Ziua desantului anglo-saxon in Romania a venit astazi 19 septembrie 2017! Un desant jurnalistic, ilustrat de prezenta in pagina electronica a respectabilei publicatii britanice a nu mai putin de 7 articole despre Romania, toate scrise intr-un ton pozitiv, punand-o in valoare.
Aceasta poveste a unei “Romanii altfel” – altfel decat o stim din stirile de zi cu zi de la televizor, este scrisa nu de unul, nu de doi ci de trei jurnalisti britanici corespondenti ai respectivei publicatii.
Dincolo de placerea de a citi despre Romania articole care scot in evidenta progresele si atu-urile acesteia, raman insa intrebarile: de ce acum? de ce 7 povesti intr-o singura zi? este vreo legatura cu negocierile dure pentru Brexit si cu alte “acte de marinimie” facute de Regat fata de Romania – cum ar fi recenta majorare a fondurilor alocate sustinerii dezvoltarii relatiilor comerciale dintre cele doua tari (vezi mai jos!)????
“UK Export Finance, agentia guvernamentala britanica pentru export, va creste suma oferita drept suport la 4 miliarde de lire sterline, pentru a-i ajuta pe exportatorii britanici si pe importatorii romani sa isi intensifice schimburile comerciale. Suportul financiar este oferit in lei, iar oamenii de afaceri romani pot accesa aceste fonduri atunci cand aleg sa lucreze cu furnizori britanici”, potrivit Ambasadei Marii Britanii la Bucuresti.
Schimburile comerciale bilaterale britanico-romane se ridica in prezent la 3,6 miliarde de lire sterline, iar in primele cinci luni ale anului au inregistrat o crestere de peste 5%.”
Oricare ar fi raspunsurile insa … si probabil ca perspectiva este infinit mai complexa … “Povestea unei Romanii altfel, in 7 episoade distincte” merita oricum citita!
Va invitam asadar la lectura, cu mentiunea ca aici veti gasi doar o parte din continutul textelor originale, restul fiind accesibil pe platforma FT, pe linkurile afisate dupa fiecare material in parte.
Romania’s Transylvania region seeks to capitalise on eco-tourismRomania’s
Transylvania region seeks to capitalise on eco-tourismEntrepreneurs prioritise sustainability and heritage rather than vampires
Krishan George did not intend to become a farmer. In 2006, while horseriding with friends through rural Brasov county in south-east Transylvania, the former consultant discovered a 1950s farmhouse deep in the Homorod Valley. Told by a friend that the property was up for auction, Mr George made a bid.
He discovered three months later that the farmhouse he had just bought came with 150 hectares of farmland. But when he returned and took a closer look, Mr George found the farm buildings had been reduced to a shell, stripped even of their original oak wood flooring, walls and electrical wiring. “Everything had gone. I just thought, ‘What do I do?’”
Just over 10 years later, the carefully restored cerulean-blue walls of the Ferma Indianului are adorned with plaques left behind by guests, additions to what is now a working farm and guesthouse that sells milk, jam and other organic produce.
For Mr George and his partner, Alexandra Matei, the artworks are reminders that the guesthouse is still a work in progress. It is the evolving result of a continuing dialogue between travellers from all over the world on the goals of sustainable farming. “I think guests are looking for something which is interactive and I’d like to make it something where they can contribute, and that seems to be happening organically,” Mr George says.
He is part of a new generation of eco-tourism operators in the country seeking to redefine the visitor experience in Transylvania. Instead of visitors being passive onlookers hoping to find a mythic wilderness torn from Bram Stroker’s Dracula, these entrepreneurs want them to help actively conserve the region’s heritage.
How Romania became a popular tech destination
Competitive advantages include 20m population and communist legacy of excellence in science
At first glance Romania seems an unlikely base for cutting-edge tech start-ups. Even regular visitors associate it with misty mountains, medieval churches and potholed roads.
But US wearable technology company Fitbit’s acquisition of Romania’s Vector Watch in January seemed to confirm that Romania’s science-savvy workforce, a sizeable and growing domestic market, and EU membership make it a promising European destination for tech investors.
The downside has been an under-developed and fragmented funding environment, but a wave of recent deals indicate the tech sector’s growing vigour.
“What I find most impressive and reassuring is the active number of young tech entrepreneurs, kids in their early 20s, who have the imagination and power to challenge a global start-up ecosystem,” says Eric Friedman, Fitbit’s co-founder, adding: “The evolution of the tech start-up scene in Romania is highly positive. New investment funds and business angels support more and more tech-based start-ups.”
