Amid global lockdowns and a steep economic downturn, companies in Southeast Europe (SEE) booked only a modest decline in sales, but profits collapsed. Oil companies and car makers, the traditional leaders in the ranking, bore the brunt of the Covid-induced crisis as shrunken consumption, travel restrictions and disrupted supply chains ate into their bottom lines. At the winning end, retailers posted double-digit revenue growth, riding the wave of e-commerce. Pharmaceutical companies too fared well as sales volumes surged.
Romanian state-owned hydropower producer Hidroelectrica claimed the top spot in the ranking of the most profitable companies among the SEE TOP 100 entrants for 2020 for a second year in a row. Hidroelectrica’s return on revenue rose to 36.9% from 32.27% a year earlier. In 2020, the company sold 14.58 Twh of its own electricity production, 1.3% less than in 2019, while total electricity sales edged up 0.7%, to 15.96 Twh. In 2020, a two-year ban on the sale of state-held stakes in companies enforced by the government delayed the planned initial public offering (IPO) of Hidroelectrica. The IPO of a 10-15% stake in the company is expected to be the biggest in Romania’s history, seen fetching up to 1 billion euro. The company has in its portfolio 209 hydropower plants with a total installed capacity of 6,482 MW.
The combined net profit of the top 100 insurers in Southeastern Europe (SEE) went down to 476.4 million euro in 2020 from 496.8 million euro in the previous year. About 40% of the insurers in the top 100 list recorded a decline in net profit in an environment of unprecedented challenges caused by the coronavirus crisis and persisting low interest rates. SEE insurers, however, demonstrated resilience as their gross written premiums (GWP) remained unchanged at 8.1 billion euro. Still, nearly half of the entrants in this year’s ranking reported a decline in their GWP, including 14 that posted a double-digit fall.
Energy companies hold the top three spots in the 2020 ranking of SEE companies by revenue per capita, led by Slovenia’s Petrol, which had the highest revenue per capita for the fourteenth consecutive year. The company decreased its revenue per capita to 1,176 euro in 2020 from 1,747 euro in 2019.
In the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people started getting wary of goods shipped from China. This included rumours spreading through social media of the virus being contracted from the surfaces of shipped goods. This led to a significant drop in interest in AliExpress. Although competitors like Amazon also felt it, the impact on the Chinese retailer was significantly harder.
The subsequent months of 2020 saw a period of recovery, with people searching for ways to shop as many items as possible online. This process was most visible in Bulgaria and to a lesser extent in other countries. By that time, Amazon had already caught up with its competitor and managed to overtake it in 2021 when shipping costs from China to Europe went through a major hike.
The banks in Southeast Europe (SEE) showed resilience in the pandemic-defined 2020, as their total assets continued to grow. The measures introduced by the authorities to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 spread, however, took a heavy toll on their bottom lines and only a few of the region’s top lenders managed to grow their net profit. Cross-border M&A activity further reshaped the region’s banking landscape as a bunch of big deals were completed in 2020.