Page 1

CMU IS TO BUY EUROCLINIC FROM INSURER EUREKO; SEE NEWS ON PAGE 5 FOCUS

BALANCE

LINKS

Romania’s beleaguered motorists have

Though bridling at the recession, local

To make a one-minute movie is the

endured frequent rises in the price of

riding club owners hope that horseplay

challenge of the Filminute film festival,

gas this year, despite falling demand,

is going to catch on in Romania and de-

explains John Ketchum, co-executive di-

and the volatility looks set to continue

liver a stable market

rector and head of the jury

See pages 10-11

See pages 16-17

See pages 18-19

BUSINESS REVIEW

www.business-review.ro

ROMANIA’S PREMIERE BUSINESS WEEKLY

SEPTEMBER 20 - 26, 2010 / VOLUME 14, NUMBER 34

BACK FROM THE BRINK

Asesoft is taking over insolvent IT&C retailer Flanco, one of the biggest local casualties of the recession, injecting EUR 4 million of fresh capital and paying off some of the company’s outstanding debts LAURENTIU OBAE

see page 4


THIS WEEK

BUSINESS REVIEW September 27

October 7

é

é

The ICC Young Arbitrators Forum and Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii organize the Competence – Competence Principle – Recurring Issues seminar at InterContinental Bucharest. Attendance is free of charge.

What we are working on

EVENTS

DANA CIURARU Senior Journalist...

Business Review organizes the second edition of the French Business Forum at InterContinental Bucharest.

CORINA DUMITRESCU Journalist...

October 21 é

is preparing a re-

Business Review organizes the

September 28

Turkish Business Forum at Inter-

é

Continental Bucharest.

Business Review organizes the second edition of the Austrian Business Forum at Ramada Plaza Bucharest. é ICC and Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii organize the Efficiency of Complex Dispute Resolution Clauses in the Current Economic Climate event at InterContinental Bucharest.

is writing an article on the latest developments in the transportation industry

ture market

November 4 é

view of the furni-

SIMONA BAZAVAN Journalist... is working on an

Business Review organizes the Russian Business Forum at Ramada

analysis of Austrian investments

Plaza Bucharest. For more information on the full cal-

in Romania

endar of Business Review events, visit www.business-review.ro/events/.

TALK TO US ! Search for Business Review on

WHEN TRAIAN MET NICOLAS

Week in NUMBERS EUR 166 million The total investment in Renault’s technical center in Titu

7.6 percent Romania’s annual inflation level recorded in August, according to Eurostat

1.5 percent The economic increase forecasted by the government for 2011

President Traian Basescu exchanged words with his French coun-

69

terpart Nicolas Sarkozy at an EU summit that threatened to be

groups to Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria. BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010

COURTESY OF: PRESIDENCY.RO

dominated by a war of words over France’s deportations of

Bucharest’s position in the UBS ranking of capitals by prices, out of a total of 73 cities

7 percent The hike in provisioned budgetary expenses for 2012, an election year

LinkedIn - Business Review group Facebook - Business Review Twitter - BR_RO or connect via www.business-review.ro

B USINESS R EVIEW SEPTEMBER 20 - 26, 2010 / VOLUME 14, NUMBER 34

Founding Editor BILL AVERY Editor-in-Chief SIMONA FODOR Senior Journalists DANA CIURARU ANCA IONESCU OTILIA HARAGA Journalists SIMONA BAZAVAN CORINA DUMITRESCU Copy Editor DEBBIE STOWE Photographer LAURENTIU OBAE Layout BEATRICE GHEORGHIU

Executive Director GEORGE MOISE Sales & Events Director OANA MOLODOI Marketing Manager ADINA MILEA Sales & Events IULIAN BABEANU CLAUDIA MUNTEANU Production DAN MITROI Distribution EUGEN MU{AT

No.10 Italiana St, 2nd Floor, Ap.3 Bucharest - Romania Tel. Office: 031.040.09.31 Tel. Editorial: 031.040.09.32 Fax: 031.040.09.34 E-mails: firstname.lastname@business-review.ro; Audited 1H 2007

ISSN No. 1453 - 729X Printed at: MASTER PRINT SUPER OFFSET

Business Review is a founding member of the Romanian Audit Bureau for Circulation (BRAT)

3


NEWS

Asesoft takes over Flanco, injects Renault opens EUR 166 million EUR 4 million of capital technical center in Titu

Asesoft will take over the major share package of IT&C retailer Flanco. The latter’s main shareholders will now be Iulian Stanciu and Sebastian Ghita, shareholders in Asesoft. The two businesspeople will inject EUR 4 million of new capital over the next period for the development of the Flanco business. The transaction has to be approved by the Competition Council before it can go through.“Flanco is an investment, an opportunity for us. The company’s present situation makes us confident that we will be able to develop the Flanco business profitably, as this is one of the most renowned brands on the

4

COURTESY OF PRESIDENCY.RO

LAURENTIU OBAE

Flanco is aiming to clear some of its debts

local electro-IT market. The decision to invest in Flanco is a natural one for the development of our group of firms, completing our presence in online retail and distribution with classic retail,” said Stanciu. Within six months, the banks where Flanco had outstanding debts will receive EUR 10 million, a sum specified in the reorganization plan. The Flanco insolvency case, the first high-profile bankruptcy process completed in Romania, was managed by Casa de Insolventa Transilvania. “Completing the Flanco reorganization in just 12 months from the launch of the insolvency procedure is a first, especially since we are dealing with retail, an economic sector that has been extremely affected by the crisis. At this point, the new shareholders are taking over a profitable business, with a significant growth potential,” said Andrei Cionca, managing partner in Casa de Insolventa Transilvania. Otilia Haraga

President Basescu addresses the gathering at the inauguration of Renault’s technical center in Titu

Renault Technologie Roumanie (RTR) has inaugurated a EUR 166 million investment in its Titu technical center. The event was attended by President Traian Basescu and Patrick Pelata, operations GM at Renault. The Titu center joins the Aubevoye and Lardy locations in France and is dedicated primarily to optimizing vehicles. The center is on a 350-hectare

site and is made up of 100 testing spaces for vehicles and components. By the end of the year, it will have a team of 300 employees. The first tests on tracks are scheduled for October. Some 25 percent of the total investment, about EUR 44 million, has been provided by European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Dana Ciuraru

BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


NEWS

Centrul Medical Unirea buys Euroclinic from Eureko

Insurer Eureko reached an agreement to sell Euroclinic Hospital and Euroclinic Medical Centers in Romania to local medical services provider, Centrul Medical Unirea (CMU). The transaction is expected to be finalized by the en of the year. "After a strategic review of our Romanian non-insurance activities, we decided to sell our healthcare service providers to a buyer willing

BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010

LAURENTIU OBAE

LAURENTIU OBAE

Centrul Medical Unirea has a local network of 18 clinics as well as other specialized facilities

to advance a mutually-beneficial long-term partnership with our insurance activities in Romania. Eureko, through Eureko Asigurari, remains committed to its health insurance activities in Romania, and will actively continue to further develop its leadership position in this market", said Thomas van Rijckevorsel, member of Eureko's executive board and responsible for international operations. Eureko Asigurari health insurance clients will have access to the medical facilities of the new group. Euroclinic operates a hospital and three medical centers, it has 350 employees and posted a revenue of about EUR 8 million in 2009. CMU has a local network consisting of 18 clinics, an imaging center and in-patient facilities for surgery and maternity. This March, investment fund Advent International acquired 80 percent of the company. Simona Bazavan

German, Swiss and Austrian investors hit by Romanian partners’ bankruptcies, says LeinerLeitner

Investors are concerned about the bankruptcies of their local partners

One of the main problems that German, Swiss and Austrian investors in Romania are facing is the bankruptcy of many of their local Romanian partners along with the rigidity of the local fiscal authorities in collecting taxes, said Rene Schob, partner with audit and consultancy firm LeitnerLeitner. He added that two of the company’s clients had chosen to close their business in Romania so far, but it is their intention to return once local markets recover. Agriculture and related FMCG industries could secure foreign investments in the future. “LeitnerLeitner still believes in Ro-

mania’s high potential in attracting foreign investments and increasing the market, but this potential can be achieved only if the authorities solve the country’s political and macro-economic problems,” said a LeitnerLeitner survey. Attracting more European funds is also crucial for Romania in the current economic context, said Cristoph Leitl, president of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Commerce. At a press meeting organized by LeitnerLeitner with the Commercial Department of the Austrian Embassy to Bucharest, he criticized the Romanian authorities’ “lack of professionalism” in attracting more European funds. “If you are offered European money, take it!” he concluded. Austria is the main foreign investor to Romania with about EUR 500 million invested last year, according to Leitl. Simona Bazavan

More on the Austrian business community at next week’s Country Focus event organized by BR at Ramada Plaza Bucharest.

5


NEWS

ANAF bans Rompetrol from selling assets, company may take case to international courts

6

can no longer choose conversion into shares, our legal experts say. Unless the company pays the rest of the debt, we’ll go for foreclosure. The RRC’s debt represents 2.4 percent of the GDP set to be received by the state budget this year,” said Sorin Blejnar, ANAF president. The ANAF’s decision comes after a proposal made at the beginning of this month by the RRC board, that the company could mortgage all its assets in favor of its majority shareholder KazMunaiGaz, in order to guarantee USD 900 million in loans. The state will most likely become a minority shareholder in Rompetrol Rafinare this year by converting into shares the bonds that have not been bought back by the company by September 30. The Rompetrol Group responded immediately. In a press release, the company said, “The ANAF action exercised for an overdue commercial debt and for which the Min-

STOCKEXCHANGE

The dispute between The Rompetrol Group and the Romanian authorities has escalated. The company has recently been informed that the National Fiscal Administration Agency (ANAF) has levied distress on the land and equipment of Rompetrol Rafinare (RRC), which owns the Petromidia refinery, as well as on stakes in company subsidiaries to prevent them from being sold. The Kazakhs from Rompetrol have to repurchase some EUR 571 million in bonds, a sum that represents the historic debt of the RRC. The company paid up until now EUR 54 million in August, but said at the time it did not have the necessary cash and would convert the bonds into shares instead. “Through this measure, we plan to protect the national interest. Rompetrol could have converted the bonds into shares but has already made a payment, thus opting for repurchase in full. Therefore it

Rompetrol has been prevented from selling off some of its assets by the ANAF

istry of Finance will certainly receive shares, as approved by a law passed by the Parliament of Romania, is a measure outside the legal powers conferred on the ANAF. It is unjustified and abusive, contrary to the principles of transparency

and good faith, and contrary to the obligations internationally assumed by the Romanian state to ensure a fair and equitable treatment of foreign investments in Romania.” Rompetrol has already retained three major law firms on the market, NNDKP, Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii and Musat & Asociatii, for legal representation in this case. Its lawyers say that, under legal documents, the bonds may be repurchased only in part, so the rest could be swapped for shares. “In case the series of hostile acts from various state institutions continues, acts coordinated against the RRC, we are considering very seriously, together with our client, the possibility of taking our case to the international arbitration courts,” said Stefan Damian, deputy managing partner at Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii told BR. Dana Ciuraru

BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


NEWS

Heineken Romania Retirement age raised to 65 as new pension law passed A new law on pensions was adopt- bor Commission’s suggestion of 63 of the average gross salary and memposts net turnover of ed last week by the Chamber of was rejected, according to the bers walked out before the final voting Deputies, with 170 votes in favor, two newswire. took place. In the absence of the two EUR 106 mln in H1 against and two abstentions, according The full session debates in the parties, the monthly pension level was to Mediafax newswire. Representatives of the PNL and PSD parties walked out before the vote. During the debate, the decision was also taken that professionals paid copyright fees will be insured under the public pension system. The new law raises the retirement age to 65 for women and men. The La-

Chamber of Deputies lasted for 10 hours. Prime Minister Emil Boc was present at the start of the session, as was the labor minister, Ioan Botis, who remained until the end. The opposition parties, the PSD and PNL, strongly opposed the new retirement age. The PSD called for pensions to be increased to 45 percent

set at RON 732.5, according to Mediafax.During the session, a decision was also taken regarding workers who earn income through copyright fees, royalties and temporary contracts. Under the new pension law, these individuals will be mandatorily insured under the public pensions system. Corina Dumitrescu