The Vector Watch acquisition is seen as proof of Romania’s potential. Launched in 2015 by former Timex chief executive Joe Santana, the company won international praise for its watches’ 30-day battery life, cross-functionality, and design. The acquisition was not only adding to Fitbit’s product range. Mr Friedman said it was using Vector Watch — which has a commercial presence in 27 countries — to boost its presence in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and to help it establish a development centre in Bucharest.
Romania plans sovereign fund to bolster privatisations
Despite some successes, a wary nation lags behind peers on sell-offs
When lawmakers from the ruling Social Democratic party proposed a five-year moratorium on privatisations in April, it seemed like another setback for Romania’s stop-start attempts to sell-off state-owned enterprises.
Since the fall of communism, the privatisation process has encountered a series of political and economic hurdles. The draft law on the moratorium was submitted for public debate in July, but opinion is divided on what it means: was it purely for public consumption in a country that is sceptical of privatisations, or a serious legislative proposal with the potential to discourage investors?
In July, social democrat leader Liviu Dragnea — viewed as the real power behind the government — gave the draft law his qualified support, saying that it was “not bad” but needed further analysis.
Where many other ex-communist countries had a wave of privatisation in the early 1990s, Romania was a laggard, partly due to its difficult political transition following its violent 1989 revolution. Bryan Jardine, managing partner for law firm Wolf Theiss in Romania, recalls that privatisation gained traction only in the late 1990s, thanks to a programme backed by the World Bank.
Assets divested included:
Sidex steel mill, acquired in 2001 by Lakshmi Mittal’s LNM, now part of ArcelorMittalPetrom, the oil and gas group and Romania’s largest company, sold to Austria’s OMV in 2004BCR, Romania’s biggest bank, bought by Vienna-based Erste in 2006Various regional electricity distribution companies were also sold off, with European power companies including ENEL, Eon and CEZ among the buyers.OMV-Petrom was one of the biggest successes. Its new owners transformed it from a lossmaking behemoth that was milked by unscrupulous politicians and businessmen into a regional leader that has invested nearly €1bn a year since privatisation and contributes about a tenth of Romania’s tax income, according to Fondul Proprietatea, an investment fund set up by the Romanian state and listed in London and Bucharest.
A second wave of privatisation started in 2007, this time through initial public offerings on the growing Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB). These enabled the government to both sell off stakes in state-owned entities — often minority holdings — and improve corporate governance and transparency while boosting the bourse.
The first of several utility companies to be sold off was energy transmission operator Transelectrica in 2006. The biggest and latest utility privatisation was the sale in 2014 of a 51 per cent stake in electricity supplier Electrica, which raised 1.95bn leu ($490m). However, there have not been any further big state enterprise sales since Electrica’s IPO, which was pushed through under pressure from the IMF.
The state’s next IPO is likely to be of a minority stake in Hidroelectrica, a hydroelectric power operator, expected in the second half of 2018. It is the country’s largest electricity producer, with an installed capacity of 6,432MW — more than four times that of Romania’s sole nuclear power plant at Cernavoda. With a market share of 25 per cent, it has an ebitda margin of about 63 per cent, according to Daniel Tunkli, a senior analyst at regional brokerage Concorde Securities.
Listing Hidroelectrica would help the BVB meet its target of upgrading to MSCI Emerging Market status, thus strengthening its appeal to international investors.
The company has a recent history of mismanagement in state hands. In 2012, it declared insolvency after losing $1.4bn over six years; a legal challenge pushed it back into insolvency two years later. While the management was acquitted of having formed an organised crime group related to strategic privatisations, several members were sentenced to prison for abuse of power. After an extensive turnround process, Hidroelectrica became solvent in June 2016 and Fondul Proprietatea, which holds a 19.94 per cent stake, rates it highly.
It holds a 19.94 per cent stake, the largest component of its unlisted portfolio, yet has concerns about the way the expected date of listing keeps being postponed. On September 8, Fondul said that it was considering selling its stake given a lack of progress on the listing.
“We have frequently highlighted the benefits a Hidroelectrica IPO can bring to Romania’s capital market,” Greg Konieczny, chief executive and portfolio manager of Fondul Proprietatea, told the Financial Times. “However, very little has been done so far on this front for concluding the listing. Without a set deadline for listing and real commitment and support from the government level, we are afraid the Hidroelectrica listing may be delayed indefinitely.”
Mountains and politics thwart Romania’s infrastructure plans
EU membership makes lack of cash a poor excuse
A motorway project that should have strengthened Romania’s road network and created a nexus between the Middle East, central Europe, and the former Soviet Union has instead become a symbol of the country’s transportation shortcomings.
