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INTERVIEW: Nuclearelectrica is in talks with several parties about their potential involvement in the construction of two nuclear reactors at Cernavoda, which requires an investment of EUR 6.2 bln, according to Daniela Lulache, GM of the nuclear producer »page 11

ROMANIA’S PREMIER BUSINESS WEEKLY

JUNE 9 - 15, 2014 / VOLUME 18, NUMBER 21

PROPERTY A NEW REAL ESTATE CYCLE BEGAN IN THE MIDDLE OF 2013 AND SHOULD PEAK IN 2017 OR 2018, ATTENDEES HEARD DURING THE 13TH EDITION OF REALTY, THE BR EVENT ON LOCAL REAL ESTATE » PAGE 8

BIG PROJECTS LACKING ENERGY Romania’s large energy projects have failed to hook investors, while the unstable legal framework is putting the brakes on the government’s efforts to attract backers for projects designed to secure the national energy supply in the coming decades » page 10 NEWS

NEWS

Could do better

Snap move

Romania still needs extensive reforms in all main sectors of the economy, said the EC in its annual recommendations to member states

Several international companies, including most recently cereal maker Kellogg’s, have announced plans to relocate operations to Romania

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» page 6


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

NEWS 3

NEWS in brief BANKING Financial Supervision Authority to cut 35 percent of management roles The number of leadership positions in the Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) will be reduced by 35 percent, from 161 to 104 employees, after a new management scheme is introduced, according to officials. The move will not affect the total number of employees, which stood at 597 at the end of May. The FSA says that introducing the new personnel scheme will be a longer process, based on legal requirements and a collective work contract.

BCR consumer loans up 70 percent in first 5 months

Banks’ exposure to Hidroelectrica down 72 percent to EUR 234 mln over two years State-owned Hidroelectrica, the hydroelectricity producer, has reduced the sums it owes to creditors by 64 percent to RON 1.45 million (EUR 330 million) since going into administration in June 2012. In addition, the banking sector’s exposure to the company has fallen dramatically in the past two years, from EUR 841 million to EUR 231 million at the end of last month. The company said it was able to repay several loans in full because its revenues had risen by RON 700 million (EUR 159 million) to over RON 3.1 billion (EUR 705 million) at the end of last year.

ENERGY Romania set to enforce different royalties for onshore and offshore deposits The government is working closely with the World Bank on drawing up a new system for oil and gas royalties that will provide differentiated rates for onshore and offshore projects, said Prime Minister Victor Ponta, quoted by Agerpres newswire, last week. The PM added that the country would roll out a new petroleum law next year,

Agerpres

Romania’s largest bank Banca Comerciala Romana (BCR) granted over 65,000 consumer loans in the first five months of 2014, up 70 percent year-on-year, reports Mediafax. Overall, 50 percent of the lines of credit took the form of personal loans, with the rest credit card borrowing and overdrafts. The average value of a personal loan increased by 30 percent.

Having a Wales of a time: Romania fan Prince Charles visits Viscri and Valea Zalanului houses Prince Charles paid a private visit to his Romanian properties last week. The heir to the British throne arrived in Targu Mures before visiting his Viscri house in Brasov county. According to Caroline Fernolend, vice-president of the Mihai Eminescu Trust, he also discussed the extension of the Viscri property with an architect. During the visit, the Prince of Wales met Romania’s president, Traian Basescu, and its prime minister, Victor Ponta. Read more about Prince Charles’s visit to Romania in the City section. including the redesigned royalties system

fiscal administration issued 5.5 million printed income certificates.

FINANCE

PROPERTY

Ministry of Finance plans to enhance online communication with taxpayers

GTC’s new owners target office developments

A draft bill published by the Ministry of Finance last Monday includes provisions aimed at improving the relationship between taxpayers and tax collection agency ANAF, by cutting red tape and moving some of the operations online. The publishing of fiscal administrative documents and other procedural documents such as notifications will also be made possible electronically, under the draft bill. In addition, ANAF can submit documents pertaining to taxpayers to other institutions electronically if requested. Consequently, taxpayers should spend less time moving documents between various public bodies. Last year, the

Polish real estate developer Globe Trade Center (GTC) is aiming to improve the results of the shopping centers it owns in Romania in the shortterm after being taken over by Lone Star Funds. The company is also looking at starting or buying projects in incipient phases, especially in the office segment, announced GTC representatives. The developer owns office, retail and residential projects in Romania, and since 1999 has invested some EUR 400 million locally, according to its data. GTC was founded and previously controlled by Israeli investment fund Kardan, which sold its remaining 27.75 percent participation to US-based private equity firm Lone

Star Funds for EUR 160 million in November last year.

Sema Parc developer declared bankrupt River Invest, the real estate developer of the Sema Parc office project in Bucharest, has officially been made bankrupt in a Bucharest Court ruling. The company, controlled by local businessman Ion Radulea, filed for bankruptcy at the end of last month. Sema Parc was going to be developed on the site of the former Semanatoarea factory in Bucharest, which was relocated. The project would have included a business park, residential area, shopping village, hotel and social buildings. When the scheme was first announced in 2006, the estimated investment stood at EUR 1.7 billion. The platform covers 40 ha and the first stage of the project (two office buildings of 50,000 sqm) was purchased in 2006 by Europolis (now CA Immo) for EUR 90 million. The project collapsed shortly afterwards due to lack of funding.


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

4 NEWS EU AFFAIRS

3Q Peter Hajdu Cisco managing director for SEE

How does the Romanian Cisco branch rank in the region? Romania is the most exciting market in South-Eastern Europe because it is the largest. Size allows for scale and healthy businesses. The public sector and SMEs will drive demand here. Cisco has 468 active partners in Romania which resell our solutions. We are also running probably one of the most successful Cisco Networking Academy programs in Europe here in Romania. We have 16,000 people in the program and since we started this program, 50,000 people have graduated. What are your strategic plans for Romania in the near future? In the internet of things, what has happened so far is only 1 percent of everything possible. We have not implemented such projects in Romania yet because it is so new. I think this will happen in large government projects, to improve the quality of citizen services. What we want to do in Romania is open discussions with mayors to test how the idea is received. These are lighthouse accounts, so we will not go to every city. It is applicable in many big cities outside Bucharest; it could be Cluj, Timisoara, Ploiesti or Constanta. Where do you see potential here? Working with the government and government agencies such as hospitals, police and so on. Also in the SME sector, where companies are becoming more connected. SMEs contribute most of Romania’s GDP and they are investing in IT. I think there will be demand for cloudbased services. As far as telecom operators are concerned, Romtelecom is one of our largest partners, but we are also working with RCS&RDS, Vodafone and Orange. We used to work with all the large banks and we still do, but financial industries are not having the best time. otilia.haraga @business-review.ro

