Fortenova Group, comprising some of the most significant companies in Croatia and the region, such as Konzum, Mercator, Jamnica, Zvijezda, Dijamant, Belje, Tisak, Sarajevski kiseljak etc., has formally joined the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest sustainable development and corporate sustainability initiative. Fortenova Group has thus become part of a large community of 18,000 members from 162 countries of the world that have committed to adhering to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. The principles comprise fundamental operating responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, based on internationally adopted declarations and conventions of the UN and constituting the normative authority for responsible operations.
UN Global Compact has, as a special initiative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, been mandated to direct and provide support to the business community worldwide in achieving progress and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030.
“Since it first commenced its operations, Fortenova Group started to live its fundamental values, with sustainable operations being one of the four key pillars of the culture of responsibility that we have been building towards our employees, the communities in which we operate, our consumers, partners, suppliers, the environment and the society as a whole. From the Code of Ethics that we adopted just a few months after our incorporation, to the development of a reporting concept in accordance with GRI standards that we shall already adhere to in our next operating report. Fortenova Group has within only two years raised its social and corporate responsibility to a very high level, creating the prerequisites for sustainable development in its environment. Given that we engage in food production and distribution, food safety systems are part of our integrated management system and among the initiatives and continuous investments in green and socially responsible projects, particularly worth being singled out are the recent projects carried out by our companies in reducing the carbon footprint of our packaging. Hence our joining this global initiative is but a natural step to round off all our activities in that direction, and because of everything that we have currently been witnessing – global climatic, health, economic as well as value challenges, the accession to the Compact is the more important for us” – said Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors, on the occasion of Fortenova Group joining the UN Global Compact.
Through operating strategies in all of its core businesses Fortenova Group has opted for sustainable development and efficient management in the long term, thus also driving a stronger involvement of the business sector in activities intended to progress towards sustainable development goals and achieving corporate sustainability in accordance with the principles of the UN Global Compact.
“It is my great pleasure to welcome Fortenova Group on behalf of the UN Global compact. By joining this initiative, the company has demonstrated its commitment to the sustainability goals set, while at the same time raising the already high expectations of its stakeholders. I am looking forward to the collaboration, with a view to the company progressing towards meeting those expectations” – said Vali Marszalek, Executive Director of Global Compact Network Croatia.
In H1/2022 Fortenova Group generated HRK 18.8 billion of total revenue from continuing operations, which is 57 more than in the same period last year mainly driven by the integration of Mercator. On a like for like basis revenue grew by 14%.
At the same time the Group’s consolidated EBITDA for the first six months of the year exceeded a billion kuna which is 74% more than in the same period last year, while on a like- for-like basis the adjusted consolidated EBITDA grew by 19%.
The fastest growth of revenue was recorded by the companies from Fortenova Group’s Food Division, while the Agriculture Division saw the fastest growth of EBITDA.
Net profits of the period, after exclusion of currency exchange impacts, amounted to HRK 12 million, as against the loss of HRK 213 million after exclusion of currency exchange impacts in H1/2021. At the end of H1/2022 Fortenova Group also had HRK 1.7 billion of cash on its accounts and continuing its already long-term deleveraging trend, it closed H1/2022 with a debt to operating profit ratio moving 3,94 times.
“The strong realization in the first half of the year continues the positive trend that we recorded throughout the last year, with positive underlying business improvement accelerated by the integration of Mercator into Fortenova. This underlying growth is shown by the Group’s total revenue from continuing operations in H1/2022 has grown by 14% on a like for like basis excluding Mercator. These excellent operating results were generated in spite of the negative impacts of inflation on the increase in prices of labour, energy and raw materials and the consequently increased costs across the supply chain. The ’22 tourist season in Croatia is almost at the level of the record year 2019, which is an additional driver for our results that will show its full benefit in the third quarter of the year, which is the most important time period for us” – said Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s CEO and Member of the Board of Directors, commenting on the half-year results.
“Looking further forward the expected changeover to the euro will have an additional long-term positive impact on the Group’s credit profile, as after the conversion 80 percent of our business will be generated in euros. Additionally, the currency risk for our debt will be eliminated,” – Peruško said. He also noted that the process of ownership transformation and the divestment of shares held in Fortenova Group by Sberbank continues and that over the course of H1/2022 the final prerequisites for a court ruling on closing the Extraordinary Administration Procedure in Agrokor will have been met.
James Pearson, Fortenova Group’s CFO, commented that the Group had a very positive first half of the year, having focused on market realization and achieving the planned operational improvements.
“Following the significant deleveraging achieved by Fortenova Group in 2021 by the transactions related to Mercator, the Frozen Food Business Group and a number of non-core business and property disposals, in 2022 we have continued to generate higher revenues and operating profits, which brought about a further decrease in the leverage ratio, which now amounts to 3.94 times which reflects the increasing financial strength of the Group. ” – Pearson said.
