The energy sector completely took over the ranking of the fastest growing companies in Southeastern Europe (SEE) last year as the global energy crisis triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war propelled electricity and gas prices to record highs. The most dynamic companies in SEE by revenue in 2022 were seven energy traders, a thermal power plant, an oil refiner and a biodiesel producer.In comparison, a year earlier the ranking also included transportation, wholesale companies, and a steel producer.
In a year marked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the biggest attack on a European country since WWII – traditional geopolitical alignments and economic trajectories were thrown off kilter, not least in front-line Southeast European states, whose energy sectors had historically been heavily dependent on Russia. With energy security and diversification taking precedence, it comes as no surprise that 2022 was a blockbuster year for petroleum and natural gas, and electricity companies.
Extreme volatility on the energy markets in 2022 impacted industry players in different ways, pushing some to the top spots of the most profitable companies ranking in SEE and burdening others with substantial losses. For metal producing companies, however, the economic recovery and global shift to green energy is all good news as demand for their output surges
The gross written premiums (GWP) of the top insurers in Southeast Europe continued to expand, though at a slower pace than a year earlier amid high inflation, a slowdown in economic activity and geopolitical uncertainties. Profit growth too decelerated, following a robust double-digit increase a year earlier. Nevertheless, the sector remained stable and resilient.
The top one hundred insurers in Southeastern Europe (SEE) saw both their net profit and gross written premiums (GWP) grow in double digits in 2021, despite persisting challenges related to the coronavirus crisis and low interest rates. Their combined net profit rose by 26% to 599 million euro in 2021, from 475 million euro in 2020 and 497 million euro in 2019, outpacing the increase in GWP. Only eight of the top insurers closed the year in the red, while 38 recorded a decline in profits. In 2021, SEE’s biggest insurers registered 9.675 billion euro in GWP, 11.65% higher on the year and above the 8.8 billion-euro levels registered by the entrants in the ranking in 2019. Just nine insurers reported a decline in their GWPs in 2021.
Adapting to the newly created conditions that influenced the implementation of some of its plans and ideas, Halkbank AD Skopje managed to achieve the goals set at the beginning of 2021 and showed excellent business results from operations.
In 2021, Halkbank AD Skopje reported credit growth of 12% and 10% increase of the deposit base. The credit support that the Bank provides to businesses in the country is reflected in the 18% increase in loans to legal entities, i.e. loans to small businesses. When it comes to loan products for households, the Bank registered an increase in housing loans of 25% compared to 2020. On the basis of the stated results, Halkbank booked 10.6 million euro profit in 2021, an annual increase of 18%. Its assets amounted to 1.182 million euro at the end of the year, which is an increase of 9% compared to 2020.
As governments lifted pandemic-related restrictions and domestic demand started to recover, companies in Southeast Europe (SEE) closed 2021 with better-than-expected financial results. The top one hundred companies in the region posted a solid rise in sales and a remarkable growth in profits, exceeding the pre-crisis levels. The economic rebound benefitted most the companies operating in the oil and gas, electricity and metals sectors as demand for raw materials and energy jumped. At the same time, lingering supply chain disruptions continued to curb production in various sectors. In particular, for manufacturers of automobiles and car parts, traditionally among the top performers in the region, shortages of semi-conductors remained a pressing issue.
As social life returned to normalcy and economic activity picked up, banks in Southeast Europe saw their profits rise and their assets expand on the back of sustained growth in both lending and deposits. Like their global peers, the local lenders continued to play a major role in the redistribution of massive resources aimed to cushion the blow of the Covid-19 pandemic on businesses and clients. At the same time, pressure on interest margins and changing consumer habits strengthened the banks’ focus on efficiency and digitalisation. M&A deals picked up, with most of the action taking place in Serbia.
Riding the wave of surging food prices, Romanian transportation and wholesale company ADM Romania Trading, a newcomer in SEE TOP 100, was the fastest growing company in the 2021 ranking. Due to global harvest issues, food commodity prices were already at a ten-year high even before the war in Ukraine started, according to the United Nations Food Prices Index. For ADM Romania Trading, this meant an almost 19 times (1,766%) increase in its revenue last year, to 809.7 million euro.
Based on strategic starting points and last year’s macroeconomic forecasts for 2022, the Triglav Group plans a profit before tax of 120–130 million euro and an increase in total written premium to more than 1.4 billion euro; however, due to the growth of the insurance portfolio and other factors, we also expect an increased volume of claims paid. The combined ratio is expected to remain favourable below 93%. Due to the low interest rates at which our investments were reinvested in the previous financial year, we anticipated a further decline in rates of return on investment, excluding unit-linked assets. We estimate that the planned annual profit will be achieved; however, it should be stressed that the risks related to the realisation of target profit increased significantly due to negative influences from the business environment.
Throughout a year marked by sporadic but enduring pandemic breakouts, the pharmaceutical industry in Southeast Europe, represented in the SEE Top 100 ranking by two companies, retained its leading profitability standing with a double-digit return on revenue (RoR). This indicator, however, eased to 14.46% in 2021 from 15.42% in 2020, after Slovenia’s Krka booked a 4.8% drop in revenue to 1.4 billion euro.