STOCKEXCHANGE

Cheers: Heineken has upped its turnover

Heineken Romania posted a EUR 127 million (RON 542 million) gross turnover and a net turnover of EUR 106 million (RON 451 million) in the first half of this year, a 7 percent growth on the same period of 2009. “In the first semester of 2010 we continued to invest in our brands and we focused on the basic assets of the company. Moreover, we improved our ability to generate liquidities by carefully revising investments through cost management programs and the management of the working capital,” said Jan Derck van Karnebeek, general manager of Heineken Romania. The beer market decreased by approximately 11 percent in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year, due to the decline in Romanians’ purchasing power, according to data from the Romanian Brewers’ Association. “The economic recession also affected the Romanian beer market, triggering some changes in Romanians’ consumption behavior, many of them preferring to consume beer at home, to the detriment of consuming beer in town,” said the association. At the moment, Heineken has 1,100 employees. The company has production units in Miercurea Ciuc, Targu Mures, Craiova and Constanta. Heineken Romania has the following brands in its portfolio: Heineken, Ciuc Premium, Golden Brau, Neumarkt, Bucegi, Edelweiss (import), Zipfer (imported), Gosser, Schlossgold, Silva, Gambrinus, Harghita and Hategana. Otilia Haraga BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010

7


WHO’S NEWS / CALENDAR

NEWS

WHO’S

his six years with McCann he has won awards at local and international festivals.

LUCIAN MIHAI has joined the Bucharest office of Wolf Theiss as of counsel. He is a professor of law at the University of Bucharest and an expert in litigation, arbitration and intellectual property matters. Mihai is a former name partner at Linklaters office in Bucharest. He is also the former president of the Romanian Constitutional Court, a position he held between 1998 and 2001. More recently, he coordinated the drafting and assisted in the enactment of the new Romanian Civil Code.

DAN SANTIMBREANU, 30, is the new director of the corporate communication department of Siemens. He was promoted to this position after having previously served as PR manager. Santimbreanu joined the company three years ago and has been working in PR for the past eight years. His previous employer was Action Global Communications.

RADU PILAT has been appointed chief creative officer of Momentum, the BTL agency of McCann World Group. He joined McCann Erickson in 2002, where he worked as senior copywriter on accounts such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, Interbrew and Heineken. During

OANA BORDEANU is the new HR manager of Wave Division. Over the past six years she has built up extensive experience in the field of human resources. Bordeanu previously held the same position at CG&GC Intelligent Technology.

Business Review welcomes information for Who’s News from readers. Submissions may be edited for length and clarity. Feel free to contact us at editorial@business-review.ro

Drees & Sommer Romania aims for EUR 2 million turnover in 2010 COURTESY OF DREES&SOMMER

Hard times for hard hats: the crisis has hit the construction industry

Construction project management company Drees & Sommer Romania estimates a EUR 2 million turnover in 2010, similar to the figure it posted in 2009. “We have currently reached approximately EUR 1.8 million but we expect EUR 2 million by the year-end,” Marc Porath, managing director of the company’s local 8

branch, told Business Review. The company also reports local projects worth EUR 1.6 million for 2010. Porath added that the market is experiencing a rather slow recovery and that, locally, future projects depend a lot on the further development of the national infrastructure. The crisis has halted construction projects but it has also increased demand for more cost-effective buildings. In 2011 the company plans to focus on facility management and infrastructure consulting. Drees & Sommer has been present in Romania since 2005. Founded in Germany in 1970 the company now manages projects worth EUR 6.6 billion (annual value). Simona Bazavan

EVENTS, BUSINESS AND POLITICAL AGENDA SEPTEMBER 20 é 10:30 Centrul Medical Unirea (CMU) organizes a press conference at

the Radisson. By invitation only. é 11:00 Athenee Palace Hilton organizes a press conference occasioned by the opening of the Cafe Athenee restaurant and finishing the refurbishment of the hotel’s public spaces. By invitation only. é 11:00 The Austrian Embassy to Bucharest organizes a press conference about Austrian investments to Romania on the occasion of celebrating 60 years since the opening of the embassy’s commercial section. By invitation only.

SEPTEMBER 21 é 9.30 Softline Group organizes a press conference occasioned by the of-

ficial opening of its office in Romania. By invitation only. é 10:00 Privilegio Brasov organizes a press conference at the site of the residential project. By invitation only. é 10:30 Ophthalmologic center Oculus organizes a press conference at Pullman Hotel. By invitation only. é 12:00 Microsoft Romania organizes its annual press conference at the company’s headquarters. By invitation only. é 18:00 The official opening of the Bucharest Oktoberfest event takes place in the interior garden of Radisson Blu Hotel. By invitation only. é Miele organizes a press conference. By invitation only.

SEPTEMBER 22 é 12:00 Xerox Romania organizes a meeting to present its latest tech-

nologies as part of the Print & Sign 2010 event taking place at Romexpo. By invitation only. é The Coface Country Risk Conference 2010 takes place at Athenee Palace Hilton. By invitation only.

SEPTEMBER 23 – SEPTEMBER 26 é Wellfit Expo 2010 takes place at Baneasa Shopping City.

SEPTEMBER 24 é 09:30 The University of Sheffield organizes the How Open Innovation

Can Help You in Turbulent Times seminar at Athenee Palace Hilton. Entrance is free.

SEPTEMBER 28 é Romanian Manufacturing Summit takes place at JW Marriott, Constan-

ta Hall.

SEPTEMBER 29 é 9:00 International Council of Shopping Center's (ICSC) organizes the

Romanian Retail Real Estate Conference at Radisson Blu. By invitation only. é Procter&Gamble (P&G) organizes the official opening of the P&G production unit in Urlati, Prahova county. By invitation only.

