By: Sara Kovač / Nova24tv
The sale of the York fund’s stake in the company Sava is a hot topic these days, which has raised some old, worn-out questions about the national interest and the allegedly harmful consequences of foreign investors owning shares in Slovenian companies. It began with the signing of an agreement to transfer a 43.2 percent stake and receivables of the Sava company from the York Capital Management to the new Hungarian owner, Prestige Tourism.
The latter is willing to commit, as a strategic partner, to support the development of the Sava Tourism (Sava Turizem) company into a regional champion with a 200-million-euro investment of its own funds. A 30-day deadline has been set, by the end of which the Slovenian Sovereign Holding, led by Janez Žlak, and Kapitalska družba (Capital Association), which is led by Bachtiar Djalil of the Social Democrats (SD) party (together, the two companies own a 47 percent stake in Sava) must decide on exercising their pre-emption right for this share. The companies are under immense pressure from the opposition politicians, trade unions, and the media, who want the companies to exercise this right.
And now, Borut Jamnik, the President of the Management Board of Modra zavarovalnica (an insurance company) and nephew of the long-standing grey eminence of the SD party, Breda Pečan, unexpectedly became actively involved in this story because he supposedly assesses the purchase of a stake in Sava as a “good investment opportunity.” Kapitalska družba allegedly submitted a request to Slovenian Sovereign Holding to exercise the pre-emption right with a counteroffer, which was allegedly higher than the offer made by the Hungarian buyer Prestige Tourism. Kapitalska družba would supposedly finance the purchase of the stake in Sava with the help of Modra zavarovalnica. Why is this intention a bit unusual?
The “Wonder Boy of the Energy Sector” was also at the meeting of the infamous Forum 21
Kapitalska družba is said to be willing to buy York’s 43 percent stake in Sava, if the Slovenian Share Holding will not exercise its pre-emption right. However, we all know the open secret that Jamnik was considered a key player in many previous privatisation procedures of Slovenian state-owned companies. What is the odd part in all of this is Jamnik’s active role he has played so far in supporting privatisation and, in the current case, his zeal to nationalise a key Slovenian tourist company. And in addition, something else is a bit “off.” The main mission of Kapitalska družba is to take care of the security of the citizens’ pensions, not to buy a major stake in a company that is already underfunded and does not have its own investment potential. However, Jamnik calls this a “good investment opportunity.”
And by the way: public records show that Modra zavarovalnica is 100 percent owned by Kapitalska družba, where Aleksander Mervar also sits on the Supervisory Board, and he is the man of another “godfather from the background,” Gregor Golobič, a former member of the LDS party and one of the founding members of the Zares party. Meanwhile, the Supervisory Board of Modra zavarovalnica includes the well-known head of the Trade Union of Upbringing, Education, Science and Culture in Slovenia, the former son-in-law of Milan Kučan and the ardent anti-government activist, Branimir Štrukelj, who is associated with the extreme Left party (Levica). All roads lead to Murgle.
The web portal Požareport also mentions some interesting facts about Jamnik, who allegedly has a lot in common with the latest “new face” of Slovenian left-wing politics, Robert Golob (who is Kučan’s candidate for the mandatary of the transitional left). Požareport states that it may not be a coincidence that both Modra zavarovalnica, as well as Golob’s Gen-I (the energy company), have their headquarters at the same address, under the same roof – at Dunajska 119, in Ljubljana. Jamnik and Golob also supposedly often meet up and spend time together as friends, especially at joint (“conspiratorial”) lunches, in one or the other’s cabinet, quite discreetly. Allegedly, they take their food into their office. Both are also transitional children, born with a golden spoon in their mouths, and both built their careers on excellent family foundations. Golob’s father, Valentin, for example, was the state director of the company Soške elektrarne (Soča Power Plants). According to journalist Bojan Požar, Jamnik is only going against the Hungarians now that he is no longer the supervisor of the NKBM Bank, which is owned by the Hungarian bank OTP. If the state pays the American York fund 38 million euros for its share in the Sava company, this will be a new theft of the taxpayers’ money, millions of which have already flowed into tax havens.
Jamnik “weaves nets” that support his obsession with supervisory boards and privatisation procedures
Let’s also take a look at the “privatisation background” of Jamnik, who, in recent decades, has been considered a key player in the privatisation of state-owned companies. He sold Fotona, Mercator and Helios. In October 2013, for example, at the signing of the contract for the sale of Helios to the Austrian company Ring International, he proudly said: “This is a great example of a good sale of a state-owned company. In the competitive process, we have chosen a strategic owner who will contribute to the growth of Helios.” What happened to Helios after that is a well-known story.
Privatisation procedures were also related to the establishment of corporate governance in large companies, in which Jamnik successfully fought for his position. He was at least a member, if not the chairman of the supervisory boards of many companies from the privatisation list of the 15 state-owned companies – for example, he was the chairman of the supervisory boards of Cinkarna Celje, Telekom Slovenije, and he is also a member of the board in Krka, and in May of 2019, he became a member of the NKBM’s board. What is unusual is that Jamnik can be both the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Modra zavarovalnica, which is 100 percent state-owned, and also the supervisor of the bank (foreign-owned), as there is a risk of a conflict of interest.
Some people claim that Jamnik’s mastery lies in “weaving nets” that support his obsession with supervisory boards and privatisation procedures. He pursued his interests with the help of a broad coalition of allies (old boys). If necessary, he also achieved his power and influence through media reckoning. He has created a model of corporate governance, according to which he is the “lifelong boss” of Modra zavarovalnica, which brings him nice privileges. Of course, it is also possible that Jamnik is going against the Hungarian investors because he is no longer a member of the NKBM Supervisory Board (NKBM is owned by the Hungarian bank OTP), where he used to receive a nice salary of more than 100 thousand euros per year for his supervisory role). The information shared by Simon Zajc, State Secretary at the Ministry of the Economy, at the session of the Commission for Public Finance Control in the National Assembly, is undoubtedly interesting. He said that the Slovenian state has ownership shares in as many as 20 companies in the tourism industry, which control 28.5 percent of all hotel rooms and between 60 and 70 percent of capital and assets. This is unique in the European space, as no other country in the EU is the majority owner of hotels.
Sava Tourism is not state “silverware,” but rather a piece of “hardware” with a debt of 110 million euros
Sava performed so badly that it became insolvent and went into the compulsory settlement – and in this compulsory settlement, York also converted its claims from Sava into an ownership share, which it had previously bought cheaply from the Bank Assets Management Company during the time of Miro Cerar‘s government. Thus, York became the owner of Sava. Sava is not state “silverware” – with a debt of 110 million euros and a great need for new investments in hotels, for which it has no debt potential, it is more like state hardware.
And up until recently, the Slovenian Sovereign Holding was obviously aware of this as well, as it withdrew from an agreement last summer, even though the state had an offer on the table for the purchase at a price of 34.4 million euros. However, today, when this price is 4 million euros higher, suddenly the Slovenian Sovereign Holding is interested in buying Sava, only to make sure that York does not sell its share to other foreign investors. So why the pressure to buy the share – even though there was no interest in it even half a year ago? And why did Jamnik suddenly get involved?
In addition to everything written so far, there is another interesting detail. With the exercise of the pre-emption right, Kapitalska družba’s share in Sava would increase to 71 percent, which is not in line with Kapitalska družba’s policy of remaining a portfolio investor. We will write more about the motives of Borut Jamnik and the bankster Matej Narat, who has been managing Sava Tourism after the fiasco at the NLB Bank, in the coming days.