STA, 19 February 2019 - Economists warn against selling Slovenian flagship wine producers to non-strategic buyers, which are usually not interested in long-term development but quick profit. They believe strategic buyers could be found at home.
Marko Hočevar and Aleš Kuhar have spoken to the STA after Istrabenz recently put on sale its 50% stake in Adriafin, the firm which owns almost 78% of Vinakoper.
They believe that for Vinakoper, one of the leading wine companies in Slovenia, getting a non-strategic owner would be "bad news".
Vinakoper is the leading wine maker on the coast, in the south-west of the country, where it has some 590 hectares of vineyards.
Another well-known wine maker, Vinag, a storied Maribor winery that traces its history to the 19th century, was sold to a company whose plans for the winery are not clear just yesterday. The new owner, Metalka Commerce is part of a business empire of Marjan Pišljar, dealing mostly in real estate and stocks.
Hočevar says there have been several takeovers lately with negative consequences for the acquired Slovenian wine companies, as non-strategic owners, such as various funds, are usually interested only in making quick profit from the wine producers' real estate or in other yields.
"I don't think it'd be good for Vinakoper to be taken over by a fund or somebody who sees its advantage in buildings rather than in the long-term development."
Since there are several solid wine makers in Slovenia, he believes Goriška Brda, another wine company from the Primorska region, could take over Vinakoper.
Kuhar shares Hočevar's view about the dark side of non-strategic owners, but notes the business models of Klet Brda and Vinakoper are somewhat different.
"Nevertheless, they could find synergies. The key question is the price and if Klet Brda would be able to finance such a purchase. Otherwise I see no problems," he says.
Hočevar says winemaking is one of the more important domestic industries, noting it is important economically, while Slovenians "are also culturally attached to wine".
In the business year 2017/2018, Slovenia produced almost 626,000 hectolitres of wine, meaning it was 91% self-sufficient.
Kuhar believes winemaking has a major development potential. "Winemaking is one of the most development-oriented branches of agriculture."
However, he also points to the grey market, which is thriving as wine production for own use often ends up in bars and restaurants and the state tolerates this.
Being in receivership, Istrabenz had tried to sell Adriafin before, and Adriafin's other owner - port operator Luka Koper - has the pre-emptive right to buy the company.
The 2016 attempt produced several potential buyers, including a Koper utility, which offered some EUR 2.5m for it, while Pišljar's Metalka Commerce offered somewhat more.
This time, the deadline for binding bids expires on 1 March.