Claims against Bosnian alumina plant Birac in liquidation reach EUR 136mn

By bne IntelliNews June 13, 2013

The liquidation manager of Bosnian alumina plant Birac has received from the court some 90 claims from creditors worth an overall BAM 265mn (EUR 135.5mn), daily Glas Srpske reported.

Bijeljina’s district court held a hearing on Birac’s property and assets on June 12. The creditors who were present at the hearing included representatives of Banja Luka-based Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank, Serbian state-controlled firms Telekom Srbija and gas monopoly Srbijagas and Montenegrin mining firm Rudnici Boksita Niksic.

The liquidation manager, Lazo Djurdjevic, said he is not able to assess and answer to all the claims at present, adding more discussions will be held at the next hearing scheduled for Sept 25.

Among the creditors who have filed claims against Birac is also Bosnian natural gas importer BH Gas, which seeks BAM 26.9mn for unpaid but consumed gas deliveries. Local electricity distributor Elektro-Bijeljina seeks BAM 5.7mn and the Serb Republic’s pension fund PIO requires BAM 6mn in unpaid contributions for Birac’s workers.

On the other hand, company employees (some 300) seek the payment of nine wages arrears worth a total of BAM 264,000.

BIRAC’S DEBT TO UKIO BANKAS

The Serb Republic’s finance minister Zoran Tegeltija confirmed earlier for Glas Srpske that the government of Lithuania has requested negotiations with the Serb Republic government on Birac’s debt towards Ukio Bankas, which went bankrupt in February. The Lithuanian state-controlled lender seeks more than BAM 155mn from Birac.

Tegeltija said back then that the biggest creditor among those whose claims are realistic is the Republic’s tax administration office, its Investment-Development Bank and BH Gas. Regarding the claims coming from Lithuania Tegeltija said it would be very difficult to answer them since there are too many connected entities.

The Republic introduced liquidation in Birac on April 8 as before that the police and tax office inspectors entered the company to seize business documentation and check for alleged illegal dealings. The insolvency aims to determine the company’s true state since a large number of connected entities made it difficult to track where all the assets of the plant are.

A coordination team led by Tegeltija has been in charge since then to secure a sustainable production process at the plant and take financial consolidation measures. Tegeltija has said all efforts are focused on putting the financial flows under control and concentrating them in the city of Zvornik, where Birac is based, via local firms - not via ones headquartered on the Virgin Islands and Lithuania. He added the inspectors are trying to determine all cases of abuse (and the responsible for them) made since the company was sold to Lithuanian lender Ukio Bankas in 2001 until today.

Ukio Bankas owns 56.8% in the alumina producer following the 2001 privatisation deal. The majority owner of the plant, Vladimir Romanov, said in the beginning of April 2013 that the plant faced difficulties to find working capital after Ukio Bankas went bankrupt in the beginning of the year.

The alumina plant employs 1,100 but the whole region of Birac, eastern Bosnia, is economically dependent on it. Over the past years the company has been trying to deal with its financial problems and its gas supplies were frequently discontinued over unpaid bills. 

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