Is Agreement With Germans New Chance for Croatian Jadroplov?

Lauren Simmonds

As Jadranka Dozan/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 16th of December, 2019, Croatian Jadroplov has a new opportunity for a “restart” ready and open for it. Last week, the shipping administration, 70 percent of which is owned by the state, reported that they had reached an agreement with Norddeutsche Landesbank in Hanover, after months of negotiations, agreeing that the creditor would agree to write off 40 percent of the claims lodged against Croatian Jadroplov’s companies. Norddeutsche LB is ready to write off all of the claims for a minimum of 28 million US dollars.

In order to confirm the agreement, some conditions have to be fulfilled, among which the resolution of Croatian refinancing stands out. But for a this shipping company from Split as a loser in this game, with a financial position that is not very “bankable”, this is not an easy piece of homework at all. The state development bank, HBOR, should offer to lend Croatian Jadroplov a hand.

Deadlines are also important throughout the story of settling things up with the Germans, so the weeks ahead may prove to be crucial. Jadroplov’s management, headed by Branimir Kovačić, believe that in the negotiated “forgiveness” procedure of significant parts of the debt, they have a solid argument in the discussions on domestic (re) financing.

If we take a look at the market value of Croatian Jadroplov’s assets and the liabilities that will remain after the settlement is completed into relation with one another, the company does actually return to the positive capital zone, and that significantly improved financial picture also makes a long-planned capital increase more likely. There is also a plan which was approved by the European Commission last May, confirming that the business plan was made in accordance with European state aid rules.

The plan provided for aid of 105.6 million kuna, which mostly consists of bank guarantees for refinancing existing liabilities, but with a significant own contribution to costs.

The plan also envisaged refinancing home loans with 8 million dollars of credit, which, with 50 percent government guarantee coverage, would be covered by collateral for the remainder. In this regard, the Croatian Government had also made a decision to grant a guarantee of 24.3 million kuna for a loan of 48.5 million kuna, but so far it has not been possible to realise that move. Whether or not that will happen soon remains to be seen. From Croatian Jadroplov, they hope that there will be those willing to listen for the sake of preserving the business. Among other things, about 600 million dollars in remittances through the salaries of seafarers enter Croatia every year, and a considerable part comes through Jadroplov’s ships.

Back in early 2016, at the height of the freight crisis, Nord LB extended its hand to Jadroplov in its fight for survival. It returned three million dollars of deposits as collateral.

Due to the crisis in this highly cyclical type of business, Norddeutsche LB itself is in the process of restructuring, and it announced back during this summer that it was ceasing to re-lend to the sector, or restructure its existing loans.

At the same time, it sold 2.6 billion euros in shipping loans to the Cerberus Financial Fund. For both the bank and for Jadroplov, reaching a deal is a more cost-effective solution and closing claims is also more cost effective than enforcing collection by stopping ships, says Kovačić.

The seizure process is time-consuming and extremely expensive, and through auctioning, prices are well below market levels, he explained. For Croatian Jadroplov, on the other hand, pre-bankruptcy proceedings simply aren’y an option, as this would, de facto, mean total bankruptcy.

Overall, Jadroplov points out that Nord LB has always been a decent business partner and coming to an agreement would certainly improve not only relations between the two but business for this Croatian company.

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