Vladimir Bojanovic, Managing Partner of Bojanovic & Partners in Belgrade, rejects the idea that legislative or regulatory updates are of critical importance in his country. "In Serbia it’s not legislative reform that would fuel the development on its own,” he says. “It’s closely connected with new investments that require modern legislation — so in a way recent investments (which are by and large the biggest in the recent history) are shaping and pushing forward modern legislation – the relation of these two is symbiotic.” And he reports that four sectors — Energy, Technology, Distressed Assets, and Corporate/M&A — are particularly active in Serbia at the moment.
"I’d say that the energy sector is currently dominating in Serbia — by far,” says Bojanovic. “That’s my personal impression, at least. The biggest projects are in Energy.” He concedes, laughing, that he may be slightly biased, as his firm is working, along with JPM, on Gazprom’s TurkStream project, which he describes as "the biggest energy project of all time in Serbia — worth billions and billions of euros.” Serbia started the construction of its section of the TurkStream pipeline for transit of Russian natural gas to Europe this spring. Gastrans, the company in charge of the project, is owned by Switzerland-based South Stream Serbia, in which Russia’s Gazprom holds a 51 percent stake and Srbijagas the remainder. The planned 400-km stretch through Serbia will link the Serbian natural gas transmission system with those of Bulgaria and Hungary, and reports claim that the project on Serbian territory should be completed by Dec. 15 of this year.
Bojanovic's pride in his firm’s mandate radiates. "The project is extremely exotic,” he says. “A project of this kind has never happened before. It has high strategic importance, and it will guarantee a steady gas supply for many years ahead.” He notes that that “we created legal history with this project, which started last year,” describing it as "like a thunderstorm in the Serbian market.” He explains that, “the market was so silent — it was sleepy, and then this project came, and it shook the market up a lot. A lot contractors, a lot of subcontractors, and a lot of subcontractors of subcontractors,” and he repeats that "we’re very privileged to work on it.”
As for the Tech sector, Bojanovic notes that Serbia has “seen several big entrances in the market in recent years, including Vodafone,” which his firm recently helped obtain a license to operate in the country from Serbia's Republic Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services.
"The third segment would be distressed assets,” says Bojanovic, “because things are not going so well in Serbia.” He reports that “we are at the end of the cycle for the sale of the distressed assets in Serbia, and the last one was the 2018 sale of NLB’s NPL portfolio, which is going to be worth several millions.”
Finally, he says, the fourth active sector is Corporate/M&A, as he reports that “some of the biggest funds in Europe have entered the market and are expected to be exiting soon.