Romania not yet ready to adopt euro, says European Commission

N

ot met all the criteria necessary to join the Euro zone, still needing a stable exchange rate against the euro, lower inflation and for its national legislation to meet EU standards. The report by the EC, which gauges the progress of countries aiming to adopt the euro, says that Romania has met targets related to public finances (a low fiscal deficit and public debt) and has brought down long-term interest rates. The country’s fiscal deficit is set to fall 0.1 percentage point against last year to 2.2 percent, and will further narrow to 1.9 percent next year, according to the commission’s predictions. It forecast that the public debt would grow from 38.4 percent to 40.1 percent in 2015. Interest rates, meanwhile, stood at 5.3 percent in April, below the reference level of 6.2 percent. Romania has recently set the target to join the Euro zone in 2019, although economists have warned it may take more than a decade to reach the real convergence criteria. The country’s GDP per capita adjusted to purchasing power parity was 50 percent of the EU average in 2012, and should climb to at least 60 percent before Romania attempts to adopt the euro, according to economists. The GDP of Lithuania, which is set to joint the Euro zone next year, will reach a projected 78 percent of the EU average, up from 35 percent in 1995. Estonia adopted the euro this year with a GDP per capita of 60 percent of the EU average.

Labor pains

Flagging up progress: the EU has issued recommendations to all member states

dations made to the government last week, it said that low fiscal compliance and high tax evasion “remain a drag on public finances”, while the high taxation of low and middle income earners does not support the creation of new jobs. The government is currently negotiating with the joint mission of the International Monetary Fund, the EC and the World Bank a five percentage point reduction in the social insurance contribution paid by employers from July. According to media reports, the IMF said it would approve the move if the government came up with measures to plug the gap in revenues. Ioana Petrescu, minister of finance, said the cut would cost the state budget a net RON 1.5 billion. The EC commented that Romania had failed to implement any of the recommendations published last week to reduce the informal labor market. There were around 1.4 million undeclared workers in 2012, making up about a quarter of the national workforce.

The commission acknowledged the country’s progress in restoring macroeconomic stability last year, but warned Increasing the tax take that reforms in critical sectors have seen “Despite the implementation of the tax limited progress. In a raft of recommencompliance strategy for 2013-2017, tan-

gible progress in voluntary tax compliance and in fighting undeclared work is limited. Within the strategy, only medium-term indicators are set and there are no intermediate indicators or concrete targets for the individual measures,” said the EC. The minister of finance has declared war on tax evasion, and since taking office in March has laid out several measures to improve collection, such as the enhancement of electronic instruments for taxpayers and the closing of agreements with multinationals on transfer prices. Last year, the country’s tax collection-to-GDP ratio was the second lowest in the EU at 28.9 percent. “Tax fraud and tax avoidance in the areas of VAT, excises, social security contributions and income taxation remain a major challenge,” said the EC.

Lawmaking process suffers lack of transparency The EC has pointed out that the country has made “limited progress” in addressing its recommendations to cut red tape and improve the quality of regulations. For instance, companies still have to go through complex procedures to get electricity or obtain construction permits. However, some progress has been registered in the areas of insolvency, following the rollout of a new code this April. The lack of clear information on real estate rights remains problematic, as less than 50 percent of real estate (and associated rights) are registered in the land book system and only 15 percent of real estate records are verified and registered digitally. The EC has also made recommendations in other fields, including healthcare, energy and transport. Recommendations were published for all EU members on June 2. ∫ Ovidiu Posirca

TELECOM

License tender brings digital switchover one step closer

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he primary tender rounds for the allocation of the five digital television multiplexes that will support Romania’s transition to digital terrestrial television took place last week. RCS&RDS and the National Radiocommunications Company (SNR) are the candidates in the tender. The first two primary rounds took place on Thursday, and an additional round was held on Friday. Following the first two rounds, the bidding commission announced that demand no longer exceeded supply in either of the categories, and there were still some multiplexes left. The

tender continued with a supplementary round on Friday, which was open to both candidates. The country’s telecom watchdog ANCOM is in charge of allocating five national digital multiplexes in the DVB-T2 standard: four in the UHF (ultra-high frequency) band and one in the VHF (very-high frequency) band. The multiplexes will be granted for ten years, and the licenses will come into force in June 2015. The winner must pay the license tax within 90 days of the results of the selection procedure. In the first primary round, the starting price for each multiplex was set at

EUR 300,000. In the coming rounds, the price will grow by between 5 and 20 percent, but only where demand for multiplexes exceeds supply. In 2006, Romania committed, along with another 102 countries from Europe, Africa and Asia, to switch from analog cable to digital terrestrial television before June 17, 2015. Romania will be among the last European countries to make this transition. The strategy for the digital switchover and the national implementation of digital multimedia services was approved by the Romanian government on June 19, 2013. ∫ Otilia Haraga


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

NEWS 5

REAL ESTATE

Transparency bid: Cluj-Napoca to publish list of property sale prices A

Courtesy of Anevar

group of valuators from ClujNapoca are working on a pilot project in partnership with the City Hall to publish a report on average sale prices of homes in the city, Adrian Vascu, president of the Romanian Valuators’ Association (ANEVAR) and a member of the team working on the project, announced last week in a press conference. The report, which could be published in early September, is intended to provide the market with some much needed transparency, said Vascu, who is also advisory director, valuations, at KPMG in Romania. It will be based on data collected by the City Hall and will provide statistics on actual sale prices in various parts of the metropolis in 2013. This initiative would make ClujNapoca the first Romanian city where such information was available to the general public. While data about asking prices in Romania is widely available

Adrian Vascu, president of ANEVAR and advisory director at KPMG

from various sources, there are no free

statistics on actual sale prices. “Information about sale prices can be found in the sale and purchase agreement between seller and buyer and City Halls register all these contracts. Only they don’t register the actual price in the deed,” he said. The Cluj-Napoca City Hall “understood how useful such information would be” and agreed to change its software to register the sale price too, added ANEVAR’s president. Discussions with the City Hall started two years ago, and so far valuators have received data for the first seven months of last year. “We hope to publish the brochure by the end of the summer, or even in early summer. The project could be expanded to other cities if it proves useful. This is a pilot, but in the future, in order for it to be relevant, it should be published at the beginning of each year with data from the previous one,” added Vascu. The association is also working on setting up a database with information

EUR 30 mln the estimated value of the local valuation market about all the property valuations conducted country-wide for banks. Once it becomes operational, ANEVAR will be able to provide statistics on property valuations. Vascu estimates the local valuation market at around EUR 28 million to EUR 30 million, the bulk of which is generated by property valuations. There are 4,500 authorized valuators in Romania, all members of ANEVAR. ∫ Simona Bazavan


