Interview for Blic Dušan Radičević, MK Group’s CFO
We will invest 500 million euros in 5 years’ time
We have spoken about an important jubilee of one of the strongest holding companies in the region that celebrates 35 years of business this year with Dušan Radičević, MK Group’s CFO, the upcoming Kopaonik Business Forum, as well as further business plans.
The upcoming Kopaonik Business Forum, organized by the Association of Economists of Serbia is traditionally held at Grand Hotel & Spa, which operates within MK Group. How do you comment on the topic of this year’s Forum – “Serbia ten years after a major recession: strong growth as an imperative”?
The Kopaonik Business Forum is once a year opportunity to talk about the most important economic and social issues in Serbia, and therefore the participation of representatives of the economy in such gatherings is of invaluable importance. I am proud that MK Group, in a certain way, traditionally represents the host of the Forum, but also the active participant. Every year, our company has its representatives and panelists, and this year it is the President of the company, Miodrag Kostić, the President of EB of AIK Banka, Jelena Galić, the Director of Carnex Mohan Shrestha and the Director of the Sector for Digitalization and Development of MK Group, Aleksandar Bijelić. The main topic of this year’s Forum is very inspiring, as it is a great opportunity to sum up the results and to emphasize the facts on what we have achieved in the past decade. Furthermore, we will jointly determine further development paths that will accumulate additional growth and influence the economic positioning of Serbia not only in the region, but even wider. In the previous period, the state was focused on attracting foreign investments. This is justified from the aspect of faster GDP growth and creation of Serbia as a preferred investment destination. However, as one of the most successful domestic companies, we have repeatedly pointed out that domestic investors have to be treated equally.
Regarding MK Group’s business, you have recently stated that you will invest 500 million eur in the field of agriculture, tourism and banking in the next five years. How do you intend to realize this investment?
MK Group is one of the largest private companies in Southeast Europe that employs 7,000 people within 75 member companies. Since its establishment in 1983, we have invested one billion eur into the key areas of our business: agricultre, tourism and banking. Our results give us a stable basis for further ambitious plans that we intend to realize, which include additional investments in the amount of 500 million eur in our business. At MK Group’s level, our development goals include strengthening the vertical integration of operations, consolidating the leading position in the market and expanding our business. We are the largest exporter of cereals and oilseeds in Serbia for five years in a row. We are cooperating with more than 30,000 subcontractors who employ more than 200,000 people in their systems. Export is our strategic commitment. Currently, we make 50% of export revenues in order to increase this share in the next five years to 70%. Our investments will primarily be directed towards the production intended for export. When it comes to tourism, in majority and minority ownership, we currently have 15 hotels with 2,700 rooms, and we plan to have 5,000 rooms within this Division. In the past ten years, we have invested more than 200 million eur in the development of this branch of business, and our last investment – the acquisition of Portorož Airport in Slovenia is another confirmation that we are a strategic investor whose goal is not only the purchase of a hotel, but the creation of successful tourist destination as well. We are also proud of AIK Banka, which recently received a prestigious award for the best commercial bank in Serbia awarded by the renowned economical magazine from Great Britain – International Banker. With a strong capital base of 500 million eur, 8.2% of market share and recent acquisitions of the majority stake in Gorenjska banka in Slovenia, AIK Bank confirms that it is one of the stable and key players in consolidating the banking market in the region.
In recent years, your company has been increasingly investing into the region. What are the other companies in the region are you interested in apart from those that are already within your system?
MK Group operates in four countries of the region – Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Croatia. Investing in the region is our strategic commitment, because we firmly believe that only by creating strong regional players can we be competitive in the European market. Detailed consideration of the business moves we are pulling, the analysis of the market in which we invest, the expertise and long experience of all decision makers in MK Group have led to our system being one of the most successful in Southeast Europe. We will continue to expand our business exclusively in the areas where we operate and where we have know-how. Our team has shown in previous years that it is capable of recognizing and utilizing a good chance of investing with minimum risks.
You have entered the Croatian market by purchasing a luxury Skiper Resort in Savudrija and therefore you’ve managed to eliminate resistance towards Serbian capital in Croatia. How have the Serbian foreing investments been treated?
It is certain that the number of Serbian investments in the region is still lower than the number of foreign investments in Serbia. As I stated earlier, MK Group is a strategic partner in all the communities in which we operate. Regional economic co-operation is necessary if we want to create a strong market that will be able to compete not only with European, but also with world players and we are sure that all stakeholders are aware of this. In particular, we have a good cooperation with all stakeholders, including local self-government in Croatia.
Mr. Kostić announced last year that you are interested in buying some parts of Agrokor, if they would be for sale. What company would you like to add to your business system?
At this moment, MK Group does not consider the purchase of any part of Agrokor.
We are witnessing the fact there is an increasing number of experts leaving the country. How does MK Group manage to provide high-quality professional staff and what the state authorities should do to stop this process?
The focus of MK Group’s activities is always people, because the fact is that satisfied employees represent the most important strategic resource and the main driver of success. We take into account the motivation of employees, and I am particularly proud of the fact that we have a professional, competent and above all loyal professional staff that is the key to our success. A large number of colleagues work in the company for many years, while as many as 256 jubilants celebrate more than 30 years of work in our system. The state should lead a policy that will stimulate young and professional personnel to stay in our country, but big companies need to do this as well. Our corporate culture promotes innovation and the possibility of continuous improvement and transition from one group to another operating within the MK Group. We support the proactivity and initiative of employees through internal competitions within which they can express their entrepreneurial spirit and get support for the realization of a business idea. Above all, we take care of nurturing family values, through providing continuous support to all parents working within our system.
At the beginning of 2019, you’ve celebrated 35 years of existence and presented a new visual identity and corporate slogan. How do you think this change will affect the further business operations of MK Group?
As the Group grew and advanced, we’ve changed our appearance by expanding into new business areas, and it became necessary to present this size and achieved success by the new visual identity. Additionally, at the end of the calendar year and the beginning of the new one, MK Group has celebrated a 35 years of successful business, which is a great success for one domestic company. With the new visual identity, we symbolically celebrate three and a half decades of joint success. When it comes to the slogan – One vision. Smart decisions. – I’m sure it reflects what MK Group really is. Everything started from the vision of the founder, the President of the company, but our system achieves outstanding business results over the years due to people who make smart decisions every day. Over the past 35 years, we have created a strong company capable of dealing with the strongest competition from around the world. I am sure that the great things that we have defined in our ambitious business strategy are yet to come.