economy and finance who see this very solution as the best one. In their opinion, the projections from KPMG’s proposal fail to offer what is needed, and instead only work to postpone the solution of the problem and prolong Borovo’s limbo and uncertainty. This is because it starts from some basic recommendations for improving business, such as reducing overhead costs and the number of employees, changing the production profile and focusing on more profitable programmes, and finally finding a good strategic partner. According to the assessment of the relevant ministries, Borovo will continue to remain in a difficult state in which it will hardly manage to attract any serious investors seeking a safe project.

For this reason, as has since been learned, it was requested that KPMG define much more clearly what it would to to ensure and enable a long-term solution without bankruptcy threats and then to find a strategic partner, and that the programme be organised so that it can receive the approval of the European Commission (EC). That something is simply not right with the existing solution was also confirmed by the President of the Board of Borovo, Gordana Odor, who said the following:

“KPMG prepared a restructuring plan one year ago, but it hasn’t yet been adopted by the relevant ministry and will have to be refined by KMPG. The main complaint of the ministry is the lack of a strategic partner that would be a guarantee for the survival of Borovo,” said Gordana Odor, adding that when it comes to Borovo, the bigger picture must be looked at.

First, as she explained, it’s actually very difficult to find a private investor who is ready to take over Borovo with all of its accompanying problematic buildings on an area spanning 13 hectares. This is full of unresolved property-legal disputes that are being conducted on the territories of both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

According to the current restructuring plan, the state should recapitalise Borovo with 92 million kuna, which would close its existing liabilities to the banks. The share capital of Borovo is at the level of 316.7 million kuna. The assessment of the Management Board and KPMG was that this would enable better positions for the search for strategic partners and investments in the modernisation of Borovo’s production, which normally also takes place on machines from 1940, and for which the company could finally rely on European Union funds. In Borovo, they’re convinced that, once the company is relieved of all of its loan debts, it can meet all of its obligations and conduct its business properly.

According to the first data for 2022, revenues compared to the previous year have increased by 2% and are at the level of 10 million euros. However, business expenses grew much more. On average, total material costs increased by 23%, wage costs by 6.5%, and the largest increase of 100% refers to gas, while energy costs increased somewhat more slowly, due to government measures, by 20%.

All other input resources had growth trends of 10 to 20 percent, especially leather. An additional cost was a 12% increase in workers’ wages, which is a significant increase for a labour-intensive activity, which also increased costs of about 5 million kuna. Overall, the increase in costs resulted in a loss of 9 million kuna for Borovo.

“Under these circumstances, we had to adjust our operations and we placed the emphasis on optimising procurement, production, storage and transportation costs, with the goal of maintaining existing liquidity,” explained Gordana Odor. As for the number of employees, currently their number has fallen to the lowest level so far – 563.

“Borovo is aware that in times of crisis it has to make business adjustments for the conditions ahead, but we certainly need help and the involvement of the state, which we have been talking about for several years now,” concluded Gordana Odor, noting that we’re still talking about the largest employer in the entire Vukovar area which employs mostly women, and that they have spent most of their working lives working for Borovo and have no other qualifications.

The problems faced by Borovo will be on the agenda of the CERP Board of Directors as early as next month, in order to consider another extension of the guarantees for loans that the company has in the amount of 6.1 million euros each, for which the state’s shares in Podravka, Koncar and HT are pledged as insurance.

However, before that, representatives of the Management Board, KPMG, CERP and the relevant ministries will need to sit down together in order to shed light on the current ambiguities surrounding the preparation of the final proposal on which the future of the company depends entirely. The reason that no expedient solution has been found for many years lies in the fact that Borovo is not only a commercial and economic issue, but is also burdened by the political context and inter-ethnic relations between Croats and Serbs, as well as conflicting relations between local and state authorities, which further complicates matters.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.


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