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

6 NEWS INVESTMENTS

Cereal monogamy: Kellogg’s joins firms transferring operations to Romania American multinational food manufacturing company Kellogg’s looks set to move around 80 jobs from its Manchester headquarters to a new office in Bucharest. Over the past year, several major firms have announced their intentions to move divisions to Romania, joining others that have already done so. ∫ OTILIA HARAGA Cereal and snack manufacturer Kellogg’s has chosen Bucharest for a European Global Business Services (GBS) center that will handle human resources, IT and supply chain processes, as well as finance jobs currently held by people at the Talbot Road office in Old Trafford, Manchester. The head office in north-west England employs 600 people, and the company announced that it had started consultations with the employees, according to www.thebusinessdesk.com. The firm alighted on Bucharest for the Kellogg’s European GBS center because the city has the established infrastructure required and is already home to similar service centers for other large, global companies, including P&G and Ericsson, revealed its CEO. In a statement, chief executive John Bryant said, “To deliver on our strategy and grow our business around the world, we need new ways of operating in an increasingly complex, global business environment.” The group added that a move to a GBS model “will drive efficiencies that generate cost savings for Kellogg’s to reinvest in its business to drive growth… Some global GBS work could move to strategic business partners; some regional GBS work could transition to Kellogg-operated service centers; and some local GBS work could be performed in existing Kellogg’s locations. Kellogg’s is one in a series of companies to relocate activities to Romania. Next year, French group Michelin will close its truck tire production unit in Budapest, which has over 500 employees, and transfer production to plants in Olsztyn (Poland), Zalau (Romania) and Karlsruhe and Homburg (Germany). “Following unfavorable trends and aggressive competition on the European truck tire market, which remains volatile and has dropped by 23 percent from the historic maximum registered in 2007, Michelin announces its intention to close its truck tire plant in Budapest. The decision comes because the unit can no longer be expanded as it is located in an urban area, and increasing competitiveness would require excessive modernization with new equipment,” said company officials. Production at the Budapest plant will cease in mid-2015.

Cereal maker becomes serial investor

In another expected move, US company American Superconductor will open a plant in Timisoara to which it will relocate some production of components for wind turbines from China, as part of a restructuring and cost reduction plan. The production facilities in China will continue to serve the Chinese market but the company has decided to move the manufacturing of electronic control systems catering for clients outside China from Suzhou to Timisoara. The plant should become operational during the fiscal year 2014. Recently, IT service supplier Luxoft announced it would move 500 programmers it employs in Russia and Ukraine to countries such as Bulgaria, Poland and Romania. The move comes as a result of concerns US and European clients have raised regarding political tensions between Ukraine and Russia. The IT service supplier has 7,500 employees, 49 percent of whom work from Russia while 29 percent are in Ukraine, according to data supplied at the end of March. Some of the programmers could come to Romania, where the company is planning on expanding. Luxoft currently has offices in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Ukraine, the UK, USA and Vietnam. In Romania, the firm has 800 employees. Romania was a country of choice for Deutsche Bank, which this May inaugurated in Bucharest the DB Global Technology Center, its first such center in South-Eastern Europe. The center will

recruit up to 500 people by the end of 2016. “As traditional partners of Romania, Deutsche Bank is consolidating its longterm commitment towards our country by inaugurating a technology center in Bucharest. DB Global technology will develop advanced technological solutions for numerous Deutsche Bank activities, which illustrates the enormous potential of the local IT&C sector,” said Mihai Ionescu, representative of Deutsche Bank in Romania, in a press release. The recruitment process started at the end of 2013, and by the end of this year, DB estimates there will be 200 specialists working at the facility. Last year, Vodafone Romania moved its network operations to the Danubius Regional Network Operations Center, which will provide services to seven European networks: Vodafone subsidiaries in Romania, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Albania and Germany. The Danubius center was set to reach 500 employees by end 2013. The team monitors the 2G, 3G and 4G networks, manages incidents that crop up in the networks, addresses system emergencies in the territory and interacts with local technical support teams. Bloomberg reported that Vodafone would cut 500 jobs in Germany, and move some of its operations to Romania and India. Some of Vodafone’s main regional operations would be transferred to Romania while information-technology operations would be relocated to India. Meanwhile, last year, Raiffeisen Bank inaugurated its Brasov operational center on the Tractorul Platform in Coresi Business Park, where over the previous couple of years it had transferred a series of operational activities such as processing transactions, call center activities, the analysis and management of retail loans and loan collection activities. The Brasov site employed approximately 600 people last year. “The opening of the Brasov operational center was a strategic decision by the bank. We aim to be more cost efficient and simplify operational processes. We analyzed various locations and finally settled for Brasov, mainly for the quality of the labor force and the geographical location,” said Carl Rossey, the bank’s vice-president of IT and operations. otilia.haraga@business-review.ro

WEEK AHEAD June 11 Dev Talks 2014 Dev Talks 2014 is a key event for the developer community, designed to bring contemporary professionals deep technical content and insight. 9.00, Radisson Blu Hotel. June 12 - 13 ICEEfest The Interactive Central and Eastern Europe Festival (ICEEfest), which brings together global digital companies, well-known producers of online content, internet sales pundits and communication specialists, is now on its third edition. Business Review will be present at the event with a special booth, so don’t forget to drop by! 9.30, Grand Cinema & More at Baneasa Shopping City. June 16 Focus on Energy The outlook for the renewable sector following the overhaul of the incentives system and the avenues to increase the bankability of energy projects will be up for debate during the fifth Focus on Energy, organized by Business Review. Log on to the business-review.eu website for more details about the speakers and registration. 9.00, Ramada Plaza Hotel, Europa Hall. Save the date AmCham Romania invites members, partners and friends to this year’s US Independence Day Celebration on July 4! Access by invitation only. Contact AmCham Romania at amcham@amcham.ro or by phone at + 40 21 312 48 34 to buy your invitation.

MOST READ www.business-review.eu 1 Simona Halep, favorite to win

Roland Garros: World’s media showers her with praise after win against Heather Watson

2 Kellogg’s starts moving jobs from UK to Romania, inspired by other multinationals

3 EY: Romania surpasses Hungary

to become third most attractive CEE market for foreign investors

4 Ilie Vonica, owner of Polisano

group, dies in apparent suicide in Sibiu

5 Highest and cheapest gasoline prices by country: Romania moves up six positions in the ranking


www.business-review.ro Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

NEWS 7

WHO’S NEWS BR welcomes information for Who’s News. Submissions may be edited for length and clarity. Get in touch at simona.bazavan@business-review.ro

Bogdan Balaci

is the new general manager of Philips Lighting, responsible for the firm’s South-East Europe business. With over 15 years of management experience in the IT sector, Balaci was formerly CEO of cloud solutions provider Ymens. Until October 2012, he served as general manager of IBM Romania, overseeing the operations for Romania and the Republic of Moldova.Previously, he held senior management positions within IBM Romania, including country sales manager, global technology services manager and operations manager. Balaci graduated from the Physics Faculty of the University of Bucharest and has an MBA from Henley Business School in the UK.

Ruxandra Bese

has joined Immochan, the real estate division of retailer Auchan, as development director. She previously worked for Decathlon for over ten years. During the past seven years Bese was responsible for the sports retailer’s expansion to 13 outlets on the local market as expansion director. Immochan Romania manages nine commercial centers and has a team of 23 employees.

