In 2020 Fortenova Group performed well despite the adverse effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted April – December of 2020 business operations. The COVID-19 impact was particularly felt in Croatia given the size of tourism in the country. The Group maintained or even increased its market shares in a number of key product categories, realized several key strategic projects and due to the implemented preventive measures, alleviated the impact of the crisis and increased its cash liquidity by HRK ~350 million, to an amount of HRK 2 billion at year end.
Those were the basic features of the 2020 operations highlighted in the presentation of the 2020 results held for Fortenova Group’s DR holders.
Fortenova Group’s total consolidated revenue from continuing operations for the year amounted to HRK 21 billion, while the total consolidated adjusted EBITDA amounted to HRK 1.3 billion.
Compared to the 2019 pro forma consolidated results of Fortenova Group, net of the results of the discontinued operations Kompas Ljubljana, Kompas Poreč and the entire Kompas network for both periods, Fortenova Group’s total consolidated revenue was 11.7 per cent lower, while on the thus adjusted basis consolidated EBITDA was 30.1 per cent lower. The announced 2020 results are net of Mercator, which will be integrated into Fortenova Group in 2021.
“The COVID-19 pandemic left a trail on everything, including the operating results of our companies. It had the strongest negative effect on those companies that are closely related to the tourist industry and the HORECA channel. Also, the markets where the tourist season has a strong impact on the GDP, such as Croatia and Montenegro, were hit more severely. Serbia, for example, has not felt the consequences of the weak tourist season, but the market was faced with all the other consequences of the pandemic. Nevertheless, our companies successfully met and even outperformed their 2020 plans, which had been corrected last year in view of the pandemic and envisaged lower results than those in 2019” – said Fabris Peruško, Chief Executive Officer of Fortenova Group and Member of the Board of Directors, commenting on the 2020 results.
Comparing the non-consolidated results of core businesses including 16 companies in the retail, food and agriculture divisions of Fortenova Group with their 2019 performance, the 2020 non-consolidated total revenues in the amount of HRK 23 billion were six per cent lower, while EBITDA in the amount of HRK 1,6 billion was 16.8 per cent lower.
The pandemic had the strongest negative effect on the operations of the Food Division companies that are directly linked to the HORECA channel and the consumption during the tourist season, as well as the Retail and Wholesale Division. Consequently, both their non-consolidated revenues and EBITDA were lower than in the year before. Non-consolidated total revenue of the Food Division was nine per cent lower than in 2019, while the non-consolidated revenue of Retail decreased by five per cent. The non-consolidated revenue of the Agriculture Division was only one per cent lower compared to 2019.
The non-consolidated EBITDA of Food was 12.5 per cent lower compared to the 2019 performance, while in Retail the drop amounted to 6.5 per cent. Due to the negative impact of the major drop in pig prices in Q4/2020, the drop in cattle prices and lower yields of agricultural crops, EBITDA in Agriculture was lower by 56.8 per cent compared to the year before.
Nevertheless, both Dijamant and Frikom also performed strongly as they not only gained share but benefitted from increased consumption in Serbia with COVID-19 restrictions limiting travel from the country. Also, despite the lack of tourists, Konzum was on a like-for-like basis able to keep its 2020 retail sales above 2019 by 0,3 per cent, as it performed well in manging its supply chain and benefited from its store format and on-line offer.
“As Konzum generates around 40 per cent of its total revenues and around 70 per cent of its annual EBITDA in the four months from June to September, the results achieved in 2020 are excellent, indeed. Looking at the entire Fortenova Group, the overall negative effect of the pandemic and non-cash foreign exchange losses could unfortunately not be compensated, but given the projects that we have initiated, we expect a performance improvement already in 2021. A refinancing of Fortenova Group’s debt at more favourable conditions is planned to take place in the period of the next two years and will additionally strengthen the company’s financial position” said James Pearson, Fortenova Group’s Executive Director for Finance.
