Govt Approves Plan to Consolidate, Restructure State Tourism Assets

By , 07 Feb 2020, 09:49 AM Business
Hoteli Bernardin, one of the assets involved Hoteli Bernardin, one of the assets involved www.hoteli-bernardin.si

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STA, 6 February 2020 - The outgoing government on Thursday approved Slovenian Sovereign Holding's (SSH) asset management plan for 2020, which also contains a long-awaited plan to consolidate, manage and restructure state-owned tourism companies.

The tourism consolidation plan has been months in the making, but the government did not provide any details about it after today's session.

Similarly, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, the initiator of the changes, did not reveal any details when leaving the session, saying only that the plan had been discussed.

His ministry told the STA earlier this week that the tourism consolidation plan pursued goals from the 2017-2021 strategy on sustainable tourism growth.

The strategy governs the consolidation of state-owned tourism companies in terms of ownership and management under the roof of a special state holding.

The state's tourism assets would be consolidated within a holding which would stem from a special company the bad bank has set up after seizing Istrabenz Turizem shares.

Transfer of the shares of tourism companies Istrabenz Turizem and Thermana is pending, awaiting government approval of the tourism consolidation plan.

The new holding is also expected to feature the state's stakes in Sava Turizem (including Hoteli Bernardin), Hit Alpinea, Terme Olimia, Adria Ankaran and Unitur.

Počivalšek believes the consolidation should help the companies improve their performance and increase value, which would be a good basis for a "well thought-out" privatisation.

The newspaper Delo reported that the goal was to increase the value of the companies by EUR 400 million in eight years.

To buy the remaining stakes the state does not yet hold in these companies, for instance the York fund's over 40% stake in Sava or Unitur, the business daily Finance said EUR 40-60 million could be needed.

Delo said that investments of the tourism companies pooled by the new holding, some of which are still quite indebted, are planned to over EUR 200 million.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is reportedly interested in recapitalising the holding, which would give more leverage for investment.

In today's press release, SSH said the consolidation and restructuring of the state's tourism portfolio would be carried out in several stages.

The key goals will be increasing the portfolio's value and improving its profitability as well as further development of the tourist industry in line with the strategy.

It also said the state's tourism portfolio represented a significant part of the Slovenian industry, so its consolidation would have a positive impact on the entire industry.

Meanwhile, SSH's annual asset management plan, which specifies management of individual sectors and of specific investments, sets the target return on equity for 2020 at 5.9%.

This is 0.3 of a percentage point less than in 2019, but SSH boss Gabrijel Škof has recently said this is due to lower anticipated economic growth, one-off events in 2019 and regulatory requirements.

The custodian of state assets plans dividends at EUR 142.4 million, of which EUR 102.9 million would go directly to the state and EUR 39.5 million to SSH.

Last year's dividends amounted to EUR 250.4 million as a result of the sale of banks NLB and Abanka, while no major sales of state assets are planned for this year.

In the release SSH said that following the privatisation of the two banks, the share of financial companies in its portfolio had significantly dropped as had the share of important and portfolio investments, whereas the holding continues to manage many strategic investments, the return on equity of which is usually lower.

The annual asset management plan consists of a general public part and a special part which details each individual asset, SSH explained.

It said that the government had also adopted criteria to assess the performance of companies with a state stake.

Leaving the government session, Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek told the press her proposal to put quality services before profit in companies carrying out public service, such as the national railway and postal companies, had not been included in the SSH's annual plan.

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