Alina Bratu

is the new communication manager at Pro TV. For the past 13 years she has worked for beer producer URBB, her last position there being corporate affairs manager and senior brand manager. Bratu graduated from SNSPA Bucharest with a mas-

ter’s degree in public relations and management and also completed an EMBA program in the WU Executive Academy, part of the Business University in Vienna (2010-2012).

Akos Forras

has been appointed country manager of furniture retailer Kika Romania. He is replacing Lars Lund, who after holding the position for the past five years has decided to move back to Sweden. Forras will be responsible for the Kika store in Romania as well as outlets in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. In Romania he will coordinate the marketing and acquisition departments. Forras has been working for the South African Steinhoff Group, which took over Kika /Leiner last year, for the past four years.

Costin Matache

is the new general manager of cloud provider Ymens, replacing Bogdan Balaci. Matache has 12 years of professional experience in the IT industry, and during his career has held various positions at multinationals such as IBM and ING Romania. Over the past seven years, he has worked for IBM Romania in various local and regional management roles, such as core consulting leader, global business services leader and application management services leader for South-Eastern Europe.

CFR Marfa fires managing board Members of CFR’s managing board were dismissed last week, after a meeting with the company’s shareholders, according to former board president, Liviu Radu, reports hotnews.ro. “They showed us a law that allowed them to fire us. I personally don’t believe I ever did anything that could be harmful to the company. I will discuss things with my colleagues and see what we can do,” said Radu. “The meeting was attended by shareholders but I don’t know them all because the General Shareholders Assembly also underwent changes recently. Also

present was Adrian Nica, head of the Transport Ministry’s audit body.” The dismissed board had been appointed at the beginning of 2013. According to Digi24, the new managing board at CFR Marfa includes: Mircea Florin Biban, chief inspector in the Railway Safety Inspectorate; Alina Paraiala, cabinet director for the Transport Ministry; George Buruiana, who sat on the old board; Dan Toader, Transport Ministry advisor; Dan Jianu; Vasile Rodin-Calomfirescu; and Elena Viorica Merticariu, advisor.


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

8

Real change on the horizon as opportunity replaces fear A clear shift in attitude has taken place on the real estate market in 2014 compared to five years ago, agreed participants in the 13th edition of BR’s Realty event, held last week. The growth of the office segment heralds the beginning of a new real estate cycle, albeit on a different scale and involving different premises this time around, said players.

“A new real estate cycle truly begins not when developers start or resume projects they’ve had in their portfolios for years. When there is real new demand, when developers and investors are looking for new assets to develop, that’s when we can really talk about a new real estate cycle,” said Attila Peli, head of development and land at JLL. This began to happen in the middle of last year, he added. “The resetting of the local economy and that of the local real estate sector started to take place in the second half of last year,” agreed Laura Bencze, head of research at CBRE. And like the last time around, it is the office segment, with its lower associated risk, that kickstarted the new cycle. Lower costs have attracted new companies, especially BPOs and SSCs, to come and invest locally over recent years. Romania now finds itself on the same list of potential new investors as Poland and the Czech Republic. “There are a lot of foreign companies coming to Romania or watching the local market very closely because they think that Poland has become slightly too expensive from the perspective of labor and real estate costs,” explained Bencze. The international context is definitely favorable to Romania, added Peli. Recent events in the region are creating a “new border effect” which will further push Western companies

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Photos: Mihai Constantineanu

∫ SIMONA BAZAVAN

1. Diana Tenea, general director, General Directorate for Regional Development and Infrastructure, MDRAP 2. Nicoleta Radu, business intelligence consultant, Zanti Exclusive 3. Anca Bidian, general manager, Kiwi Finance 4. Georgian Marcu, president, APAIR 5. Alexandra Coltos, urban planner, Center of Excellence in Planning 6. Aurelia Cionga, president, Raiffeisen Banca pentru Locuinte to invest in Romania, to which he adds the “feeling of Poland overheating”. Peli, who thinks that the new cycle will peak in three or four years, says that so far demand for land has come from office developments alone due to the lower risks, but the other real estate sectors will see their turn come too over the next couple of years. “We will see a peak around 2017, 2018, which means the right time to start new developments is about now. What we have learned from the previous real estate cycle is that players who started a development in 20032005 also had time to make an exit. The ideal scenario is to be among the pioneers,” he said, adding that there are several developers, some with experience on the local market as well as newcomers, who have understood this. Bucharest continues to take the lion’s share of new companies enter-

Property possibilities: what type of home can a household earning EUR 660 buy? Year

2008

2010

2014

Household revenue Level of indebtedness Loan duration Maximum loan LTV House price Construction price Built area

EUR 660 50% 30 years EUR 52,000 75% EUR 69,000 EUR 1,840/sqm 37sqm

EUR 660 50% 30 years EUR 48,000 75% EUR 64,000 EUR 1,150/sqm 56sqm

EUR 660 50% 30 years EUR 55,000 75% EUR 73,300 EUR 920 EUR/sqm 80sqm

Source: Kiwi Finance estimations based on the revenues of an average two-person household with no other debts

ing the market and new office devel- are industrial parks that had tax-free opments, but things are moving in the status for a number of years and rest of the country as well. Cluj- where local councils have been workNapoca will see its stock of modern ing for years to get investors to come office space grow by half again this to disadvantaged areas by giving year and the next, said Bencze. West- them tax incentives, only to have the ern Romania is also attractive for in- central authorities introduce this new dustrial developments, especially in tax, he outlined, stressing that it was the field of automotive production, a clear example of a poorly thoughtwhich is set to grow even further, she through measure. “It hasn’t scared people away but it added. Last year CBRE brokered industrial space for production facilities shakes their confidence,” he added. totaling some 20,000 sqm, out of which only a small share was in Hopes of a residential revival Bucharest. “The market has gone forward in terms Romania may be scoring points of demand but banks aren’t catching against other regional countries such up,” said Anca Bidian, general manas the Czech Republic and Poland ager at Kiwi Finance, summing up the when it comes to workforce costs, but general feeling. In order to reduce it definitely gets a poorer ranking in risks, banks have tightened proceterms of legal and fiscal predictability, dures to the point where bureaucracy argued participants. has become the main issue the sector The most recent example is the 1.5 is struggling with at present. “The percent construction tax which came banking system is running pretty into force this year and which applies much like the Ministry of Finance in to buildings that were previously tax- this regard,” she commented. “A worexempt, said Nicoleta Radu, business rying share of credit requests are deintelligence consultant at Zanti Exclu- nied for bureaucratic reasons alone.” sive, and the event moderator. There is liquidity in the market, With the government making little and the growing demand and clear progress in improving overall tax col- signs that even the residential market lection despite tax levels in other is entering a new growth phase will areas already surpassing EU averages, push banks to further loosen credit it was only to be expected that it for end users, added Bidian, but the would hike taxes elsewhere, such same cannot be said about securing as in the real estate sector, com- financing for residential developmented Alexandra Smedoiu, senior ments, complained other participants. manager in tax consultancy at PwC “It is too early to talk about the resiRomania, adding that profits and rev- dential market (…). There are two enenues could also be taxed more in the tities dictating this. On one hand future. there are the banks who cannot be “This tax is causing quite a few convinced overnight to start financproblems for a number of people in ing the residential sector, and on the the market,” said Victor Constanti- other hand there are the developers nescu, partner at Biris Goran. One ex- who so far don’t want to hear about ample is the industrial sector. There residential projects,” said Peli, pre-


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

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apartments continued to drop last year. Sale prices for apartments in Bucharest were 5.6 percent lower in March this year compared to the same month in 2013, said Georgian Marcu, president of the Romanian real estate agencies association, APAIR.