“We are satisfied with the 2020 operating performance due to, among other things, the implementation of a number of measures intended to alleviate the negative effects of the pandemic, as well as additional improvements achieved in our business operations and cost control. In spite of the crisis caused by the pandemic, by exerting exceptional efforts and with increased costs related to the health preservation of our people and to securing an uninterrupted supply chain for the market under the conditions of the crisis, we were able to realize several development projects, too. Last year we acquired the assets of Meggle’s Osijek-based dairy plant and have now recently launched the new Kravica Kraljica dairy brand. Furthermore, Jamnica’s investments in development resulted in the launch of the new product Botanica last year, and of Barts – the first alcoholic sparkling water in Croatia – this year, which is now building distribution. Further new product launches, upgrades and improvements will be appearing from our other food businesses as we go through this year and complete the development work done in 2020.
Looking ahead, two major projects that will positively affect our results in 2021, are the divestment of the Frozen Food Business and the integration of Mercator. We are also hoping that this year’s tourist season will be better than last year’s, ahead of a full tourist season returning in 2022. What cannot be seen directly in these results, is the engagement of all our employees in making the business run smoothly under the crisis circumstances and in meeting all plans set. I would like to sincerely thank all Fortenova Group employees for that, as it really made an impact.
Through 2020 and already in 2021 Fortenova management team has delivered on a number of key projects specifically managing the impact of COVID-19, completing the transfer of Mercator and fixing its capital structure through the sale of the Frozen business, which puts the Group into a fundamentally stronger position going forward.” – Fabris Peruško said.
The minority owner of the Fortenova Group, Russia’s Sberbank and the European investment fund based in Hungary, Indotek, have signed an agreement with the intention of sale and purchace of the largest single stake in the Fortenova Group. To conclude the transaction, it is necessary to obtain regulatory approvals in several markets.
On the occasion of the signing of the SPA and the announcend change in ownership, Fabris Peruško, CEO and Member of the Board of Directors of Fortenova Group said: „We welcome the entry of Indotek, which we recognize as a long-term strategic partner, into the co-owenrship of the Fortenova Group and we hope and expect that in the next few months all the approvals required to complete the sale and purchase of shares will be obtained. Regardless of a possible change in co-ownership, the Fortenova Group continues with regular business operations. Our operating companies are successfully managing market disruptions caused by rising operating costs and disruptions in some supply chains, that our many customers do not feel, and we are fully focused on preparing for this year’s tourist season from which we have significant expectations. ”
On Friday, 1st April 2022 Fortenova Group acquired all remaining shares of Mercator and became 100% owner of Mercator. With the transfer of 621,251 shares to Fortenova Group the process of squeezing out minority shareholders from the ownership of Mercator has been completed, and Fortenova Group has become the sole shareholder of Mercator.
“With this last transaction we have completed the acquisition process that started back in 2014, and the fact that this last step was taken on the third anniversary of Fortenova Group’s operations has a particularly symbolic meaning for us. It was a long-lasting and challenging process, with lots of intermediate legal and financial steps that were all leading to one and the same goal – forming the leading regional grocery retail chain.
Over the last year since the formal transfer of Mercator to Fortenova Group’s ownership we have concluded the squeeze-out procedure, but more importantly, we have started to unleash the full potential of our business model in retail by achieving significant operating synergies that we are reinvesting back into the Group” – said Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors on the occasion of acquiring the 100 percent ownership share in Mercator.
He also pointed out that Mercator is the leading grocery retailer in Slovenia, with significant shares in Serbia and Montenegro, and Konzum is the leading grocery retail chain in Croatia whilst both Konzum and Mercator have a significant combined share in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “The synergies available to Konzum and Mercator by working together as part of the region’s largest retail group are numerous, which provides leverage for further strengthening our leading positions on the markets” – he said.
