At the time when SeeNews started publishing the SEE TOP 100 ranking seven years ago, Southeast Europe was a fast-growing market, luring investors with high yields, flexible labour policies and low production costs. The companies in the region were growing at a robust pace, and the difference in the net sales revenues of the first and the last ranked indicated ample room for growth and consolidation.
Back then, riding the wave of optimism, local businesses were confident the region was firmly set on a path to gradually unlock its potential.
What a difference seven years make. Or don't make in the case of pesky investor deterrents like poor infrastructure and inadequate government and regulatory policies. Corporate revenues are staying flattish, profits are declining, and the difference between the first and the last entrant in the ranking has faded. Room for growth is limited, and competition is getting fiercer. The effects of cost-cutting and more sustainable use of resources – hailed as a cure-all for corporate ills in the past few years – seem to have worn off. At the same time, investment in innovations, universally acknowledged as a key driver of competitiveness and profitability, is largely absent from the agenda of business executives in the region.
To help draw attention to the need to nurture innovation in the region, we have decided to include in this year's edition a special chapter featuring exclusive interviews with some of the global leaders in innovation – IBM and Cisco, as well as an article on LAUNCHub, a seed fund with an investment focus on digital technology.
Like previous editions, apart from the flagship ranking of the largest non-financial companies by total revenue, SEE TOP 100 features rankings of the biggest banks and insurers, complemented with interviews with the chart-toppers and key market players. The edition also includes sub-rankings of the most profitable companies and biggest loss-makers, as well as the companies with the biggest revenue per capita. The ranking of the most successful industries in the region comes together with an analysis of the energy sector, courtesy of the Institute of Energy for South East Europe, and an overview of the grocery market trends, contributed by our partner Euromonitor International.
We have made it a tradition in past years to also bring you the perspective on the region of the big international banks. In our seventh edition, we talk to Ihsan Ugur Delikanli, the president of the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, about the bank's operations, and JeanMarc Peterschmitt, the managing director for Central and Southeast Europe of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, about the challenges faced by the banking sector in the region.
To give you a fuller picture, we have decided to also include an analysis by SeeNews Competitive Intelligence on the region's small and medium-sized enterprises – the backbone of every economy, which usually remains invisible in the big rankings.