In the period behind us, since 2013, Alumina not only was saved as a company but in this period it also developed and recorded an increase in workers’ wages, increased staff and had significant investment activities.
– The Government of Republika Srpska is behind Alumina and our goal is to preserve this economic entity, which is significant for the Republika Srpska economy and the region. Our intention is to strengthen Alumina even more, to improve technology and to get into a position to produce more profit with smaller production – says, in an exclusive interview with banjaluka.net portal, Republika Srpska Prime Minister Radovan Višković.
He says that, thanks to market conditions, management and skilled workforce, Alumina has been able to develop a range of products in demand both in the European and global markets. The survival and development of this company has not been questioned or threatened at any moment.
How do you rate the current situation in Alumina?
According to various indicators, the current situation in Alumina is much better than it was in previous years, as evidenced by numerous data. Alumina is a business entity that, thanks to this power, was saved from collapse, and it should not be overlooked that only a few years ago that the company was shut down. It was not a matter of days, but of hours and more if we add that the company was privatized with a majority of private equity and that the Republic of Srpska decided thanks to me, but above all, to the understanding of Milorad Dodik, who was president of the Republika Srpska at the time, we were able to take over this business entity from the Lithuanians, who were majority owners at the time, and which led to the closure of the plant.
We are where we are today, bankruptcy is still ongoing, litigation is still ongoing, but I hope that it will be resolved within a reasonable time. The fact that, according to the Chamber of Commerce of Republika Srpska, Alumina received the highest recognition last year, as the number one company in Republika Srpska by export, suffices to support what I am talking about. In a couple of years, Alumina has grown from a company that was just before its closure to a company with the highest awards, that is, to one of the most significant companies in the category of large enterprises in Republika Srpska.
This prestigious award says enough about how they did business, how they worked. Also, it is important to note here that the management of Alumina, the people who work there, the technologists and the people involved in the production and production processes, have made really great results, because this combine at the time of its founding and operation until these last events, which I say, their predominant activity was metallurgical alumina, and they already have almost no metallurgical alumina in the plan for 2020.
Therefore, in these circumstances, Alumina was able not only to make new technological innovations but also to initiate the production of new products, which it currently exports to over 40 countries in the world. Complete production is intended for export, which means that not a single kilo of this product is marketed by either BiH or the Republika Srpska, and this sufficiently speaks to what kind of business entity it is and how much of its participation in strengthening the economy of the Republic of Srpska.
What are the plans of the Government of the Republika Srpska for the next period regarding Alumina and Birač? Can we expect bankruptcy in Birač to end soon?
– It is very difficult to make any assessment under these conditions, because it does not depend solely on the Government of Republika Srpska. Our desire is for this to happen as soon as possible. However, these are matters that are currently under judicial decision and the decision is now before the Constitutional Court of BiH and we expect that such decision will be rendered within a reasonable time, as all decisions of the Basic, High and Supreme Courts of Republika Srpska have been in the benefit of the Factory of alumina Birač in bankruptcy.
Now we have to wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court of BiH and thus, already come to the position that the bankruptcy administrator can continue to conduct the proceedings and eventually close the bankruptcy and to put “Alumina”, the successor of the Birač, into the position to get rid of the mortgage which is a big problem for her. A large number, or almost all commercial banks, cannot enter into some loan arrangements that would represent significant financial resources for Alumina to develop and improve the technological development of the business. This means that today Alumina operates only from its current assets, which can sometimes jeopardize the liquidity itself because when the goods are delivered, there should always be a deadline for payment.
In the period behind us, since 2013, it has been shown in some way that Alumina was not only saved as a company, but the company continue to develop. There was an increase in the salaries of employees, and the number of employees increased, and various investments were taking place. All these years, according to preliminary indicators, Alumina had about 10 million or more millions of investments a year. Thanks to market conditions, management and a skilled workforce, Alumina has been able to develop a range of products required in both the European and world markets. The survival and development of this company has not been questioned or threatened at any moment.
What is your message to Alumina employees? Can they expect further support from the RS Government?
– Certainly, the Government is committed to supporting, and all employees know that. I would like to take this opportunity to inform them that the Government of Republika Srpska is behind this business entity and that our goal has remained the same, which is to preserve this business entity, which is significant for the Republika Srpska economy and this region. We want to contribute to the development of this giant for this region in the coming period. We want Alumina products to be semi-finished products for new factories, which should be built across the Republika Srpska and would go into further processing of what Alumina produces.
Today we have the situation of exporting certain Alumina products to Italy, Hungary or Slovenia, where a larger processing stage is done and you get three to five times the price than what was taken from Alumina. We intend to build a number of these processing capacities in the region and in other parts of Republika Srpska in the coming period, which would use these Alumina products as inputs for their production and significantly increase inflows into Republika Srpska and foreign trade deficit. Why export something that costs € 200 or € 3,000 if you can export it for € 1,000 with some stage of refinement. What we want to tell the workers is that they do not have to worry about their status and their safety, because the Government of Republika Srpska will continue to care for this production company and all employees are in the focus of the Government’s interest, and therefore will be protected in all possible situations, as it has been so far.
All that we will do in the coming period, and in connection with possible new discussions regarding the sale of our receivables in Bankruptcy Bank, we will do so transparently and in agreement with the unions and with the management of Alumina. We will not make any move that would be to the detriment of that business entity and its employees.
Our intention is to further strengthen this business entity, to improve technology, to get into the position that with smaller production we have higher profits and the like. All with the same capacities, with the same raw material input, first of all bauxite ore and all those costs that come up in production. The necessary resources should be provided in order to put into practice the knowledge and skills of employees.
Alumina needs new technology, and we will certainly be there to help, whether as a government or with a strategic partner, where, above all, employees and the region and all suppliers are protected. We do not want to “privatize” “Alumina” because we do not want someone to question the existence of employees and the survival of that business entity tomorrow. If we talk to potential buyers on this topic, it will be under clearly stipulated conditions that the potential buyer must fulfill. Among other things, the conditions are for Alumina to retain its activity, but also that the number of employees can only increase, be invested in technological development, have the best effects and benefit the community as much as possible. This is a great chance for Republika Srpska. As the New Year and Christmas holidays are approaching, I would like to congratulate all employees and management of Alumina on the holidays and wish them good luck and success in the coming years, as well as congratulations on all the results achieved so far.
All that we will do in the coming period, and in connection with possible new discussions regarding the sale of our receivables in bankruptcy, we will do so transparently and in agreement with the unions and with the management of Alumine. We will not make any move that would be to the detriment of this business entity and its employees. We intend to build a number of processing facilities in the region and in other parts of Republika Srpska in the coming period, which would use these Alumina products as input material for their production and significantly increase inflows into the Republika Srpska and foreign trade deficit.