„The payment to minorities of EUR 22.4 mn was made using Fortenova’s own internal cash and demonstrates the increasing financial and operating strength of the Fortenova Group. The Group has made great progress over the last few years, this latest transaction completes another step in our plans and gives us further opportunity to invest and grow”, said James Pearson, Fortenova Group’s CFO, commenting on the transaction.
Fortenova grupa d.d. and its operating companies Jamnica, Konzum, PIK Vrbovec and mStart have received the Employer Partner Certificate (Certifikat Poslodavac Partner – CPP), awarded by Selectio group. With this Certificate the experts of SELECTIO Group have since more than 15 years been comparing local HR practices with global trends, thus improving the standards in human resources management and promoting practices that set a model of excellence in HR.
In the HR analysis carried out at all levels of the organisation, Fortenova Group and its operating companies have scored excellent results, and the certificate has acknowledged the highest management quality in five key areas of human resources – Strategy, Recruiting and Selection, Performance Management, Training and Development and Relation to Employees.
“As many as five Croatian Fortenova Group members – Fortenova grupa, Jamnica, Konzum, mStart and PIK Vrbovec – have met all the criteria of the Employer Partner Certificate and constitute a true example of successful HR management that has continuously developed in all areas. The companies have conducted various internal compliance, climate and satisfaction surveys, and hence the Feedback 360 analysis has confirmed that the managers comply with organisational values and key competencies. Recruitment and selection activities are at premium level, while onboarding processes have stood out in terms of innovative practices and approach. Internal communication at all levels of the organisation is commendable and makes sure that the teams are well informed and it is interesting to note that some practices are a role model of excellence even at global level” – said Martina Kessler, Head of Organizational Development Solutions from SELECTIO Group.
„It is not without reason that our human resources strategy is a strong support to all important processes at Fortenova Group. Whatever we do internally is also reflected on our environment and given that Fortenova Group employs around 50000 people across the region, we largely also determine the way in which the region functions. This also implies the reverberation of our employee relationship in the entire Group, which is based on building a desirable and encouraging work environment where our colleagues will be content and motivated. With this approach we as a company spread the sense of security and optimism and actually indirectly contribute to bringing the negative demographic and migration trends that we have been faced with to a halt” – said Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors, at the Employer Partner Certificate awarding ceremony.
Quality HR management is reflected in the partnership relations between the employer and the employee and has over the last years constituted a crucial competitive advantage of contemporary organisations. In 2020 Fortenova Group had received the Excellence in Challenges acknowledgement, thus having proved its top-notch management of the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the successful completion of the certification process Fortenova grupa d.d. and its operating subsidiaries have joined the company of more than 100 corporations in Croatia that use the Employer Partner Certificate methodology to measure their success in managing human resources and to develop and improve HR practices.
“Since the very beginning of its operations Fortenova Group has been focused on its employees, on creating a quality work environment as well as on improving the rewarding system. This has all contributed to the excellent results achieved in this certification, and the fact that the certificate has been awarded to as many as five of our companies has affirmed the excellence that we strive for as a Group. The Certificate also imposes a responsibility to additionally improve the high level of partnership achieved with our employees in the forthcoming period” – said Gordana Fabris, Director of Human Resources at Fortenova Group.
In reply to the questions about the possible impact that the situation with Sberbank Europe, which has along with its branch offices got under the management of the European Central Bank or the central banks of the countries in which it operates, may have on the operations of Fortenova Group as well as the ownership share of Sberbank at Fortenova Group, from Fortenova Group we would herewith once again like to set straight (https://fortenova.hr/en/news/the-divestment-of-sberbank-in-the-region-does-not-affect-the-ownership-of-sberbank-russia-in-fortenova-group/) that the shares in the company are held by Sberbank Russia and hence any developments regarding Sberbank Europe shall have no impact whatsoever on the operations of Fortenova Group. With regards to the impact of the ownership in general on the company’s operations, as already pointed out several times in the context of the sanctions over the last few days, the ownership of Fortenova Group does not affect the company’s day-to-day operations. Fortenova Group’s capital structure and liquidity are stable, its financing is headed by the US investment company HPS Investment Partners, and the operating business is run through the respective domestic, local banks on the markets where Fortenova Group operates.