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1. Attila Peli, head of development and land, JLL 2. Laura Bencze, head of research, CBRE 3. Alexandra Smedoiu, senior manager, tax consultancy, PwC Romania 4. Victor Constantinescu, partner, Biris Goran dicting that the situation could change next year. A sign that the market is maturing and heading towards an upturn would be the diversification of financing methods beyond the Prima Casa state-backed loan scheme, set up to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder. At present, home acquisitions or constructions financed through the savings-lending system (known as Bauspar) have a penetration rate of only 2 percent in Romania compared to about 66 percent in Austria, 42 percent in the Czech Republic, 25 percent in Slovakia and 13 percent in Hungary, said Aurelia Cionga, president of Raiffeisen Banca pentru Locuinte (RBL). Given the improving macroeconomic context and lower risks such loan schemes carry, she is confident, however, that about 10 percent of Romanians will opt for this financing

method in the future. One sign that local buyers are starting to trust in the system is that RBL increased the number of savings-lending contracts both last year compared to the previous one and in early 2014 y-o-y, added Cionga. In the meantime, the price of

Bucharest’s ‘Laser Valley’ and EUR 3 billion Gara de Nord revamp project The Gara de Nord railway station in Bucharest could be transformed over the next decade into a regional intermodal railway hub and a modern and dynamic urban development, should the urban revamp project presented during the event by Alexandra Coltos, urban planner from the Ion Mincu Center of Excellence in Planning, become reality. The project is currently in its study

Bucharest office outlook Completions Total stock Vacancy rate Gross take-up Net take-up Prime headline rent Prime yields

Source: JLL

2013

y-o-y

12 mo outlook

119,000 sqm 2.08 mln sqm 14.4% 293,000 sqm 150,000 sqm EUR 18.5/sqm/mo 8.25%

+143% +6% -1.6% +20% +65% -

positive positive contraction positive positive stagnation negative

phase but its initiators are hoping it will be turned into a public-private partnership in the not so distant future. The result would be the transformation of the shabby Gara de Nord historic building into a modern shopping mall with all railway activities transferred underground. This would free up major space in one of Bucharest’s key areas to be used for real estate developments, said the team behind the project. The investment required for this transformation would be around EUR 3 billion, most of which would come from public funds and EU money, but also from private sources. Should the project be implemented, it would become the largest and most complex urban transformation project Bucharest has seen over the past few decades. This is not the only urban transformation scheme the Ion Mincu Center of Excellence in Planning is working on at present. The second is the transformation of Magurele, a town close to the capital, into Bucharest’s own “Laser Valley” and an international physics hub. A high-power laser is currently being built there, the ELINP (Extreme Light Infrastructure-Nuclear Physics) project, which will see the construction of the most powerful laser beams and most advanced gamma beams in the world. simona.bazavan@business-review.ro


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

10 FOCUS

Romania’s big energy projects stuck in limbo With the country in need of at least EUR 30 billion of investments to modernize its energy generating capacity, experts say that investors are looking at Romania – although constant legal changes could hinder their long-term local plans. Large production investments have yet to materialize as the government is struggling to find investors. ∫ OVIDIU POSIRCA Policymakers said these billions – when they come – would be put into modernizing assets and building new interconnections, as well as strengthening the grid and building more efficient capacities.

Evergreen projects

Otilia Nutu, energy and infrastructure analyst at think tank Expert Forum, noted that the market demands investments, but the uncertainty of the legal framework increases the investment risk. “First of all we should stop changing the laws so often because when you start to introduce new laws without consulting anyone, such as the construction tax, or to change the law, such as with renewable energy, you create an unstable environment where nobody dares to invest and expect to recover it for at least three years,” Nutu told BR. She said there was also a problem with inefficient energy producers controlled by the state, which receive an array of subsidies. Some capacities have been operating for up to 40 years and yet are technically bankrupt. “The amount of energy could be produced by more efficient players because this is what investments mean, to replace inefficient capacities with modern technologies,” said the analyst. However, most electricity production is controlled by the state and any closing of capacities and redundancies would have a huge political cost, according to commentators. For instance, the Oltenia Energy Holding employs 19,000 people and has one of the highest electricity prices on the market. The complex produces electricity and thermal energy from lignite. “The state should cut the stimulus granted to inefficient pieces in the system. We are continuing direct subsidies for coal. Last year, a government ordinance was issued granting access to the (e.n. electricity) market to Oltenia and Hunedoara Energy Complex,” said Nutu. Investors looking to tap the Romanian market will also have problems finding forecasts of demand for electricity and gas in the coming years. The best estimates are currently made by Transgaz and Transelectrica, the operators of the gas transport network and electricity grids, which use them to plan their own investments. In the meantime, some stateowned energy companies have been

Local primary energy sources in Q1 2014 (thousands of tons of oil equivalent) Source

Total

Production

Import

Coal Oil Gas Electricity* Imported petroleum products

1,226 2,492 2,464 1,203 421

1,129 950 2,185 1,194

97 1,542 279 9.1

*hydro, wind, solar, nuclear energy and imported electricity listed and attracted financing to fund their investment program. Last year, the government sold minority stakes in Nuclearelectrica and Romgaz, the gas producer, through initial public offerings on the Bucharest Stock Exchange. The IPO in Electrica, the electricity supplier and distributor, should kick off in mid-June with the offering expected to raise up to EUR 400 million. A 51 percent stake in the company will be sold in Bucharest and London and the proceeds used to improve the company’s transport infrastructure. Nymen of the World Bank suggested that the pipeline of IPOs has attracted foreign investors, adding that Romania “has a good investment environment right now”.

