Green Tech Group has signed a 16 million kuna contract with the municipality for the sale of 53 hectares of land as e-vehicle production turns its sights towards the Neretva valley.
As Poslovni Dnevnik/Sasa Paparella writes on the 16th of May, 2018, the small municipality of Kula Norinska, inhabited by about 2000 residents, with just two million kuna of original revenue and a poorly developed economy, is undergoing some major changes.
In this location, right on the right banks of the Neretva, a few kilometers away from Metković, Chinese investor Karl Soong and entrepreneur Mladen Ninčević are investing in a factory of electric cars and scooters intended for the markets of Central and Eastern Europe.
Investors in the Nova Sela (Kula Norinska) business area signed a 16 million kuna contract with the municipality of Kula Norinska after a public tender for the sale of 53 hectares of land. The plant construction project will take place in three phases, planned to be carried out over the next decade. In that period, the investor would have to pay the contracted amount of 16 million kuna, which will then be invested back into the infrastructure. The plan is that Soong and Ninčević will invest 100 million euro into the project, and perhaps even more than that. Interestingly, despite the allegedly large planned investment, Green Tech Group representatives have apparently not sought the somewhat classy status of ”strategic investor” from the Croatian government, a deeply desired title which would bring them various very welcome benefits.
“The aforementioned investors didn’t even come to the Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts, nor did they come to the Investment and Competitiveness Agency,” the Ministry of Economy stated. Despite attempts, Poslovni Dnevnik was unable to obtain a statement from Mladen Ninčević himself, who, according to unofficial information, is participating with as much as 50% of the investment in this project. His son, Anthony, a Zagreb student and director of the Green Tech Group, was also inaccessible.
Nikola Krstičević was the only person reachable for a conversation on the topic for Poslovni Dnevnik, stating: “The total value of these investments is impossible to predict at this time because the project is being carried out in multi-year phases, so we can’t know what will evolve in the future, for the beginning, the production of electric cars and scooters, and tomorrow, it could be anything, so this investment may be more than 100 million euro after the third phase. In the first phase, we’ll employ up to fifty people, then 500, maybe even more, depending on the needs and type of production,” said Krstičević.
Upon being asked the question of whether there will be problems with the labour shortage during project implementation in Kula Norinska, Krstičević responded: “Depending on product demand, the investor will need different staff, and we hope that in the first stage, we’ll find a sufficient number of workers. The investor is planning to build a technology centre for production improvement, and in the future, the problem will probably lie with finding staff with higher education.”
The realisation of this project is designed so that in the very first phase, the investor submits a request for the infrastructure to be constructed. Then the municipality, in accordance with the project documentation and building permit it possesses, announces a public tender for infrastructure construction, selects the desired contractor, and then builds it. This costs will be covered by the investor, and the municipality will then erase that amount from the mortgage for that part of the land, in accordance with the signed contract.
Kula Norinska will not receive any direct financial benefits from this project, because the money will be obtained from the sale of the land and the communal contributions will be invested back into the infrastructure in the zone itself. The indirect benefit for the aforementioned municipality will be through taxes and benefits from the employed people.
“Our goal isn’t to make money and then spend it quickly, but to create the preconditions for recruiting residents from the entire Neretva valley, and to prevent the departure of young families which is something I witness on a daily basis”, Krstičević added.
In various media reports, it was alleged that this investment was going to be in a location close to Metković. Poslovni Dnevnik asked how it came to be that it ended up in Kula Norinska.
“Looking at it strategically, our zone is in a much better position, because it’s located at the intersection of A1 and VC corridor, which, through Bosnia and Herzegovina, goes all the way to Central and Eastern Europe. There is also the proximity to the Port of Ploce, it’s about fifteen kilometers from there, and we find ourselves at the future Schengen border crossing along the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, so it’s logical for the realisation of this project to be here, away from the urban parts of the city and in a more favourable place for the development of this kind of production,” explained Krstičević.
Just who is Karl Soong, the ”master” of e-vehicles?
Investor Karl Soong (Xuegao Song) is the founder of the Poly International Group, a Chinese company which is involved in the production of electric household and electrical products. The media have claimed that Soong is the owner of a prototype electric vehicle which holds the record for one lithium battery charge. As stated in an interview with the Zadar local portal Zadarski.hr, Soong apparently initially came to Croatia with the desire to buy Mate Rimac’s company, a venture in which he didn’t succeed. In the meantime, he got to know Croatian entrepreneur Mladen Ninčević, who is listed as an active member of the board for as many as twenty companies. His son, Anthony Ninčević, is associated with, as the owner or manager, as many as seven Croatian companies.