Fortenova grupa d.d. has received the acknowledgement “Family Friendly Employer”, awarded for the fourth year in a row by the Central Government Office for Demographics and Youth to companies with best quality solutions in achieving a friendly atmosphere towards employees and their families, particularly taking into account the adjustment of the employers to employees’ families over the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since 2018, when it was awarded for the first time, this acknowledgement has established itself as an important public commendation to those employers whose relation to their employees stands witness to their socially responsible approach and also shows a diversity of solutions for creating a friendly and encouraging environment for employees and their families.
“At the company we have focused on our employees with children, by providing parents with certain benefits in those moments of life that are important to them. At the same time we are focused on the idea of projecting optimism, as we believe that the optimism that we build within our company also affects the broader society. Viewed in the context of the declining population, we think that what is missing in our society is optimism. It is important for us to support family life as well as optimism, because we believe that it is possible to create personal wealth, values and business success in our region and that people can feel good here” – said Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer, on the occasion of the award presentation.
Gordana Fabris, Fortenova Group’s Director of Human Resources, noted that the wide array of benefits at Fortenova Group ranged from employee health care by way of covering additional health insurance costs, thru a number of measures supporting parenthood – flexible working hours and four-hour workdays for parents of children with special needs, the possibility of gradual return to work following maternity or parental leave, use of days off for the child’s first day at school or kindergarten – up to subsidized sporting activities for its employees.
“Fortenova Group’s commitment to building a community that places the focus on family values has been recognized by the Central Government Office for Demographics and Youth, which has awarded us the acknowledgement “Family Friendly Employer” for the year 2021. We are exceptionally proud of this valuable recognition, which is also an encouragement to keep focusing on the welfare of our employees even more” – Gordana Fabris said.
With regards to the question of a possible impact of the present and any potential new sanctions that Europe has announced in relation to Russia, Fortenova Group does not expect them to have a negative impact on its operations. The banks in Russian ownership do not have majority management and ownership rights in Fortenova Group, those are below 50 percent, and the second largest shareholder of the company are local Croatian owners. Also, Fortenova Group has a stable capital structure with the financing headed by HPS Investment Partners, a US investment company, hence the sanctions are not expected to affect the financing of Fortenova Group, either.
Fortenova Group and the Agram Group have signed a contract for the sale / purchase of the property owned by Fortenova Group in the Cibona Business Tower in Zagreb. The property in question comprises office premises on 16 floors of the Tower as well as garage areas amounting to 6700 square meters overall. In accordance with the contract the sale-pruchase price is not being disclosed.
The Cibona Business Tower is one of Zagreb’s most representative office buildings. It is located in the center of the city, at a prestigious and easily accessible location, and since it was built as part of the sports hall complex for the purpose of the 1987 Universiade it has become one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
“After having largely completed the processes of divesting our non-core companies, the focus has been shifted to the sale of non core real estate. We are happy to have found, within a very short time, a partner who will, I am sure, provide the required investment into this well known building ” – said James Pearson, Fortenova Group’s Chief Financial Officer.
“The Cibona Tower is an iconic building of the City of Zagreb and a great fit in the real estate portfolio of the Agram Group. Having recognized this investment opportunity we continue to invest in the local economy, and this acquisition coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Agram Group’s successful operations” said Ivana Bratanić, M.Sc., Vice President of Agram Group.
Tihomir Adam, former Director for Investment Monitoring at Fortenova Group, is the new President of the Management Board of Belje.
In that position he will replace Andrej Dean, who has decided to continue his career outside of Fortenova Group. This is also an opportunity to thank him for his contribution in managing the Agriculture Division and the company Belje and wish him a lot of professional and personal success going forward.