Just as Konzum, being the national retail leader, was the first retailer in Croatia to start with the dual price display, it has as well together with Tisak, Fortenova Group’s other large retail company, among the first voluntarily acceded the Code of Ethics that establishes the ways in which business entities shall proceed in the process of introducing the euro in the Republic of Croatia.
Given that Fortenova Group has approached this process in an equally transparent way through all of its business segments, the Code of Ethics will as well be acceded by the other Group companies that have a prominent direct relationship with consumers, such as Abrakadabra (A007), Roto dinamic, Multiplus card and others.
Although the document is declaratory in nature, the business entities acceding the initiative guarantee that they shall over the course of the conversion process take care for the adjustment of Croatian consumers to the introduction of the new currency to be as transparent as possible.
With Fortenova Group companies being national leaders in the retail as well as distribution and production of food, by voluntarily acceding the Code of Ethics and accepting its principles they have confirmed their commitment to the welfare of their customers, suppliers and business partners.
As of the day of acceding the Code of Ethics, Fortenova Group companies have acquired the right to use a visual identification sign – a slogan and logo guaranteeing their customers and service users the implementation of principles from that document. They will also be included in the list of business entities that will be publicly available at the website www.euro.hr.
Fortenova Group has prepared its 2021 Sustainability Report and published it on its website (https://fortenova.hr/en/sustainability/ ). It is the Group’s first Report of this kind, whereby it has established its ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) sustainability objectives, prepared in compliance with GRI standards – sustainability reporting guidelines devised by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
The Report provides a comprehensive and detailed overview of the Group’s entire business operations in 2021, as well as insight in its strategy and key values and sustainability topics that are material for Fortenova Group and its stakeholders, i.e. those where the Group has the greatest impact.
It comprises seven key topics starting from the objective to build sustainability as a relevant criterion into the Group’s decision making processes, through reducing GHG emissions, waste management across the chain from food production to packaging, improving life quality by way of the quality of food, reducing the impact that the Group and its operating companies have on soil and waters, impact on improving the standard of living in the communities where it operates to continuing to encourage diversity and inclusion at all levels.
The Report features a lot of data related to the above topics from the Group’s 45 companies that have significant operating activities and actively employ. At the same time, the 2021 Report also includes selected initiatives that were launched in early 2022 to illustrate the current status of topics that are the most relevant for the Group.
Furthermore, given that some of the operating companies’ everyday activities comprised in the Report also include activities specified in the first two objectives of the EU Taxonomy – climate change mitigation and climat change adaptation – in order to act in accordance with its regulatory obligations for 2022, as a first step Fortenova Group disclosed the evaluation of eligibility for 2021.
Namely, the Taxonomy Regulation is the EU’s key document for the achievement of climate objectives and features a classification system that establishes a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities and aligns the criteria for determining whether an economic activity qualifies as environmentally sustainable.
„Everything that we have done over the last few years, and particularly in 2021, is part of the activities that have improved our social and corporate responsibility, while having a positive impact on the economic development of the communities in which we operate. This Report not only shows that we have timely accepted the responsibilities arising from the European Green Deal, but that in 2021 we laid the organizational foundation, as well as the foundation pertaining to activities required for sustainability to be integrated in our internal management system and become part of the Group’s long-term strategy. We have thus raised the responsibility not only to ourselves, but to our consumers, partners, suppliers, the environment and the society as a whole – to an even higher level” – commented Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors on the occasion of publishing Fortenova Group’s first Sustainability Report.
According to the assessment of the Expert Commission of the Croatian Business Council for Sustainable Development (HR PSOR), Fortenova Group’s 2021 Sustainability Report is in accordance with the core level of GRI reporting and complies with the legal provisions of the Republic of Croatia in the area of sustainability reporting.
„ We as a Commission noted that Fortenova, as the largest regional company, has prepared a very comprehensive and thorough report with a lot of useful information that give us complete overview of all their operations. Even though there are some parts of the Report that can be improved, generally, considering that it is the Group’s first report of this kind, we found it very well aligned with the requirements of GRI. It is in our opinion one of the most complete reports to be published in Croatia in recent years and probably one of the finest sustainability reports in the region. We commend Fortenova Group for this accomplishment and look forward to their future work on sustainable practices and on the development of the reporting process itself“ – HR PSOR stated in its assessment of Fortenova Group’s first Sustainability Report.
Fortenova Group’s 2021 total consolidated revenue from continuing operations amounted to HRK 31.4 billion, with consolidated adjusted EBITDA in the amount of HRK 1,955 million and a net profit of HRK 523 million after the gain on the sale of the Frozen Group. The Group closed the year with HRK 1,872 million in cash on its accounts.
