Hoping For The Best

The way Greek companies that operate in Serbia envisage 2016, proves that their business fortune is inextricably linked to outcomes on the Serbian market, and the global challenges it is facing. The pace of modernisation in Serbian telecoms, banking and retail create space for the influx of disruptive technologies, while tourism holds strong growth potential.

Despite food consumption and retail banking feeling the burden of slower economic growth and the waning purchasing power of consumers, Greek business leaders and bankers feel confident that their business strategies provide them with an upper hand on the tough market. All businesses benefit from Serbia’s reform efforts and the EU accession process.

TOPICS: From the perspective of your company, what do you see as Serbia’s greatest advantages; and what represents the biggest challenges to your operations in 2016?

Zafiris Lampadaridis, General Manager of the Hotel Excelsior and director of engineering at Hyatt Regency; member of the HBA management board 

Strong Tourism Potential

Growing competition will force hotels to strive to find new ways to attract guests, and that will benefit not only those guests but Belgrade and Serbia as well.

For the last seven years that I have been living and working on the Serbian market, I have witnessed many good things happening. In general, Serbia is a very attractive market for foreigners due to the competitive taxation system and educated workforce, and that is definitely one of Serbia’s biggest advantages when it comes to attracting new investors.

I would also like to emphasise the great steps the Serbian Government has taken in the European integration process. If you ask me why that is important from the perspective of tourism and the hotel industry, I will simply tell you that it is because of standardisation. Even though the Hotel Excelsior, as part of Lampsa S.A., is following the best standards and practices of the hotel industry worldwide, I believe there is plenty of room to improve this segment in Serbia.

Through the accepting of new EU legislation and better implementation, more standardisation and better offers for guests will be created. That will also help to solve the problem of increasingly unfair competition between hospitality companies and unlicensed accommodation providers, which is one of the biggest challenges we are currently facing.

Belgrade has seen many new hotels open in the last two years, and this is a great challenge for us – to stand out from the crowd by creating a better hospitality product

Belgrade has seen many new hotels open in the last two years, and this is a great challenge for us – to stand out from the crowd by creating a better hospitality product.

This will also be a very interesting year from an analytical perspective, regarding the achieving of financial results, but also concerning the increase in competition. Hotels will be competing and trying to find their own way to attract guests, and that will not only benefit those guests but Belgrade and Serbia as well.

The challenge for the State, the City, but also the whole industry, will be to find a way to increase visits to the country. Everything is important – business travellers, MICE or leisure – and there is huge room for the improvement of all of these segments. This is also our goal, and we will do our best to accomplish it by using high standards, know-how and new ideas to develop an attractive hospitality product.

Stefanos Karapetsis, General Manager at Mellon Serbia; member of the HBA management board

New Solutions for a New Business Landscape

In 2016 we will face a changing landscape in the sectors in which we do business: banks, telecoms and retail, with new disruptive technologies mandating new solutionsMellon started operations in Serbia in 2001 as a processing company for banking card transactions and a provider of IT solutions, business and managed services. The processing business was sold to Euronet in 2009.

With the country’s growth progressing more slowly since 2009, modernisation and investments in Retail Banking and Mobile Telephony have been, and remain, the main drivers of Mellon’s successful operations in Serbia.

The road to EU integration and important investments by international players allows Mellon’s technological experience and knowhow to provide reliable solutions as a regional partner – being present in five EU member states and six non-EU countries.

In 2016 we faced a changing landscape in the sectors in which we do business: banks, telecoms and retail. New disruptive technologies mandate new solutions, models and skills that we are building in Serbia, as part of our group efforts.

Mellon participates in the Serbian Initiative for Mobile Payments, with banks, telecoms, processors and Card schemes that aim to coordinate this modern payment method on a national level.

Mellon launches its cooperation with NEC enterprise solutions in 2016, bringing to Serbia state-of-the-art servers and storage products from this leading Japanese company.

When it comes to business services, Mellon is a leader in the management of receivables and increasingly provides outsourced services to major companies. The market in Serbia is not growing fast. Thus we plan to expand our services to near- and off-shore customers.

Although Mellon Serbia’s revenue is relatively small compared to other companies in our group, the results are good and improving every year. This year, in which we celebrate 15 years of our presence in Serbia, we plan to consolidate our growth and become the main partner for our customers in all our lines of business.

Vojislav Lazaravec, CEO of Piraeus Bank, member of the HBA management board

Prepared for the Challenges Ahead

For the Serbian banking sector, 2016 will be a very challenging year – not only because of the strong competition but also because of the way the issue of non-performing loans will be tackled. It is realistic to expect further banking sector consolidation, and one reason is the meagre return on capital invested over the past five years. The profitability of the Serbian banking sector is significantly lower than in regional banking markets. Consequently, the trend of optimising operating costs will continue this year.

The fight for every customer will certainly continue, and we should expect a better offer, new direct sales channels and service packages that can meet all clients’ needs. Piraeus Bank AD Beograd’s plan for this year are investments, especially in new technology and modern business support systems that we believe are the right answer to modern needs and further acquisitions. Further growth will be achieved through the additional increase in efficiency and a focus on the most profitable business areas.

Piraeus Bank AD Beograd’s plan for this year are investments, especially in new technology and modern business support systems that we believe are the right answer to modern needs and further acquisitions

Piraeus Bank will continue its eleven-year tradition of supporting economic recovery and improving banking quality. When it comes to operations with companies, this means we will focus equally on large companies, while encouraging entrepreneurship and strengthening the SME segment, which has the greatest potential to stimulate further economic growth.

In the retail segment, the bank will strive to ensure the best offer for the client, as well as to develop new concepts which meet the needs of specific client groups. Our goal is to provide a seamless, inexpensive and easy-to-use service, which will be available directly, regardless of the time of day and location.

Stylianos Zakof, Country manager of Chipita yu, member of the HBA management board

Inner Strengths Above External Challenges

The combination of a relatively large market and a high-quality product seems like a good formula for growth, although potential adversities cannot be ignored

From the perspective of Chipita, the biggest advantage of the Serbian market is the fact that it is the largest in the Western Adriatic region and that our products are recognised as high-quality products with acceptable prices. Because of that, I am hoping for growth in 2016. With a good business strategy, excellent quality and an exquisite selection of products, we are and will continue to be, on track.

With a good business strategy, excellent quality and an exquisite selection of products, we are, and will continue to be, on track

On the other hand, the main challenges I would point out are a stable business environment in Serbia and throughout the region, stable exchange rates as much as possible, low inflation and consumption increases. Considering the refugee crisis – that is a European problem and not only a Western Balkan one – coupled with lower private sector activity, but the challenges also remain high. However, a good organisation with subventions in the private sector and FDI should provide a good basis for stability and growth.

I’m hoping for the best and prepared for the worst.

H.E. Maria Levanti, Ambassador of Greece to Serbia

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