In 2013, after 10 years of stop-start work, the Romanian government pulled the plug on the contract for the landmark Autostrada Transilvania (AT). About €1.4bn had been spent on a mere 52km of highway, far short of the 415km planned.
The AT should have been the spine of Romania’s transportation system, running from Brasov in southern Transylvania, 180km north of Bucharest, to Oradea near the Hungarian border.
The controversy-dogged motorway project had initially been awarded without tender by one government in 2003, and was then suspended by its successor for a year in 2005 while the contracts were examined. When work recommenced, poor project management meant that costs spiralled.
The AT is indicative of the problems with transport, says Nikolai Bozhilov, executive chairman of regional logistics company Unimasters. “The transport infrastructure in Romania is in pretty dire state. Roads and railways have not visibly improved.”
Mr Bozhilov says the exception is the Constanta South container terminal, operated by the UAE’s DP World, one of the most productive ports on the Black Sea. However, poor inland infrastructure has hampered Romania’s potential to compete with North Sea ports for container traffic between Asia and Europe.
Commercial property investors descend on booming Bucharest
Transformation shows revival of interest in Europe’s sixth-largest capital
Grozavesti — until recently an uninspiring district of student flats and old industrial buildings — now hums with the sound of construction. The arrival of an enormous suspension bridge connecting the district with the city centre has brought diggers and cranes to the once sleepy neighbourhood. The regeneration is one sign of the recovering property market in Europe’s quickest-growing economy.
Grozavesti’s new office buildings, in the west of the city, are being pitched at the IT and shared-services companies that form the fastest-growing sector in Romania. The largest among these projects is The Bridge, a €100m, two-phase 57,000 square metre development on the site of an old bread factory.
The first phase is already fully leased to Erste Bank and IBM, and will be completed in October, according to Geo Margescu, chief executive of Forte Partners, the partnership of local developers behind the project. He says the partners bought up land sites like these during the financial crisis and joined forces in 2013. “Now we want to grow our portfolio in the city,” he adds.
The transformation illustrates a new chapter in the Romanian capital’s property investment story. After a collapse in investment volumes following the financial crisis of 2008, this year will be the market’s best performance since the property crash, according to Colliers International Romania, which recorded €400m in transactions by the end of August and is predicting €1bn by the end of the year.
This citywide revival is reshaping the map of the city’s premium office space. The pre-crash boom years saw frenzied construction of soaring glass towers in the north of the city, transforming the grey Ceausescu-era skyline of the EU’s sixth-largest capital by population and becoming a visible symbol of Romania’s rapid modernisation. But prime office development in northern neighbourhoods such as Floreasca-Barbu Vacarescu has led to transport congestion, while stalled construction in the early post-crisis years has pushed up prices.
“Floreasca was a perfect choice for office development because it had good transport links, lots of available development land and was cornered by high-end residential areas like Primavera,” says Sinziana Oprea, associate director at Colliers International Romania. “Even though it is quite crowded now, it is still popular.”
Romania must avoid association with Europe’s ‘bad boys’
Old guard resists chance for fast-growing country to play full part in EU development
The second world war did not truly come to an end in Romania until the anticommunist revolution of 1989. Such is the contention of Dennis Deletant, one of the world’s leading scholars of modern Romania, in Hitler’s Forgotten Ally, his 2006 book on Ion Antonescu, Romania’s military dictator in the early 1940s. The nation’s disastrous wartime alliance with Nazi Germany was followed by more than 40 years of vicious communist rule that left Romania one of the poorest and most atomised societies of eastern Europe.
Only against this historical backdrop is it possible to appreciate the admirable strides Romania has made, despite its shortcomings and self-inflicted troubles, over the past quarter of a century. Burdened with a fragile democratic record before 1939, destitute and isolated under Nicolae Ceausescu, the communist dictator from 1965 to 1989, Romania today is a more open, outward-looking society that is increasingly confident in its European skin. A Nato member since 2004, Romania joined the EU in 2007. In the first half of this year, it boasted being the bloc’s fastest-growing economy.
In order to secure Romania’s future prosperity and stability, the nation’s political classes, business leaders and society as a whole will need to demonstrate the will and ability to engage in the next phase of Europe’s development. Germany and France, supported by other western European countries, are gearing up for a new effort at the economic, financial and perhaps even political integration of the eurozone. At the same time, western European governments are impatient with what they regard as the provocative behaviour and undemocratic tendencies of certain central and eastern European states, especially Hungary and Poland.
For Romania, it is a fundamental national interest not to be relegated to some diplomatic and economic backwater of Europe where, as so often in its history, it would be at risk of being manipulated by greater powers, including Russia. Two consequences flow from this. First, Romania must uphold domestic democratic standards and the rule of law in such a way that it will not be bracketed with the “bad boys” of the ex-communist half of Europe and thereby lose influence in the EU. Second, Romania must continue to strengthen its public finances, business competitiveness and other areas of economic performance to the point where it could one day join the single currency.