These results equate to a growth of consolidated revenue from continuing operations of 65 percent and adjusted consolidated EBITDA growth of 52 percent vs 2020. The main driver of the consolidated results performance is due to Mercator Poslovni Sistemi, being consolidated into Fortenova Group’s results as of May 1st, 2021.
Compared to the 2020 year-end results, the 18 companies from the Group’s core business, excluding the Frozen segment that has been sold and including full year of Mercator Group companies, recorded on a like-for-like basis a revenue growth of 5 percent, an increase in EBITDA of 20 percent, and an increase in EBIT of 64 percent.
These positive growth trends have continued in 2022 and in Q1 2022 our 18 companies from the Group’s core business realized on a like-for-like basis higher net sales revenues by 6 percent, higher EBITDA by 2 percent and higher EBIT by 6 percent, compared to Q1 last year.
„We had very strong performance last year and in the beginning of this year with the key achievements being Mercator’s refinance, transfer and integration along with immediate delivery of planned synergies, closing of Frozen segment sale and resulting deleveraging in Q3 ‘21 as well as significant operational improvements and a good summer season. As a result, our net profit of HRK 523 million shows an improvement of HRK 1.8 billion compared to 2020 and our cash position remains very strong, with HRK 1.9 billion at the end of 2021.
We can look back at a really excellent year, in terms of the results and strengthened capital and financial structure that have set the foundations for continued growth. All activities that we have pursued were aimed at increasing our value as well as Fortenova Group’s overall corporate and social responsibility, in the sense of impact we have on the economies across the region as this region’s largest employer.
I am especially proud of the fact that everything that we have done has also resulted in meeting one of our most important goals – raising the investment strength of Fortenova Group, which is now in the position to pursue a regional investment cycle worth over EUR 130 million in ‘22. All our investments are focused on more sustainable and more efficient operations, so that they can further build on their leading positions. I would also like to emphasize that in addition to all of that, in 2021 we have set very ambitious ESG objectives and have prepared our first Sustainability Report, which will be published in the coming days” – said Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors, summarizing the key features of the 2021 operations.
James Pearson, Fortenova Group’s Chief Financial Officer, said that “We continue to deliver on our planned financial strengthening and simplification of the Group. Through the transactions dealing with Mercator, Frozen Group as well a number of non-core and real estate sales we reduced debt in 2021 by HRK 4.4 billion which led to an underlying leverage ratio of 4.3x at year end. This is a significant decrease from the 6.8x leverage ratio we had at the beginning of the year and demonstrates the great step we have taken.
The results are also a testament to ability and great resilience of the Group’s employees. Despite covid, earthquakes, supply chain pressure, inflation etc they continue to deliver whether improving customer service, improving existing offers or developing new ones all of which is all leading to the reported results.” – Pearson said.
On 7th June 2022 Sergei Volk, Member of Fortenova Group’s Board of Directors, resigned from all positions held at Fortenova Group, whereby all his obligations in the governing bodies of Fortenova grupa d.d. and other Group companies have ceased.
At the same time, the company Open Pass Ltd proposed to the DR Holders’ Meeting to appoint Pavao Vujnovac as Member of Fortenova Group’s Board of Directors, while Damir Spudić has been proposed as Director of the Dutch structure companies, i.e. Fortenova Group HoldCo, MidCo and TopCo B.V. These proposals will be decided upon by the DR Holders at the Meeting.
“We would like to thank Mr. Volk for his personal engagement and his contribution to stabilizing Agrokor’s operations during the Extraordinary Administration, particularly in achieving the settlement among creditors, and then also to the strong development of Fortenova Group. We wish him a lot of professional and personal success going forward” – said Fabris Peruško, Fortenova Group’s Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors.
Fortenova grupa d.d. is 42,51% owned by SBK ART LLC (whose ultimate majority owner is Sberbank of Russia), while 7,39% is owned by VTB BANK (EUROPE) SE. During the restructuring, a sanctions safeguard mechanism was implemented that prevents shareholders subject to sanctions (either EU, UK or US sanctions) from exceeding the 50% of ownership, independently or jointly. In the event that the sanctioned shareholder should acquire new shares and thus exceed 50% (independently or jointly), this exceeding shares are placed in a special account of the Escrow agent (independent third party that manages the securities). Shares held in an Escrow account are registered in the name of the Escrow agent and do not give sanctioned shareholders either ownership or voting rights. Escrow Agent is an international company based in London, which is also required to comply with UK and US sanctions regulations.
The screening of sanctions lists, which ensures compliance with this sanctions safeguard mechanism, is performed on a daily basis.
Given this, Fortenova grupa d.d. is not majority owned nor can ever become majority owned by the shareholders who are subject to sanctions.
In case of need for additional clarifications, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.