OCTOBER 15 é TEDxBucharest2010 takes place in Bucharest. Attendance is by admis-

sion process only. BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


FOCUS

Oil firms keep pumping up fuel prices despite falling demand The soaring cost of fuel looks unlikely to level off any time soon. Since the beginning of the year major oil producers active on the local market have repeatedly raised prices because of low demand and the uncertain fiscal environment. But specialists expect the price to remain below RON 5 per liter for the most common fuels. LAURENTIU OBAE

Dana Ciuraru Recently, oil and gas company Petrom started an advertising campaign offering 40 percent off all fuel purchases made at different Petrom filling stations for one hour. The result was reminiscent of communist queues, when people had to stand in line for hours simply to buy yogurt or meat. “When the campaign reached our filling stations a line started to form here, at the Mihai Bravu filling station, and went all the way to Bucharest Mall in the Vitan area. First in line were those with SUVs,” a worker from the Mihai Bravu Petrom gas station told BR. A 40 percent discount is a temptation for any driver, as fuel prices seem to have gone into overdrive lately. Market sources indicate that the prices at Petrom stations have been changed 20 times since the beginning of the year. Petrom officials told BR that due to the 49 percent rise in the price of crude in H1 2010 10

Pump it up: prices at Petrom have changed 20 times since the beginning of the year

from the same period of 2009, the price of fuel had registered a hike of 28 percent for gas and 23 percent for diesel oil (expressed in USD). The price increases take the cost of fuel to more than EUR 1 per liter.

PRICE

UP, DEMAND DOWN

Companies have hiked prices even though all oil companies experienced a 6 percent decrease in demand in H1. And it is likely that the figure could reach 10 percent over the course of the year due to the austerity measures taken by the government, which include wage cuts and layoffs in the public sector. For instance, Rompetrol announced that total fuel sales in Q1 reached 640,000 tons, down by approximately 16 percent compared to the same period of 2009, with a total quantity of processed raw mate-

rials of 950,000 tons. However, the entire Rompetrol distribution segment – which consists of Rompetrol Downstream, Rom Oil, Rompetrol Logistics and Rompetrol Gas – registered a turnover increase of 31 percent, namely USD 450 million, in Q1, as well as a positive operational result (EBITDA) of approximately USD 7 million, down 26 percent compared to Q1 2009. “The positive results have been supported by our strategy to expand our own distribution and operational activity optimization network. Thus, Rompetrol Downstream operates 805 distribution stations, 25 percent more than in Q1, 2009,” said Rompetrol officials. The total volumes sold through the distribution segment (retail,

wholesale and partner network) fell by approximately 2 percent, to 276,000 tons, underpinned by a 6 percent growth in the wholesale segment, while the retail area registered a decline of 8 percent. Elsewhere on the market, MOL Romania, the local branch of Hungarian petroleum group MOL, posted a decline in volumes of fuel sold by 4.5 percent in the first three months, compared with same period last year, as a result of the falling number of gas stations, as well as lower domestic demand. “Besides the unfavorable economic context, the demand was also influenced by record oil prices and the increase of excise duties in some countries,” said MOL Romania representatives. Petrom representatives also announced that, according to their estimates, the fuel market in Romania has decreased by about 12 percent in H1, 2010 compared to same period of last year, mainly due to the difficult economic context and of government measures to increase efficiency. “The retail segment has decreased by 7 percent over the same period, while on the commercial segment the market decline was 18 percent, compared with the first six months of 2009,” said Petrom representatives. They added: “In the coming period we expect the fuel market to remain under pressure, in line with the development of the Romanian economy, and for the retail segment, we anticipate a decrease in consumption of about 10 percent in 2010.” Company officials say that the consumption decrease affected fuel sales but no decision has been made yet to close filling stations. Moreover, Petrom representatives told Business Review that the firm will open two new filling stations by year-end, representing a total investment of EUR 4.9 million.

UNCERTAIN

OUTLOOK

Globally, in 2010, the major players in the market expect oil prices to remain volatile, with trading conditions broadly within a range of USD 70-85/bbl. Given the BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


FOCUS

LAURENTIU OBAE

announced that it had entered into crude oil hedges in Q2/09 for a volume of 38,000 bbl/d, securing a price floor of USD 54/bbl via the sale of a price cap of USD 75/bbl (zero cost structure). “We will continue our sizeable investment program, with a planned RON 6.9 billion investment for OMV Petrom this year. Furthermore, we will proceed the implementation of a share capital increase of up to EUR 600 million as authorized by our shareholders on April 29, 2010, whilst pursuing alignment

The main retail networks on the local market

How much? Drivers in Romania have been hit by ever increasing prices at the pump

ity measures by the government, the contraction in both private and public sector consumption is now expected to be much deeper. This will negatively affect GDP growth, which could contract by some 3 percent this year. Furthermore, the VAT rise in July could have a significant effect on private sector consumption. The labor market outlook continues to be difficult as economic recovery looks unlikely to occur until next year. To help protect the company’s cash flow in 2010, Petrom

Company

Nr. of stations

Rompetrol

800*

Petrom

480

Private filling stations

600

Lukoil

300

MOL Romania

126

OMV

77

Eni

38

SOURCE: THE COMPANIES

existing turbulent economic environment, the EUR is tipped to be slightly weaker versus the RON and USD. The market for refined products is forecast to remain challenging throughout 2010, despite the recovery witnessed at the beginning of the year. Marketing volumes and margins are expected to remain under pressure until the broader economy shows clearer signs of improvement. In Romania, following the implementation of a package of auster-

with the state’s initiative to sell part of its stake in Petrom (11.84 percent),” said representatives of Petrom. Market specialists say they do not expect the price of fuel to exceed RON 5 per liter. “I think we will see a maximum of RON 4.5 to 4.6 per liter on diesel – that’s if we’re talking about a normal economic context,” said Andrei Chirilescu, deputy general manager at Lukoil Romania, a company which operates about 300 gas stations on the local market.

* Includes mobile stations

CallPoint expands its call center services in debt collection In an era of financial crisis, more and more creditors are turning to outsource debt recovery to call centers. As the financial crisis plunges many Romanians into debt, the debt collection business is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the call center industry. Yann Bidan and Vincent Holl from CallPoint are telling us more about it. Yann Bidan, Co-founder of CallPoint and Vincent Holl, Operations Manager. The company is one of the leading BPO & call center companies in Romania, running collections projects in this country since 2007.

Who are your clients and what services are you performing? YB: For collections, most of our clients are banks and financial institutions. Our two largest customers for collections in Romania are a leading consumer finance company and one of the largest banks in the country. For both clients we provide soft debt collection services: payment reminders over the phone. Our total turnover in debt collection will be reaching 70 000 EUR per month by December 2010.

BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010

Vincent Holl, Operations Manager

Yann Bidan, Co-founder of CallPoint

How is CallPoint different from its competitors for collections? VH: Debt collection is a very particular job, which requires the right technology as well as experienced people. We have recruited a skilled team of managers who have significant experience in both soft and hard debt collection. Their experience includes nearshore and offshore debt collection campaigns (UK and the USA mostly). Thanks to their know-how, we are now using the best international practices in order to reach high recovery rates for local clients. Another asset of CallPoint for collections is its “Skip Tracing” department. This department is devoted to find the debtors who change residence or phone numbers - without notifying creditors in order to evade payment of bills. We search city and telephone directories, and street listings, and perform inquires at post office. CallPoint’s “Skip tracing” team begins with any known information such as the name, last known address, previous addresses, last known and previous phone numbers, employer’s phone number etc. The more identifiers our skip tracers have, the easier it is for them to complete

a skip trace. With the help of our “Skip Tracing” department, the quality of information has expanded dramatically and with the correct information in hand we are increasing our efficiency in debt collection by up to 20%.

What is the profile of the debt collection officers and how do you retain them? VH: Being a collector is not an easy job. Therefore, selection process is an important step. For early collection, we see that students or young graduates have better results (from 20 to 30 years old), while for late collection, the best profile is women between 30 and 40. The main features which make a good collector profile are: strong personality, flexible, always being in control, “straight to the point” attitude and good communication skills. Training process is important as well. The collection officers have to understand the scope of the collection, they have to understand their role in the collection process. They have to be taught how to be firm and strong without being impolite or disrespectful.

What are the creditors expecting from a call center like CallPoint? YB: Our clients are expecting different things, including transparency, constant focus over performance, and flexibility. But most important, I think our clients are working with us because we are a reliable partner for a longterm relationship, as we provide constant results at the right price: Continuous performance. We do our best to deliver steady results all year round. Our clients do not like ups and down in monthly results as this will blur their estimations for revenues. The pricing is an important asset. The business relation between CallPoint and its clients must be a win-win one. Therefore, we are aligning our prices with the performances. The higher the recovery rate is, the higher revenue we get. Is CallPoint also offering other services to banks and financial institutions besides debt collection? YB: We perform large telesales campaigns to improve our clients’ market share. We have good know-how on selling both credit loans and credit cards over the phone. Inbound customer care (both inbound calls and email management) is also an important service we are offering to our clients in order to improve the client’s interaction with their customers.

ADVERTORIAL

Do non-financial/banking companies tend to outsource debt collection as well? YB: Yes, indeed. Not only banks need collection services: more and more industries in Romania – and first and foremost: utilities, cable, and telecom operators - have to deal with large numbers of clients not paying their overdue amount. Most of these companies start looking for a call center, because they do not have the necessary personnel and know-how or the correct infrastructure in-house in order to manage large debt collection campaigns by themselves. We are here to help them.

Another important aspect is the use of incentives schemes. The collector must understand the Key Performance Indicators, and be aware of their performance on a daily basis. Our collectors are receiving bonuses based on their recovery rate.

11


FOCUS

Media mogul Sorin Ovidiu Vantu released, investigation continues Media mogul Sorin Ovidiu Vantu and the other two individuals accused over Nicolae Popa’s flight from justice in the FNI case were freed last week while the investigation continues. Accusations are flying back and forth between Vantu, who COURTESY OF AGERPRES

claims his arrest was part of a political game by Traian Basescu, and the president, who says the state institutions are simply doing their job. Otilia Haraga The Bucharest Court of Appeal decided last Thursday to free Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, one of the most influential media moguls in Romania, and owner of the Realitatea press group, from custody. Along with Vantu, his driver Alexandru Stoian and a businessman from the Republic of Moldova, Octavian Turcan, who are also under investigation, were released. The three were detained and are being investigated in relation to the flight from the country of Nicolae Popa, former manager of Gelsor. Vantu is charged with helping Popa escape to Indonesia after he was 12

Businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vantu is no stranger to the Romanian justice system, having been in and out of court many times before

sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in the National Investment Fund (FNI) scandal, one of the major scams in post-communist Romania, in which 300,000 people lost a total of EUR 300 million. The difference between freedom and incarceration was made by the narrowest of margins, with two votes in favor of release from the panel of three judges and one against. The investigation into Vantu, Stoian and Turcan will continue, and the trio will be subject to several conditions. They may not carry a gun without the approval of the court. Vantu is forbidden to contact Turcan, and both must remain in the country. Vantu is also forbidden to get in contact with Popa, who is in police custody in Jakarta, or with Popa’s brother. After his arrest, Vantu staged a 24-hour hunger strike, during which

he also refused medication, but called off the strike and began eating again after discussions with his lawyer. Vantu admitted that he had enjoyed a good relationship with Nicolae Popa. “To you, Popa is a dangerous criminal, but to me he is a friend,” he told the judges. He added that the other two men who were charged in this case were innocent. The controversial businessman also admitted that the recordings that had been submitted as evidence against him were authentic. However, he described the case as “a political issue” and said that state institutions were carrying this investigation at the behest of President Traian Basescu. Vantu also claimed that the institutions were doing everything to satisfy the president. “Everything has been set up by Basescu with the help of the Ro-

manian Information Service (SRI),” he said. “Basescu does everything through the SRI, and I will tell you how. He recruits prosecutors and people from the media, and his modus operandi is very simple: the SRI intercepts calls and sends notes to inform prosecutors, the prosecutors build the files which are given to journalists, who must then vilify the target,” said Vantu, quoted by Mediafax. Vantu added that he was constantly spied on by the SRI. “140 people from the SRI were monitoring me at one stage, but recently it has only been 40. Even a satellite frequency was rented to record the microphone of my telephone,” said the media owner. He also complained that the prosecutor leading the investigation had not asked him for relevant documents, which he would have been glad to provide. “It would have been appropriate for the prosecutor investigating me to ask that I provide the documentation that is the object of the investigation. I would have provided this documentation willingly. Obviously, this was not needed because everything had to take place as you saw,” said Vantu. Vantu also claimed that in 2007, when Basescu was suspended by Parliament, he had asked Vantu for favorable press coverage which he had agreed to give for the sake of the country’s progress. However, afterwards, Vantu said he had started receiving “threats” from the president’s people. “In 2007 during the referendum, Traian Basescu came to me for support. I told him that I agreed, and we determined together certain criteria based on which I would support him, to safeguard the progress and modernization of Romania,” he said, quoted by Mediafax. After this, Vantu claims he was visited by representatives of the head of state who wanted to buy into the Realitatea business. “After this, some of his messengers came to ask me for a part of the media BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


