2012: Tak­ing bit­ter with sweet

Top 100 See - - Top 100 Companies - By Mira Karadzhova

SEE coun­tries, with their strengths and weak­nesses, painted a mixed pic­ture in 2012, but in gen­eral the slow­down in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment rates put a mark on the year all around.

The re­ces­sion in the eu­ro­zone had un­favourable in­flu­ence upon SEE coun­tries’ for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment and ex­ter­nal de­mand. All coun­tries in the re­gion re­ported slower GDP growth rates in 2012 com­pared to 2011. The main de­ter­rent to the eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity was the cri­sis in the eu­ro­zone, the ma­jor trade part­ner of SEE coun­tries, which led to last year’s slump in ex­ports. Low house­hold con­sump­tion was an­other im­por­tant cause for the slug­gish per­for­mance of the SEE economies. Harsh win­ter, spring floods, sum­mer drought and for­est fires in the re­gion dev­as­tated crops and af­fected trade, in­fra­struc­ture and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in the re­gion.

And yet some of the SEE economies man­aged to achieve growth, al­beit mod­est, and keep in­fla­tion in check. Given the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by the eu­ro­zone and the dis­as­trous macroe­co­nomic con­di­tions in Greece and Italy, the sta­ble pic­ture in SEE sug­gests that smaller boats could sur­vive more eas­ily in rough wa­ters.

Mixed sig­nals

The mixed re­sults of the TOP 100 non-fi­nan­cial com­pa­nies for 2012 are in con­cert with the devel­op­ment of SEE economies. De­spite the tough times, the com­bined rev­enues of the top 100 play­ers grew to 103.6 bil­lion euro from 101 bil­lion euro a year ear­lier. Their to­tal net profit, how­ever, went down to 2.85 bil­lion euro from 3.0 bil­lion euro in 2011. The rev­enue thresh­old for the SEE TOP 100 chart slightly de­clined to 440 mil­lion euro, com­pared with 442 mil­lion euro in the pre­vi­ous edi­tion. This shows that although com­pa­nies man­aged to gen­er­ate higher rev­enues, their prof­itabil­ity was not on the rise. Nev­er­the­less, all three in­di­ca­tors had re­turned to pre-cri­sis lev­els in 2011, a trend which con­tin­ued in 2012, im­ply­ing that the times of tum­bling earn­ings are over.

The num­ber of com­pa­nies which saw their rev­enues go down in 2012 rose to 33 from 21, but they were pre­dom­i­nantly placed at the lower end of the chart, mean­ing that big com­pa­nies proved to be more re­silient to the chal­leng­ing eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion. Ro­ma­nian agri­cul­tural firm Cargill Agri­cul­tura, whose rev­enues tum­bled 28.74%, ex­pe­ri­enced the steep­est de­cline. As a re­sult, it fell 32 spots to num­ber 82 in 2012. By con­trast, Bul­gar­ian gas dis­trib­u­tor Over­gas climbed 22 spots to num­ber 43, mark­ing the high­est jump in the 2012 chart.

The best bot­tom line was reg­is­tered by the leader, OMV Petrom, at 869.5 mil­lion euro, while the deep­est loss was of 47th-ranked Ser­bian gas com­pany JP Sr­bi­ja­gas – 310 mil­lion euro.

Ti­tans clash

There was no sur­prise at the lead, as Ro­ma­nian oil and gas heavy­weight OMV Petrom held its crown for the sixth year in a row. The be­he­moth man­aged to boost its rev­enues 18.32% year-on-year to 4.733 bil­lion euro in 2012, thus keep­ing a safe half-a-mil­lion-euro dis­tance from the run­ner-up, just like a year ear­lier. In Au­gust 2013 the Ro­ma­nian ma­jor con­firmed it was pur­su­ing its am­bi­tious 1.2bil­lion-euro in­vest­ment pro­gramme for 2013, which trans­lates into a 24% surge in in­vest­ments com­pared with 2012. The bulk of the funds will be in­jected in ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion.

Sur­pris­ingly, Bul­gar­ian oil re­finer Lukoil Neftochim stole the sec­ond place from Croa­t­ian oil and gas ma­jor INA, which it had oc­cu­pied for four years run­ning. The Bul­gar­ian gi­ant's rev­enues surged over 22% to 4.2 bil­lion euro. Still, it re­mained in the red, with a net loss of 48 mil­lion euro although it im­proved its per­for­mance from a neg­a­tive re­sult of 69.5 mil­lion euro in 2011.

INA switched places with the Bul­gar­ian ma­jor after the for­mer's rev­enues re­mained un­changed at the 2011 level, but its net profit dipped by about one-third. INA is 49% owned by Hun­gar­ian oil group MOL, with the re­main­der in the hands of the gov­ern­ment in Za­greb. The Croa­t­ian cabi­net has been try­ing to re­verse the deal, which gave MOL op­er­a­tional con­trol over the com­pany in 2009. Ro­ma­nian car­maker Da­cia slipped two spots to num­ber seven in 2012, as both its rev­enues and profit were on the de­cline last year. Re­nault's Ro­ma­nian unit boosted its 2012 global pas­sen­ger car sales 4.8% to 360,000. By con­trast, Slove­nian fuel re­tailer Petrol earned two spots to num­ber five, as its rev­enues ad­vanced by 14% and its bot­tom line soared al­most 200%.

The top five play­ers – all of them oil and gas spe­cial­ists – reg­is­tered a two-digit in­crease in rev­enues, with the ex­cep­tion of INA. As usual, oil and gas firms dom­i­nated the TOP 100 rank­ing with 28 rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the rank­ing for 2012, the same num­ber as the pre­vi­ous year. The num­ber of elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies in the chart also re­mained in­tact at 18. Whole­sal-

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