Making offshore and shale gas count Romania is set to reach energy independence by the end of this decade on the back of fresh gas production in the Black Sea, according to commentators. Shale gas would also play a significant role. US oil major Chevron has just started exploring shale gas in the Moldova region and commercial exploitation could start by the end of this decade. However, the government will need to back this sector, as shale gas has generated controversy in Europe due to concerns regarding the impact of fracking (the process of pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to break shale rocks) on the environment. US oil major ExxonMobil is jointly

Source:INS

“What we need is streamlining. We have a worn out base (e.n. of assets) that needs to be replaced. This must be done more aggressively in the coming period than it has been so far,” independent energy expert George Cristodorescu told BR. Big projects, such as the two nuclear reactors at Cernavoda and the hydro-pumping storage plant in Tarnita, which have a combined price tag of around EUR 8 billon, have remained in the planning stage due to a lack of investors. The government, however, says that getting financing for these projects is a priority. Constantin Nita, the minister of economy, said last week during the Energy Investors Summit that these large-scale investments are in different stages of negotiations. “These are investments we are willing to make and are part of the government’s investment strategy. Some of them have generated a lot of debate, but I assure you of the government’s resolve to do them, whether some parties agree or do not agree with them,” said Nita. State-owned China Huadian Engineering is set to start work this year on a new EUR 1 billion generating unit in Rovinari, part of the Oltenia Energy Complex. Another Chinese firm, General Nuclear Power Corporation, has recently extended the letter of intent with Nuclearlectrica, the state-owned nuclear power producer, to develop nuclear reactors 3 and 4 at Cernavoda. Kari Nyman, lead specialist in the sustainable development department, Europe and Central Asia region, at the World Bank, said that the investment climate for nuclear energy is not favorable right now, mainly due to the accident at Fukushima. According to media reports, China is also looking to back the construction of the Tarnita plant.

Greater legal risk

seeking gas in the Black Sea with Austria’s OMV Petrom. The companies have found a gas deposit containing between 42 and 84 billion cbm in one block. Now the question is to what extent this significant gas deposit will benefit the local economy. “There has to be a market on which companies can sell gas. For a long time Romania used to regulate gas market contracts very closely, either directly or indirectly. That is now changing and liberalization is underway,” Nyman, of the World Bank, told BR. He argued that the development of the gas market should follow that of electricity where there is a developed market for traders. This could, for instance, convince Exxon to sell some of the gas in Romania instead of selling all the output abroad. “From their perspective, the closer to production they sell it, the better. So they are not looking to ship it to the other side of Europe,” said Nyman. Black Sea gas should be transported through Romanian infrastructure and Transgaz will have to invest to develop the network. According to Nyman, the financing environment has improved lately, which should make it easier for Romania, which has good macroeconomic figures, to tap the international financial markets and fund some energy investments. ovidiu.posirca@business-review.ro


www.business-review.ro Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

FOCUS 11

Nuclearelectrica hit by renewable surge Daniela Lulache, general manager of Nuclearelectrica, the state-owned nuclear producer, says that the company will register lower income from the sale of electricity, as renewable producers, supported by incentives, have flooded the market with cheaper energy. ∫ OVIDIU POSIRCA

How was last year’s profit achieved? From good sales of energy in conjunction with a reduction in costs. This year we have a dramatic reduction in income. For instance, the average price at which we sold last year on the competitive market (OPCOM) was around RON 195 per MW, while this year the forecast is around RON 160 per MW. Is the reduction of overall electricity consumption a factor in the shrinking income?

Photo: Mihai Constantineanu

Will the construction tax impact Nuclearelectrica’s investment program? Of course it will, because it reduces our profit. We have to revise the whole program, including investments, because it is clear that the level of profit we can obtain today cannot sustain major investments. We will pay RON 89 million in construction tax this year. We expect our profit to reach RON 30 million compared to profit of RON 427 million in the previous year.

I would not say lower consumption is a factor, because we are selling all our production. From my point of view it is instead due to the impact of renewable energy, which players can afford to sell at extremely low prices – I could even say at zero – because they have consistent subsidies. This has led to mutations in the market. A large share of PCCB (the bilateral electricity contracts market),

which was the market where we, the large producers, used to sell, has moved onto the PZU (the next day market). The PZU used to host 10-15 percent of all transactions and now it is closer to 40 percent.

said at the beginning of this year, we are resettling this project together. We are not sitting around, waiting for investors. We need to present a story to the investors and we are working on it right now.

What is the status of the construction project for the two new nuclear reactors at Cernavoda? We are working on them, remaining in the same program. We hope that by the end of the year we will have a clear decision on this project, in terms of the way it goes forward. It is still a strategic project for Romania and it remains on the list of priorities.

How much will the construction of the two reactors cost? There are all kinds of figures but we have an estimate from the feasibility study of around EUR 6.2 billion.

Will a Chinese company get involved in the construction of the reactors? There is interest, greater or smaller, from multiple sides and it will be tested when the project happens and is put on the market. Should we expect any progress on this project by year end? The progress we’re waiting for must come first of all from us, because, as we

How will the financing of the project be structured? Will the investor bring all the money? There will definitely be mixed financing. You cannot have a single source. We will certainly have our own sources, loans etc. Are you dealing with political pressures? No, I cannot complain about pressures from the political side; the only pressures are to deliver on what we promised. There are inconveniences, such as the construction tax, but not pressures. ovidiu.posirca@business-review.ro


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

12 CITY

Prince Charles urges Top TIFF tips: mustRomania to preserve see movies from Cluj ‘traditional way of life’ coming to the capital

Courtesy of UK Embassy

Prince Charles receiving his honorary doctorate from Bucharest University

The Prince of Wales urged Romania to preserve the traditional way of life and historical architecture that are its staples, arguing that this could help bring future financial benefits. “Romanians have much to be proud of, and this

Crown estate: Prince Charles’ properties in Transylvania Blue House, Viscri The prince bought the traditional 18th century Saxon house in Viscri in 2006. It was the first property he acquired in Romania, for a reported GBP 12,000. Now a guesthouse, it features three double bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen. The village of Viscri is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites of Transylvanian villages with fortified churches, alongside Biertani, Prejmer-Tarlau, Darjiu, Saschiz-Keisd, Calnic and Valea Viilor. Valea Zalanului/Zalanpatak In Zalanpatak, the prince owns a farm, which he bought in 2010, made up of several buildings. The property, which has a patch of forest and extensive flower meadows, enjoys a rich biodiversity of plants, insects, birds and large mammals. A resident ecologist welcomes guests, who can be accommodated in the property’s five double rooms.