FOCUS

Vantu has accused President Traian Basescu of being the architect of the investigation

trust. Naturally, I refused. They started threatening, I kept on refusing. I was warned that I would be financially harassed. I refused. They said I would be ‘in trouble’, but I still refused… Later, an eight-month audit started at Realitatea TV, and it all culminated with my arrest,” said Vantu in court. On his return from Brussels on Thursday evening, President Basescu was asked to comment on Van-

tu’s claims that he was orchestrating the investigation, which he denied. Basescu said that all rich people tried to cast aspersions on the president when asked by a court how they had made their money. “But what I can tell you is that those who stole money from the FNA (National Cumulation Fund, e.n., a company equally administered by SOV Invest) and from the FNI (National Investment Fund)

must answer for it. Those who stole oil money must answer for it and those who stole from the state must also answer for it. So I do not understand why the press is trying to repeat a lie: that it is the president who is responsible for putting thieves in prison,” said Basescu, quoted by Mediafax. The president also criticized journalists for “disseminating propaganda for those who should answer before state institutions.” “You should start from the premise that you have a president who has self respect, who will never tell a judge ‘pass this sentence’ or tell a prosecutor ‘accuse that person’,” he told media representatives.

A

tenced to jail. After five years of trials, Vantu was given a three-year suspended sentence. – In 2004, Vantu officially bought the Realitatea Group, a move which was seen by many analysts as a way to rescue his reputation. However, Vantu’s name is connected to other big titles in the Romanian media. The Gandul newspaper was created by an editorial team led by well-known political analyst and journalist Cristian Tudor Popescu, with the help of poet and talkshow host Mircea Dinescu, who reportedly got the necessary money, EUR 1 million, from the businessman. Dinescu later spoke in support of Vantu, calling him “a great intellectual”, while Popescu hosted a show on Realitatea TV.

COLORFUL PAST

– Vantu’s name came to public attention when a Ponzi scheme called the National Investment Fund (FNI) collapsed, causing approximately 300,000 Romanians to lose their savings. Shortly before the fund collapsed, Vantu reportedly withdrew large sums of money and then sold Gelsor, the company which administered the fund, to Ioana Maria Vlas, who was sen-

– Vantu has been a controversial figure since communist times, when he was both allegedly an embezzler and an informer. While serving a five-year sentence for embezzlement in 1983, he reportedly became an informer for the Securitate, under the codename Nus. He ceased cooperating with the regime in 1988.

Training and team building with passion

BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010

● Sales (Basic skills, advanced skills, negotiation skills) ● Management & Leadership (both for middle and top management) ● Train of Trainers

What clients do you have in your portfolio? Are you targeting specific industries? In our portfolio one can find big and mature national and multinational companies like Oracle, Cosmote, Apa Nova, Roche, Metro, RBS, Unilever, Nestle, P&G as well as young Romanian companies. What they have in common is that they understand the real benefits of a training and a teambuilding session, that they are dynamic and creative and appreciate the quality and the philosophy of our programs. We are not targeting a specific industry; actually, we did our best to enlarge our portfolio with a wide range of clients, thus gaining a lot of different experiences and being ready for any challenge. What are the types of trainings that are most frequently requested by clients (if any)? As expected, this difficult period forced a lot of companies to review their priorities concerning the training area. So, the most of the requests were for the client oriented trainings

on one hand - sales trainings (both basic and advanced levels), negotiation skills trainings and for the Train of Trainers program, which provides the participants with a certificated acknowledged by the Education and Labor Ministries.

How do you see your services portfolio evolving in the coming period? Are there certain services you would like to add? We strongly believe into an unceasing evolving, which means we are continuingly improving our training and team building programs. In the very near future we intend to implement a Team Building Academy. The team building concept has entered our reality for only a few years, this is why we consider it would of great help for all those who want to embrace this wonderful job. The most important thing for us is to succeed in helping our clients and we always make our best to overcome their expectations. We find great satisfaction in each smile, each handshake, each thanking note we receive after a program we’ve delivered. We are positive and enthusiastic, since we enjoy very much what we are doing, and this can be seen in the result of our work.

ADVERTORIAL

a great team of specialists, so we are able to be reliable partners for our clients, by providing them with: ● Consultancy – we help them identify their needs and offer them the best solutions. ● Completed organized events (team building program, accommodation, transportation, parties and so on) Stavre Geanini, Managing Partner of Vision ● Original and fully customized Consulting programs – since each client is unique, so are the programs we build for How does Vision Consulting position them. itself on the business trainings market? ● A variety of national and international Vision Consulting was founded in 2004 locations (mountain, seaside, Danube Delta, and, in the meantime, it has earned an impor- different towns) with an appropriate and vartant place on the teambuilding and business ied range of activities for each of them. All the trainings market. We’ve started this business trainings are interactive, focused on particiout of passion for people and, our pants. We are not making a transfer of knowlbiggest achievement so far is that the passion edge; we prefer to help the participants to acis still the main ingredient in everything we knowledge each piece of information and find do. the answers within themselves. All the applications are adapted to the Romanian environWhat type of services does the compa- ment and to the client’s industry. ny offer? We can offer both open and customized We focused on helping people finding training sessions for: and developing their potential as individuals ● Communication (Conflict Manageand as a team, so we offer team building and ment, Written Communication, Telephone soft skills trainings services. communication, Organizational CommunicaIn the last 5 years we’ve gained a lot of tion, Presentation Skills, How to make a good experience in the team building field and also first impression)

13


PROPERTY

MedLife moves to new HQ, Auchan hypermarket gets spot sets up clinic in City Gate in Palas Iasi project

Healthcare services provider MedLife is moving to different headquarters and opening a new clinic in City Gate, CB Richard Ellis has announced. The medical firm has rented 1,200 sqm in Porumbaru Business Center, to which it will relocate its headquarters, and another

First local pop-up store pops up in Bucharest

COURTESY OF KING STURGE

The pop-up store is a new promotional concept on the local retail scene

Syoss Hair Academy is the first pop-up store to be opened in Romania, on Bucharest’s Calea Victoriei. The rental transaction was mediated by King Sturge. A pop-up store is one opened for a limited period of time – from one day to 30 days – by retailers or nonretailers. The store is meant to create a buzz for the brand it is representing. According to Carmen Ravon, consultant at King Sturge, the advantages of this type of store 14

consist in “creating the feeling of new, of exclusivity, and the surprise element associated with a promotion. Usually a pop-up store is less costly than a TV ad and the effect is the same.” The concept emerged in 2003 and has been used in cities such as New York, Tokyo, London, Shanghai, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm and Los Angeles for companies and brands such as JVC, Fila, Ford, Nike, Gap and Wal-Mart.

