According to a survey conducted by an international credit insurance company, Coface which ranked 500 top companies in Central and Eastern Europe, ten Serbian companies have also made the cut; three more than last year.
By far, the biggest number of companies on this list are from Poland, as many as 175, followed by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania.
As the Central and Eastern European region (CEE) continued booming, companies enjoyed a supportive macroeconomic environment in 2017, with the average GDP growth rate soaring to its highest level in the last eight years of 4.5%, after 3.1% in 2016 and 3.7% in 2015. Coface forecasts indicate that this will remain at a solid 4.1% in 2018. Although social risk has risen in the last decade, the CEE region remains much less risky than other emerging markets. Hard data indicate that political issues have not yet negatively impacted CEE economies and businesses. The inflow of foreign investment remains positive and a number of large investments have been and continue to be made in the region.
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Business conditions were supportive for companies in the CEE region, especially those large ones as confirmed by the CEE Top 500 ranking. In 2017, Coface upgraded the Country Risk Assessments of several countries in the region (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Serbia) and also of Russia, leaving only Croatia and Serbia with a fairly high risk of business default.
The best-ranked company from Serbia is JP Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), which ranked 72nd in 2016 and 65th last year. This is primarily due to the company’s revenue growth of 2.1 billion euro. NIS was ranked 80th in the list, a jump of 14 places, with the turnover of 1.8 billion euro. Fiat Chrysler Automobili Serbia (FCA) recorded a significant drop – from 152nd to 211th place, due to a 14% drop in sales, which value amounted to 927 million euro. Two retail companies Delhaize and Mercator S are in 251st and 269th place respectively.
In 2016, Mercator S was ahead of Delhaize, but last year, it had a 15% drop in turnover, largely as a result of the problems in the parent company Agrokor. Telekom Serbia was placed 282nd, followed by two companies that were not on the list last year – Smederevo Ironworks, owned by the Chinese HBIS, which had a revenue increase of 122 per cent and it currently ranks 313rd with 659 million euro, while NELT, with the turnover of 655 million euro, placed 315th. NELT is also the only domestic privately owned company among Serbian companies on the top 500 list. Other Serbian companies on the list are either state-owned and deal mainly in energy, or owned by foreign corporations. JP Srbijagas is 362nd and Tigar Tyres 386th, which has improved its rankings, thanks to a 60% revenue growth last year.
On the list of the 50 largest Western Balkan companies, Croatia has 17, followed by Slovenia 16, Serbia with 11, and Bosnia and Macedonia with three companies. The 11 companies from Serbia had a turnover of 10 billion euro and a profit of 697 million euro combined. In terms of profit, Slovenian companies on the list generated over 450 million euro, 24 million euro less than Croatian companies. However, what puts the biggest Serbian companies ahead of their counterparts in the region is the number of employees. Namely, the 11 Serbian companies employed 71,930 people, while the 17 largest Croatian companies employed 45,364, and 16 largest Slovenian companies 32,380 people, making Serbian companies somewhat more unproductive than their Slovenian and Croatian counterparts.
The top of the 500 list is reserved for the Polish company PNK Orlean with last year’s revenues of 22.8 billion euro, followed by Škoda with 16 billion euro and the Hungarian MOL with 13.3 billion euro.