The property in Viscri can be rented throughout the year. Please see http://www.transylvaniancastle.com

pride should lead you to do everything possible to protect your traditional way of life and historical architecture. (…) The historic architecture and associated landscapes I see all over the country are distinctly of Romania, and are such an immense asset,” said the prince, as he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bucharest for his contribution to sustainable agriculture and rural development. Prince Charles was in Romania for a private visit to his properties in Viscri and Valea Zalanului. Among the local sites mentioned by the royal were the ornamented houses of Bucovina, the carved wooden houses in Maramures, the decorated dwellings in Oltenia and the Saxon houses in Transylvania. The prince gave the examples of Italy and Switzerland in outlining the options of being a modern country while retaining the traditional aspects of a culture’s heritage. “I have become fond of your country over the last 16 years and I hope and pray that Romania will be able to keep that which it still has; to keep things distinctly Romanian, and not throw everything away,” he said. Prince Charles has been coming to Romania since 1998, when he made the only official visit to the country. Most of his private visits were to the counties of Mures, Covasna, Harghita and Brasov. Among the issues he supports are the preservations of traditional rural communities, both in the UK and internationally. He is a patron of the Mihai Eminescu Trust, a foundation dedicated to the conservation and regeneration of villages in Transylvania and Maramures. The heir to the British throne has bought and renovated two properties in Romania: one in Viscri and the other in Valea Zalanului. On his first visit to Transylvania he said he was overwhelmed by the “extraordinarily rich heritage” of the area and impressed with the fortified Saxon villages in Transylvania, built by German settlers trying to withstand Tatar and Turkish invasions. However, following large-scale migration, the sites today are faced with the problem of an ageing and declining population. Prince Charles is also a supporter of Transylvanian woods. He featured in the mini-series Wild Carpathia, first broadcast in 2011, which promotes several areas of Romania, including Maramures, Bucovina, the Fagaras mountains, Valea Zalanului and Saschiz village. Prince Charles’s visit to Romania also included meetings with President Traian Basescu and PM Victor Ponta.

editorial@business-review.ro

Cluj-Napoca was the talk of the cultural world for ten days, during which the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF) screened over 217 movies from 55 countries complemented by countless related events. BR asked the artistic director of the event, Mihai Chirilov, for his highlights, some of which are being screened in Bucharest this week.

Mihai Chirilov, TIFF artistic director

OANA VASILIU Stephen Frears’s Philomena and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood were the two must-sees in this year’s selection, and Chirilov also strongly recommends a film he discovered last year that was produced in the 60s. The TIFF director describes Before the Night is Over, from director Peter Solan, as “a revelation – the kind of film the cinema was invented for”. Chirilov, whose aim through the festival was to discover distinctive voices, calls the 12 movies that

Saving the Big Screen TIFF’s major campaign this year endeavors to save the big screen, meaning a number of closed down cinemas that have gone bankrupt or simply fallen into decay. With a long-term strategy that covers picture houses all over the country, Romanian Film Promotion is beginning with the Film Warehouse, for which fundraising efforts have been launched with a target of EUR 7,000. Read more about this campaign in next week’s edition of BR.

l

screened in competition an organic whole in which each film has its place. The line-up is: Blind (directed by Eskil Vogt), Everything We Loved (Max Currie), Fish & Cat, (Shahram Mokri), Floating Skyscrapers (Tomasz Wasilewski), Paat (Amir Toodehroosta), Quod Erat Demonstrandum (Andrei Gruzsniczki), Still Life (Uberto Pasolini), The Voice of the Voiceless (Maximón Monihan), Viktoria (Maya Vitkova), Vis-à-vis (Nevio Marasović) and White Shadow (Noaz Deshe). Of the 34 movies selected in the Supernova category, Chirilov particularly endorses ten: Of Horses and Men, The Empty Hours, Ida, Siddharth, Love is Strange, We are the Best!, The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, Beloved Sisters, Paupusza and Black Coal, Thin Ice. This year’s TIFF also ventured into extreme territory, with Chirilov highlighting the Swedish film Something Must Break, whose director came to Cluj to explain his work. Other challenging works included Moebius, in which Korean director Kim Ki-duk goes beyond all limits to tell a remarkably well shaped story given the absence of any dialogue; R100, from Japanese director Matsumoto; and New Tits, in which the viewer follows Sacha Polak in her exploration (with some comic moments) of the effects of breast cancer. From June 10-19, Bucharest will host a retrospective of TIFF, at Cinema Studio, Cinema Elvira Popescu and J’ai Bistrot. Almost 50 films will be shown in the capital, including the 12 films that screened in competition. Highlights will be Black Coal, Thin Ice; Sacro GRA; Bad Hair; Historia de la mevamort; We are the Best!; Ida, Canibal; Philomena; Via Castellana Bandiera; Beloved Sisters; Before Tonight is Over; La gran familia española; and Viva la liberta!. Vlad Petri’s documentary about the street movement Salvati Rosia Montana, Bucuresti, unde esti? (Bucharest, Where are You?) will premiere on June 13 at Cinema Studio. oana.vasiliu@business-review.ro


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

CITY 13

BOOK REVIEW

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression Andrew Solomon’s bestseller on depression is now available in a Romanian translation. Leslie Hawke reviews the book ahead of its local launch and warns of the implications of not talking about the condition.

LESLIE HAWKE People don’t talk much about depression in Romania. Maybe that’s why it took 12 years for the most renowned and frequently quoted book on the subject to be translated into Romanian. In April, Humanitas published The Noonday Demon under the title “Demonul amiezii” and it is already a bestseller in Romania. The author, Andrew Solomon, will be in Bucharest on Friday, June 13 at 17:00 to speak and autograph copies of the book, in both English and Romanian, at the Humanitas bookstore on Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta near Cismigiu Garden. This is a fantastic opportunity to hear and meet one of the most acclaimed American writers of the 21st century – and to be exposed to his perspective on depression, a subject that touches practically everyone, either directly or indirectly, at some point in their life, even if they don’t necessarily name it as such. Andrew Solomon happens to be a long-time personal friend and a board member of the Alex Fund, the US nonprofit that raises about a fifth of Asociatia OvidiuRo’s annual budget. The reason I am so excited about his appearance in Bucharest on June 13 is threefold. The first is highly personal. Depression seems to run in my family. Major mood swings, episodes requiring hospitalization, medication and treatment options, suicide – these are topics

with which I have considerable lifelong familiarity – and consequently a deep sympathy for those afflicted by the disease and for their families, who are also afflicted by it. Secondly, my work with poor families in Romania has led me to suspect that one of the most common reasons that poor parents often make “stupid” choices and are easily labeled “lazy” is because of severe but completely undiagnosed depression. “Depression cuts across class boundaries… but most people who are poor and depressed stay poor and depressed… Poverty is depressing and depression is impoverishing, leading as it does to dysfunction and isolation. Poverty’s humility is a passive relationship to fate… The poor depressed perceive themselves to be supremely helpless. The rest of the world dissociates from the poor depressed, and they dissociate themselves: they lose that most human quality of free will.” Thus begins the chapter on poverty, which, like the others, ranges from touching personal narrative to a summary of the scientific research and implications for policy. Thirdly, I believe more open discussion on the subject of depression and anxiety could have positive implications in the Romanian workplace. I suspect these conditions are as prevalent in Bucharest and Timisoara as in the average American city – but information and access to treatment options, for anything less than a complete psychotic break, are practically unheard of. Treatment, whether through talking therapy, pharmaceutical means or a combination of the two, can make all the difference in the world to a person’s sense of wellbeing – and directly affects one’s productivity and relationships. The Noonday Demon seamlessly combines intimate personal stories with the perspective of scientists, doctors, therapists, politicians and even philosophers. Winner of the National Book Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, The Noonday Demon has been translated into 35 languages. My bilingual friends tell me the Romanian translation by Dana Ligia Ilin is excellent. Demonul amiezii: o atomie a depresiei, Humanitas Publishing House The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, Scribner. Available at Anthony Frost bookshop in Bucharest.