Naturally, Romania must not try to run before it can walk. If a country acquires eurozone membership before it is ready, there exists the danger of an economic catastrophe — as Greece, Romania’s fellow Balkan state, can testify. Nonetheless, 19 of the EU’s present 28 states are in the currency union. With the UK poised to leave the EU in March 2019, Romania is set to be part of a shrunken group of eight non-eurozone states. Their voices may be heard less loudly in Brussels, Berlin and Paris.
This prospect is of obvious concern to Romanian policymakers — and they would do well to learn the lesson of Greece’s experience. A year before it adopted the euro in 2001, Greece was deemed to fulfil the EU’s headline criteria for eurozone entry, covering inflation, budget deficits, public debt, exchange rate stability and long-term interest rates. Yet none of this put Greek membership of the eurozone on a solid, durable foundation. Neither would it, for the foreseeable future, in Romania’s case.
As in Greece, the real questions are whether Romania’s political culture can fully purge itself of corruption and cronyism; whether the rule of law can prevail over opaque networks of politically connected private interests; and whether public institutions are strong enough to defend themselves from political pressure. As Greece discovered, eurozone membership exacts a punishingly heavy price from a country where state institutions and the law are hostage to political party interference and where a system of clientelism operates in which government contracts are awarded only to those with the right connections.
Over the past four years, Romania has made more progress in clamping down on corruption among its political and business elites than some outsiders would have imagined possible. Brave, determined individuals at Romania’s anti-corruption directorate deserve credit for this, as does President Klaus Iohannis, who since his election in 2014 has proved to be a staunch defender of high standards in public life.
Pipeline setback squeezes Romania gas export ambitions
Hungary deems only small portion of joint project as economically viable
One day in early 2012, a 750ft long gas drilling ship in the Black Sea confirmed a discovery 1,000m below the surface that would send Romania’s politicians into overdrive.
The Deepwater Champion drilling ship — described by Romania’s then-president Traian Basescu as “something out of Star Trek” — had confirmed a reserve in the Neptun block of the Black Sea, estimated at 80-100 billion cubic metres, or up to nine times Romania’s annual consumption.
Drilling had only begun at Romania’s first deep sea well, Domino-1, a year earlier, but already Romanian policymakers were talking about deep water production transforming the country into an important regional gas exporter.
“If the remaining five fields of the Neptun area that will be prospected indicate a similar amount, Romania could become a source of gas not only for itself but for other European countries, too,” Mr Basescu said on a visit to the ship.
The discovery and renewed efforts by European governments to invest in gas transmission infrastructure offered Romania a tantalising economic and geopolitical prospect. The country’s own gas needs could be met internally for many more years but more discoveries would create export opportunities.
“We can already cover our domestic gas consumption — it’s only in winter that we need some imports, amounting to 10 per cent of total consumption,” Toma Petcu, Romania’s energy minister, told the FT.
But, even while analysts are expecting ExxonMobil and OMV will begin production at Neptun from 2020 — raising the prospect of gas self-sufficiency in the near future — plans to connect the fields with western European gas networks are faltering. Commentators are now taking a more sober attitude to the country’s production capacity, estimated by some analysts at 6bcm-12bcm annually. That is dimming hopes of a significant increase in gas exports, despite predictions by some politicians.
Not long after the discovery, the European Commission listed exploiting Black Sea deposits among its priorities in the first EU Energy Security Strategy; a plan crafted to reduce central and eastern Europe’s dangerous reliance on Russian gas, imported via troubled Ukraine, by increasing energy interconnections and diversifying gas supply sources.
Pivotal among the projects that Brussels is supporting is BRUA — a €560m pipeline project to carry gas along a route from Bulgaria, across Romania and Hungary to the Baumgarten hub in Austria.
But the plan is now being scaled back after FGSZ, Hungary’s transmission operator, cut back on its most ambitious elements. FGSZ shocked observers in July when it announced that the only economically viable part of the pipeline would be an expansion of capacity on the existing Romania-Hungary interconnector, from 4.4 bcm to 5.26 bcm annually.
Romanian and Hungarian officials say this scaled-back version of the project should proceed as planned, and that transmission operators are in talks about an “Open Season” — a process where operators can book capacity on the pipeline.
The more modest version of the plan cuts off 200km of pipeline on the Austrian end and significantly scales back the capital expenditure. This would remove the possibility of shipping ExxonMobil and OMV’s Neptun gas to Austria.