COURTESY OF AUCHAN

COURTESY OF CBRE

Medlife is planning to expand its Romanian operations

space in City Gate, where it will open a clinic and a pharmacy. Porumbaru BC is located near Charles de Gaulle Square in Bucharest. It is built on five levels (underground, first level and three floors). MedLife will take over the entire building as it is in the process of expanding its business on the private healthcare services market. The other rented space is on the ground level of the northern tower of City Gate where a new clinic and a pharmacy will open. The healthcare services provider announced this year the start of a EUR 20 million investment program supported by the IFC, aiming to expand and consolidate its operations in Romania. MedLife has seven clinics in Bucharest and throughout the country, seven investigation labs, 28 medical centers, and six specialized centers.

Auchan will open its new Iasi store in Q2 2011

Retailer Auchan will open a store in the Palas development in

Iasi in the second quarter of next year. The new hypermarket will cover 5,000 sqm, which is smaller than the size of its hypermarkets opened so far, but it will host the same range of products as the other stores. The Palas project has been developed by Iulius Group under the lifestyle center concept. Palas Iasi contains commercial spaces, hotel accommodation, class A office space, apartments and an underground parking lot of around 2,500 spaces, all on a 320,000-sqm surface. In 2009, Auchan had a turnover of RON 1.5 billion.

miniMax Discount brings three shops to Alba Iulia Discount retailer miniMax Discount has opened three more shops in Alba Iulia, with an average investment per unit of EUR 250,000. The three sites occupy spaces of 531 sqm, 512 sqm, and 651 sqm respectively. miniMax Discount is a Romanian company established in 2003 as a discounter operating in mediumsize towns across Romania. It currently owns 31 stores in towns with over 10,000 inhabitants all over the country: Arad, Avrig, Braila, Buzau, Calan, Calarasi, Campulung , Muscel, Cernavoda, Cisnadie, Hunedoara, Mangalia, Oltenita, Oravita, Pascani, Pucioasa, Ramnicu Sarat, Rasnov, Sinaia, Slatina (two) Stefanesti, Targoviste, Titu, Tulcea, Turnu Magurele, Urziceni, Vaslui, Victoria and Vulcan. The network is

miniMax Discount has invested an average of EUR 250,000 in its three new stores

intended to reach 100 stores. In August of this year, miniMax was taken over by Mercadia Holland BV, the owner of the Mic.ro chain of proximity stores.

SpotVision opens second showroom Local lighting and electrical equipment distributor SpotVision has opened its second showroom in Bucharest, located on the A1 highway near the Militari Shopping Center. This is the largest showroom of its kind in Europe, according to company representatives. SpotVi-

sion is the exclusive local distributor of Viko products. The company was established in 1994 in Bucharest. It has two showrooms, three warehouses covering 8,000 sqm, over 100 employees and a truck fleet consisting of 30 vehicles. BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


INTERVIEW

Independent theater moves into the spotlight D’AYA Theater Company is currently one of the best known independent troupes in Bucharest and Romania and is at the heart of the postmodern backlash against classical traditions. CHRIS SIMION, the company’s president, writer and director, sat down with Business Review and unveiled some of the mechanisms behind the mysterious workings of a theater company, as well as future plans. Corina Dumitrescu Tell us about your background and how your passion for the theater was born. I always say that the big things in my life took me by surprise; I was not prepared for them. Since I was 14, I have been writing for various publications. At 15, I began moving in literary circles, where I came across people who believed in me, like the critic George Pruteanu and the actors Florian Pitis and George Mihaita, and who encouraged me to write my first book of essays at 16. Since then, I have authored seven books. I had worked all through high school in preparation for attending the Psychology Faculty, until in the last semester of the twelfth grade I did a 180-degree turn and made my final decision to study the theater. Tell us more about the D’AYA theater company – how the idea emerged, who your colleagues are and how the French writer Pascal Bruckner became honorary president… D’AYA was born in 1999, after the premiere of The Divine Child, out of madness and enthusiasm. Back then, I was a student of Theatrology. I directed the show during college with my colleagues from Acting. I called our Universal Theater professor, Mr. Dan Vasiliu, to the play. He witnessed our exercise and took it to the Comedy Theater as an experiment. At the premiere, the author himself came. BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010

cloud festival appear? Tell us more about it. The festival began in 2008. Why? Simply from necessity. This was its second year, for the same reason, and it was supported by the Ministry of Culture and the National Patrimony. It is a manifestation meant to integrate the best independent shows. Undercloud offers access to competition, meetings, discussions, a laboratory. You can’t run by yourself if you want to know where you are. Undercloud takes place at the La Motoare terrace. Impressed by what we had put on, he told us about independent theater in France and suggested we started a theater company. I took this step and proposed that he should become Honorary President. He agreed. D’AYA defines itself as an independent theater company. What does “independent” mean, in the context of theater, and where did the need to break from classical rigors come from? D’AYA productions are exclusively independent. They come to life with the aid of sponsors. We do not have a budget from the city hall, like a state theater does. I find a text which is vital for me, which I wish to transform into a play, I write the project and then I start looking for business partners. The promotion of our shows does not cost money, but is based on partnerships. Independent also means that we do not have our own space, although this is not what independent should necessarily mean. For four years, we’ve been performing at Laptaria Enache / Terasa Motoare. However, I believe that after 11 years in which we have demonstrated that what we are doing is necessary (11 years of awards, tours, international festivals participation, social campaigns, as well as many other notable projects), we deserve a space to develop our activity without limitations.