www.business-review.eu Business Review | June 9 - 15, 2014

14 CITY

DON’T MISS

FILM REVIEW

Le Samouraï DEBBIE STOWE Director: Jean-Pierre Melville Starring: Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier On at: Cinema Eforie, Sunday 8 June, 16.00 and Wednesday 11 June, 20.00. In French, with subtitles in Romanian

Delon walk to freedom: wanted man Jef Costello evades the Parisian police

debbie.stowe@business-review.ro

FOUNDING EDITOR Bill Avery PUBLISHER Anca Ionita EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Simona Fodor JOURNALISTS Otilia Haraga - senior journalist, Simona Bazavan, Ovidiu Posirca, Oana Vasiliu COPY EDITOR Debbie Stowe PHOTO EDITOR: Mihai Constantineanu

ISSN No. 1453 - 729X

LAYOUT Beatrice Gheorghiu ART DIRECTOR Alexandru Oriean

Courtesy of MNAC

A shabby Paris hotel room, an achingly beautiful man lying on the bed smoking and a philosophical quote – what better way for a French film to start? “There is no solitude greater than a samurai’s, unless perhaps it is that of a tiger in the jungle,” reads the citation, attributed to The Book of Bushido. C’est très profond, non? But the book is bogus, existing only in the imagination of director JeanPierre Melville – a foretaste of the artfulness of this atmospheric 1967 film noir starring Alain Delon. Delon has often been accused of being a rather wooden actor, carving out a career on the strength of his looks rather than his talent – a French Keanu Reeves, si vous voulez. If there is any truth in that, then the role of taciturn, inscrutable Jef Costello seems an ideal fit. Delon plays a hot man – I mean, a hitman – cruising the streets of Paris in a sharp suit and a stolen car carrying out wetwork for local gangsters. He’s aided and abetted by long-suffering girlfriend Jane (Nathalie Delon) who provides him with alibis for seemingly very little gratitude or reward. Contract killers – they’re so inconsiderate. But then one job gets complicated.

The cops – led by amiable inspector François Périer – are sniffing around Jef, his paymasters have stiffed him and a witness, nightclub pianist Cathy Rosier, is covering for him for unclear reasons. Zut alors! In the nearly half-century since its release, Le Samouraï has become a classic and much-referenced work. Most recently, Ryan Gosling’s unforthcoming killer in 2011’s Drive and George Clooney’s expat assassin in 2010’s The American have been compared to the character of Costello. The 1999 Jim Jarmusch crime-actioner Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, starring Forest Whitaker, paid even more overt tribute. And Michael Mann’s Heat (1999) shares the French-Italian noir’s compare-andcontrast approach to the cops and killers. Melville’s movie betrays interesting influences of its own: there’s a Hitchcockian feel to the long wordless sequences, tracking shots and meticulously composed set pieces. The story also shares the British director’s misogynistic and marginalizing treatment of the female characters – even though the nightclub pianist is such a pro that when a gun is thrust in her face she doesn’t miss a single note! But then women rarely thrive in film noir. As with Hitchcock, there are comic touches too. These come mostly through some dry one-liners, the lion’s share of which goes to Périer, whose wryly affable approach to crime-fighting is juxtaposed with Jef’s deadpan style of crime-committing. Mostly, though, Le Samouraï’s pleasures lie in its tense atmosphere, and the thrill of an exquisitely crafted film: the neat structure (Jef pays three visits to the same nightclub, which demarcate the story’s three acts), and the brio of the set pieces, including a suspenseful cat-and-mouse metro sequence. The main characters’ motives, meanwhile, remain a mystery. Delon’s unreadable, unsmiling visage yields no clue to Jef’s innermost thoughts. It sure looks good, though.

SENZART EXHIBITION

See hear: the Mem-Non project is structured as a visual soundscape

National Museum of Contemporary Art Until November 30 SenzArt, dedicated to individuals suffering from visual and hearing impairment, aims to promote contemporary art as a facilitator of communication on different levels of perception and with various means of expression. The exhibition of interactive multimedia installation includes: Mem-Non by MartinEmilian Balint; Simte Pulsația! by Cătălin Crețu; Poesia Domestica by Matthias Neumann in collaboration with Cristina David; and FluO by Paul Popescu. Mem-Non is an interactive environment that combines principles of chromatic mimicry found in nature with synesthesia. Structured as a visual soundscape, it offers visitors a multilayered sensorial experience through complementary perception. The project Simte Pulsația! gives sensory impaired individuals the opportunity to “feel” and experience – by means of interactive art – dynamic, pulsating processes and unconventional audio-visual spacing methods. A colorful canvas of 88 shapes will be projected onto the floor, while repetitive, pulsating music is played over speakers. The audience can therefore experience a multitude of interactions between the audio and visual processes.

Poesia Domestica offers an investigation of architecture that excludes the visual element. Following a condensed trajectory of architectural production, the work is guided by the generic steps of design and building: from site analysis, through design conception, development and building, and finally usage and human interaction with the space. The resulting work emulates a domestic environment in complete darkness, developed in collaboration with a Bucharest resident who is blind. A series of discreet sounds will be played throughout the rooms, adding an aural element to the environment. FluO is a multi-sensitive water string instrument modulated by those interacting with it, emitting sound as the streams of water are touched. It takes inspiration from the classical harp, which engages the user in an intimate and virtuous interaction. FluO, say the creators, challenges the limits of sensorial perception through a technological metaphor that questions the interpretation of reality and the simplest natural phenomena like gravity, generating an ambiguity that takes the observer into an upside-down world, similar to the dream and fantasy worlds of childhood.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR George Moise SALES & EVENTS DIRECTOR Oana Molodoi SALES & EVENTS Sales managers: Ana-Maria Nedelcu, Oana Albu, Raluca Comanescu MARKETING Ana-Maria Stanca, Ana Maria Andrei, Iulia Mizgan PRODUCTION Dan Mitroi DISTRIBUTION Eugen Musat

PUBLISHER Bloc Notes Media ADDRESS No. 10 Italiana St., 2nd floor, ap. 3 Bucharest, Romania LANDLINE Editorial: 031.040.09.32 Office: 031.040.09.31 EMAILS editorial@business-review.ro sales@business-review.ro events@business-review.ro

oana.vasiliu@business-review.ro


Business Review Issue 21/2014 June 9 - 15  

Romania’s large energy projects have failed to hook investors, while the unstable legal framework is putting the brakes on the government’s...

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