| ZAGREB, April 11
ZAGREB, April 11 Atlantic Grupa, one
of Croatia's largest food firms, expects total sales growth to
increase to almost 8 percent this year, helped by demand in
Western Europe and distribution deals, its chief executive said.
Atlantic, a rare successful exporter in the battered
Croatian economy, is present in more than 30 markets, mostly in
western Europe, the Balkans and Russia. It has production
facilities in five Balkan countries and Germany.
The second-largest food company in Croatia behind privately
owned Agrokor, Atlantic produces protein bars, soft drinks,
coffee and sweets.
It is also the main regional distributor of products from
international giants Nestle, Johnson&Johnson
"Our strongest market in terms of growth is Russia, but the
current situation in Ukraine does not help. We expect to
continue growing above average in some countries in western
Europe, like Germany, Sweden and Spain," CEO Emil Tedeschi told
Reuters in an interview on Friday.
The company expects total sales growth of almost 8 percent
this year compared with 2.5 percent last year. Tedeschi said
Atlantic's own sales should rise 3-4 percent. The company did
not give a comparable figure for last year.
Its overall sales rose to 5.05 billion kuna ($918.9 million)
in 2013, while net profit jumped 77 percent to 199 million.
Croatia joined the European Union last July but its economy,
still dominated by an inefficient public sector, was largely
The country has had no growth since 2008 and has lost around
13 percent of output since then. For this year most analysts
expect another mild decline.
In contrast, Tedeschi said Atlantic was now reaping benefits
from having spent a decade preparing for EU membership.
"We've become ready to compete at home and abroad, that's
why we're confident in good future performance."
Tedeschi said Atlantic plans to start building a new factory
in Croatia worth 120 million kuna this month, which would
produce almost exclusively for the EU markets and the United
States, probably from December.
"After assessing whether to start new production in Germany,
Slovenia or Croatia, we concluded that the local investment
would be the best option in terms of costs," Tedeschi said.
But he acknowledged Croatia's business climate was generally
unfriendly for investors, because of excessive bureaucracy,
inefficient administration and frequently changing rules.
"Also, Croatia lacks people with good managerial skills,
both in the private and public sector," he said.
($1 = 5.4960 Croatian Kunas)
(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and