Tihomir Adam has been working within the system since 2007, when he had assumed position as Direcor of Investments at Agrokor, which he held until 2014. He then joined Zvijezda in the position as Member of the Management Board in charge of production, to become President of the Board in 2017 and lead the company until February 2021. During the period of significant changes in the system, under his leadership Zvijezda generated excellent results and with the optimization of costs and the improvement of the company’s financial resilience, a high level of innovation has been retained in the Zvijezda portfolio. Adam joined the Fortenova Group team in the position as Group Director for Investment Monitoring on 1st February 2021.
Until further notice, responsibility for the Agriculture Division will be assumed by Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Member of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer.
Fortenova Group has today in collaboration with the Croatian Business Council for Sustainable Development signed the Diversity Charter for all segments of its operations and its operating companies in Croatia and across the region. The Charter was signed by Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors, and Mirjana Matešić, Ph.D., Director or the Croatian Business Council for Sustainable Development. The signing follows after Fortenova Group recently formally joined HR PSOR and UN Global Compact, the world’s largest sustainable development and corporate sustainability initiative.
With today’s adoption of the Diversity Charter Fortenova Group has undertaken to publicly support and develop diversity in all of its work environments, operating companies and the business environment in general.
“It is important to note that today’s signing of the Diversity Charter is a logical upgrade on our commitment to sustainable development. I am particularly proud of the speed at which Fortenova Group has within very short time made key strides in accepting sustainable operations and its values; from our Code of Ethics and accession to HR PSOR and UN Global Compact, until today when we have signed the Diversity Charter. Sustainability and diversity are Fortenova Group’s fundamental values and a constituent part of our corporate culture” – said Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors on the occasion of signing the Diversity Charter.
Mirjana Matešić, Ph.D., Director of the Croatian Business Council for Sustainable Development, stated on that occasion: “We are pleased that by signing the Diversity Charter Fortenova Group has publicly, on behalf of all its employees, accepted the responsibility to apply diversity and equal opportunities at the workplace in all of its companies. Diversity is one of the main tools for achieving innovativeness and creativity, required more than ever in order to realize our transformation towards sustainability”.
Fortenova Group companies traditionally reward their employees for the Christmas holidays and hence Fortenova grupa d.d. and its operating companies will this year again pay out Christmas bonuses and gifts for children, in accordance with the collective agreements and the possibilities of the respective companies. This year Fortenova Group will thus invest more than HRK 34 million in the Christmas rewards for its employees.
„The Christmas bonuses, gifts for children and all the other rewards that we have realized are primarily a way to thank all our employees for their great contribution and engagement. This year has been the most successful in the history of Fortenova Group so far, both in terms of financial performance and the successful closing of our great strategic projects such as the divestment of the Frozen Food Business Group and the integration of Mercator, as well as the commencement of a significant investment cycle in our overall operations. All those successes and the huge amount of work that we have done would not have been possible without the contribution of our 50,000 hard working and talented employees across the region, who deserve a huge commendation and thanks from the entire team of Executive Directors. At the same time, I wish all our employees and their families happy and enjoyable holidays” – said Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors.
„At Fortenova Group we have continuously been developing and improving the overall work environment, the rewarding systems and benefits for our people, all in order to make our companies as good and desirable as possible places for the work and development of our employees. I believe that this is why Fortenova Group has for the second year in a row been among the best employers in Croatia and the region, where we are also the largest employer. In the forthcoming period we shall, together with our social partners, continue to be focused on our employees and on finding creative and innovative ways for their motivation, rewarding and development, all in line with out corporate values and business objectives” – said Gordana Fabris, Fortenova Group’s Director of Human Resources, on this occasion.
On 7th December 2021 at the Jana production facility in Gorica Svetojanska Fortenova Group announced its key capital investments for the forthcoming period worth EUR 130 million and once again reminded of the major investments realized over the course of 2021 that amounted to EUR 125 million in total.
