Hearing in Port of Belgrade case scheduled for September

June 29, 2011

SOURCE: B92, Tanjug

The main hearing in dispute between the city of Belgrade and the Port of Belgrade over about 100 hectares of land was scheduled today for September 30.

The Port of Belgrade
The Port of Belgrade

The Higher Court in Belgrade has decided to hold the main hearing on September 30 because the Appellate Court still has not decided on the Port of Belgrade’s appeal to a temporary ban that refers to disposal and alienation of the land that the company is located on.

Port of Belgrade’s attorney Ana Lazarević has said that the hearing cannot be held until the Appellate Court makes its decision. 

She stressed that the eight-day deadline had already expired, bearing in mind that the appeal had been filed a month and a half earlier. 

Belgrade Public Prosecutor Strahinja Sekulić requested the court to present the main evidence, claiming that there were no obstacles to the continuation of the trial. 

He told reporters after the hearing that the proceeding was underway and that he could not comment on it and would not say how the delay would affect it. 

Port of Belgrade majority owner Milan Beko did not come to the hearing. 

In mid-May the Higher Court in Belgrade temporarily banned Worldfin company from disposing and alienating the land that the Port of Belgrade is located on until the end of the court proceeding. 

After Belgrade Mayor Dragan Đilas’ announcement that the city could buy out the Port of Belgrade from its owner Milan Beko at the same price he had bought it, Beko's office said that he would sell the company to the city for a total of EUR 74mn, adding that they had added the interest rate to the basic price. If the city buys out the Port of Belgrade shares, small shareholders and the union will get their part of the shares as well. 

Worldfin company owns 93 percent of the Port of Belgrade. According to the company, it had paid twice as much money for the Port of Belgrade than it was said in the media. 

“The shares were acquired through three takeover offers from September 30, 2005 until January 6, 2006 as well as through recapitalization in June 2007. The total cost of the share acquisition was EUR 54mn. When you add an interest rate that the state pays when it becomes indebted on the financial market, which is 6.8-7.7 percent a year, we get to an approximate sales price of EUR 74mn for Worldfin's shares package,“ the Port of Belgrade has announced. 

If the city of Belgrade buys out the Port of Belgrade, small shareholders will demand their part of the shares. They are ready to negotiate and are offering several solutions, claiming the sale of the company incurred them damage worth EUR 30mn. 

“We are not sure that the city will meet our demands, they will say you got your money, goodbye. But if it is sold to someone else, the Port can pay the remaining amount to us and if it does not sell these EUR 40mn that was given and the city pays and covers the costs, we can sue the city and request the spread worth several times more. Based on the assessment we can now sue the city because the assessment is higher than those EUR 40mn,“ Port of Belgrade Small Shareholders Club' Voja Obradović said. 

Economist Aleksandar Stevanović says that it would not be odd if Beko tried to sell the Port of Belgrade legitimately on the stock exchange, but that the fact that the state appears as a buyer is casting doubt. 

“The state's involvement in something that has already been privatized is retrograding. The city can manage, but the practice has showed that it and any other state organ, starting from local self-government up to the highest state level, are inferior to a private owner. Therefore, even if there is the best of will, it does not work in practice. This is why it was rejected in all prosperous countries,“ he explained. 

In the meantime, the Port of Belgrade union has requested an increase in the average wage in the company and that it is one of conditions for signing of the contract.


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