Bad Bank’s Land Deals in Logatec Under Investigation

By , 19 Sep 2018, 11:50 AM Business
Screenshot from BAMC's website Screenshot from BAMC's website dutb.eu

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STA, 18 September - Several land transactions made by the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) are under police investigation and subject to an audit, including the sale of land for a plant of the Japanese Sumitomo Rubber Industries, news portal Siol.net reported on Tuesday. BAMC later said it was not a suspect and was cooperating with the investigators. 

Siol said investigators were looking into why the bad bank had entered into property deals with intermediaries instead of selling the plots directly. The police would neither confirm nor deny they are investigating the transactions.

The news portal says the bad bank sold a 51,000 m2 plot in Logatec, on which Sumitomo's Swiss subsidiary Lonstroff is currently building its elastomer manufacturing facility, to realtor Svet Re for about EUR 40 per square metre.

Just days later, Svet Re sold a 33,000 m2 plot to Lonstroff for EUR 90 per m2, making EUR 1m in net profit in the process. The remainder of the plot was sold just months later to logistics company Hoedelmayr at EUR 40 per m2.

Siol says the deal raises questions about why Sumitomo paid so much for the land, why the bad bank decided to go through an intermediary, and who pocketed the profit.

According to Siol, the transactions are also the subject of an ongoing audit by Ernst&Young at the bad bank. BAMC confirmed it had launched "appropriate internal procedures, including engaging the international audit firm Ernst&Young, which will compile a report based on an in-depth internal audit".

It also refuted the reports that it was being investigated, saying that it did speak to investigators with regards to the deal some time ago. The bad bank added that it had provided all the support to the investigators but that it could not provide any further comment because "the procedures in question are BAMC's business secret".

Responding to the news, Economy Ministry State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti said the ministry had not been informed about any investigation but if there had been wrongdoing, it needed to be sanctioned.

"If there was foul play, including against the investor, it is inadmissible practice. It is even worse when a state-owned company, in this case BAMC, is involved. Such conduct is inadmissible and needs to be sanctioned, there is no doubt about that," he told the press.

He said the ministry, which awarded Sumitomo a EUR 4.8m incentive for the investment, had never discussed the location with the investor; it gave Sumitomo a choice of several plots but the investor eventually decided to select Logatec over their shortlist.

"We were satisfied when we found out about the Logatec location. It's a brownfield site and our strategy is to get as many investments as possible in such areas," he said.

Sumitomo had told them they picked Logatec after examining over 20 sites, as the only location with all the necessary infrastructure where it was possible to build without zoning changes.

"To my knowledge, the company did not know about the relationship between BAMC and the intermediary. They simply bought the land from whoever was selling it," according to Cantarutti.

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