At the same time, the company presented the most important highlights of its operations in the period I-IX/2021, according to which Fortenova Group’s total consolidated revenue exceeded that in the same period of 2020 by 54 per cent and amounted to HRK 22 billion, while adjusted consolidated EBITDA grew by 29 per cent and amounted to HRK 1.7 billion. Additional growth was recorded in profits as well, and hence the first nine months of the year saw net profits in the amount of HRK 1.3 billion or an improvement of HRK 1,855 million against the loss generated in I-IX/2020. At the end of September the Group had HRK 2.5 billion of cash and cash equivalents on its accounts, and due to the significant decrease in debt resulting from the divestment of the Frozen Food segment, the leverage ratio went down to 4.2 times.
Fortenova Group’s major capital investments in the FMCG segment are the new, cutting-edge technology aseptic line for bottling refreshing soft drinks at Jana worth EUR 11.5 million, the installation whereof is in its final stage, the extraction plant at Dijamant with a capacity of 1,200 tonnes per day and the new slaughterhouse at PIK Vrbovec.
The new plant at Dijamant is worth EUR 29.3 million and is the largest individual investment at Fortenova Group, while the investment in the new slaughterhouse at PIK Vrbovec is at the level of EUR 8.2 million. At both companies preparations are in the final stage and the realization of the projects is about to begin. Also during 2021, Fortenova Group realized a scale-up of the ketchup production plant at Zvijezda to 10,000 tonnes, as well as the acquisition of the Osijek-based dairy and the launch of a new milk and dairy product line under the brand “Kravica Kraljica”, while the Food segment also saw the launch of Fortenova Group’s two key innovations on the market – the Planet of Plants line of plant-based products without ingredients of animal origin and the PIK&GO meat snacks line.
When it comes to investments in Fortenova Group’s retail business, along with Konzum’s acquisition of the Istria-based retailer Miracolo, which increased Konzum’s presence in the region with 15 new stores, a total of 45 new points of sale were opened in 2021, and a number of digitalization projects were realized, the most recent one being the introduction of payment in cryptocurrencies where Konzum is the first consumer goods retailer in Croatia to provide that possibility.
“Over a period of two years Fortenova invests a total of more than EUR 255 million in the economies of the region. It was the increase of investment power that was one of the most important objectives of a number of activities that we have completed over the last two and a half years. We have brought the company to an acceptable level of leverage and enabled it to invest in the development of its core businesses, while also generating excellent operational results. With the planned additional deleveraging we expect our investment potential to grow to a level of up to EUR 200 million, where we already have an elaborate and innovative business plan in place that includes, for example, the opening of more than 200 new or refurbished retail stores across the region, new distribution centres – the largest being the new Mercator Distribution and Logistics Center in Ljubljana, a new e-commerce platform as well as the launches of a number of new and innovative food products” – said Fabris Peruško, Member of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of Fortenova Group.
“Our strong investment projects in the Food & Beverage segment, amounting to more than 50 million euros, are intended to further strengthen the leading market positions of our brands, while at the same time extend Fortenova Group’s product portfolio in order to respond to new trends and emerging consumer preferences. These investments also demonstrate in a tangible manner the new orientation of our company towards more sustainable and efficient operations. Last but certainly not least, the increase in production capacities constitutes the basis for expanding our regional presence by entering new markets and categories, which shall fundamentally improve the competitive edge of all our companies” – said Sotiris Yannopoulos, Fortenova Group’s Executive Director for Food & Beverages.
Following the information published today about the divestment of the branch offices of Sberbank Europe AG in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia and Hungary to the companies AIK Banka a.d. Beograd, Gorenjska banka d.d., Kranj and Agri Europe Cyprus Limited, in reply to the queries received at Fortenova grupa d.d. we would like to announce that the aforementioned disposal has no impact whatsoever on the ownership of Sberbank Russia in Fortenova Group. Sberbank Russia remains Fortenova Group’s largest individual shareholder.