What kind of reaction did you get from foreign audiences? Have you considered that D’AYA could go beyond the borders of Romania? D’AYA has represented Romania in major theater festivals, and has managed to bring home prestigious awards. We’ve played in Australia, India, Egypt, France, South Korea, Jordan, Germany, Italy, the Vatican and Portugal. Tell us more about your collaboration with Bulandra Theater for “Os-

car and tanti Roz”. Our most recent collaboration is with the L.S. Bulandra Theater, where we staged “Oscar si tanti Roz” (“Oscar and Aunt Roz”) and for this I have to thank the director Alexandru Darie, who is also the theater’s manager. Without exaggerating, this is the stage where I have felt the most protection and energy. Which is why I wish to return to this space, which opens you and teaches you a lot. And finally, what projects are you currently developing? For new shows, I am currently preparing “Maitreyi” by Mircea Eliade and some more which I am not revealing yet. As for the next writing project, the novel “What we say to one another when we do not speak” is coming up, released by Trei publishing house. Every Sunday, from September 26 all year long, I will be involved in the project “Actors whom you do not see anywhere”, reading shows starring great Romanian actors, with whom you also get the chance to listen to a good text, and discuss it.

What are the most successful plays of the moment? “Love Lasts Three Years” , “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”, “Hell”, “I Love You! I Love You?”, “Seven Curses… Asked, Made and Bound” and “I’m Moving to My Mother’s”. When and why did the Under15


BALANCE

Local riding clubs hope to gallop to greater popularity Horse riding is known worldwide as a noble sport from which both mind and body benefit – albeit an expensive pursuit. Nevertheless, whether you’re a passionate rider or a curious COURTESY OF ARKADIA HORSE

novice, there are a few options in the outskirts of Bucharest. Simona Bazavan “Horse riding in Romania hasn’t been promoted in any organized way and, as a result, the wider public still mistakes its leisure side with the sporting discipline. This is why it is considered a very expensive activity,” Francisc Petrovici, director of Sport Club Hipocan, told Business Review. Against this backdrop, the crisis has taken a toll on the market too, with the number of clients falling in 2010 against previous years, according to Petrovici. Local equestrian club owners say that horse riding is much more than a business and that it all began with their own passion for horses at a time when there were very few options locally for the riding enthusiasts. Nowadays, the market for such services is still an underdeveloped one. “I would say that the market is below that from any other given European country,” Sebastian Florescu of the Bucharest Riding Club (Clubul de Echitatie Bucuresti) tells 16

Runners and riders: there are plenty of places to saddle up in Bucharest

Business Review. The club was founded back in the early 1990s, as the first private club in the country. “Dan Filimon is the founder of the Bucharest Riding Club. It all began in 1992 with the need to have a place to lodge performing horses in the city, as stateowned clubs at that time did not offer this service. Starting with his horses and help from a group of friends it all developed naturally, turning from a hobby into a business,” Florescu remembers. The club offers horse boarding (EUR 300/month), riding lessons (RON 80/45 min session and RON 800 for a 12-session course) for which riding wear is required, horse training, harness and horse trading. “The landscape, proximity to Bucharest and direct access to the Baneasa Forest make us different from other clubs in the capital,” says Florescu. The Bucharest Riding Club owns 44 horses, employs

five trainers, and gets about 50 customers each week. “Riding is a balance sport, by which I mean that it improves both a person’s physical and mental condition, bringing us closer to nature,” Emilia Dumitrescu, owner of Arkadia Horse riding club, tells Business Review. She goes on: “Riding was at a first a hobby but because I fell in love with these wonderful creatures I decided that I had to own my own club. (…) The investment wasn’t a very large one back in 1999 when I founded it, but I would say that today the value of a riding club can be between EUR 2 and 4 million depending on its facilities.” She adds that such a business is a long-term investment. “The local market is growing but there are also difficulties such as too few local experts in the field as well as insufficient horses from a certain level up,”

Dumitrescu concludes. A riding lesson at Arkadia Horse costs RON 50/30 min, and the club also offers obstacle horse jumping lessons (RON 100/45 min), forest rides (RON 150/ 60 min) and horse boarding (EUR 320/month). The club has four training horses, four trainers and between 50 and 70 customers each week. Founded in 2001, the Corbeanca Sport Club (Clubul Sportiv Corbeanca-Hipocan Corbeanca) offers in addition to the usual range of services, a series of special programs for schools, kindergartens and companies. The club has a 5,000-sqm academy, four trainers, two stables with a capacity of 120 paddocks, performance and training horses. It is visited weekly by about 60 customers. A riding lesson costs RON 50/30 min, a 10-lesson course is RON 450, forest rides are RON 150/60 min and horse lodging will set the owner back EUR 250 per month. For leisure riding no special equipment is required and pupils can take their first lessons as early as the age of four, Petrovici says. “The club is not a business but a very expensive hobby for its founding members who support it financially as it is not self-financed,” he explains. Since 2006 about EUR 50,000 has been invested in refurbishing the center and acquiring the necessary equipment for competitions. Elsewhere, the Mogosoaia Equestrian Academy (Clubul Sportiv Academia Ecvestra) was established in 2000 by Ion Dulugeac and is located 15 km away from the center of the capital on the banks of the Mogosoaia Lake. A greenfield investment, the club was founded out of a passion for performance horses but it later came to include services for the wider public in addition to an array of specialized equestrian services, according to Cristina Dulugeac, coach at the club. For riding lessons the club has three trainers and a coach. Another option for horse lovers is the Piccadilly riding club, which BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


BALANCE

COURTESY OF ARKADIA HORSE

COURTESY OF HIPOCAN CORBEANCA

Stable business: club owners hope that their industry will attract more riders in the future

Horses for courses: while some animals are more suited to beginners, others are show jumpers

offers lessons (RON 50/40 min), boarding for horses and horse trading. Between two and three weekly sessions are recommended for children looking to improve their performance. For a grounding, three to four months are required to learn how to ride alone and to correctly trot and canter.

GETTING DLE

INTO THE RIGHT SAD-

Basic horse riding equipment for novice riders consists of a proper

BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010

riding hat for protection, jodhpurs (special trousers) for comfort and heeled riding boots that prevent slippage through the stirrup. This gear is required wear by some riding clubs. When it comes to the riding equipment market, the local offer mostly consists of online tack shops that offer a wide range of products from basic wear to branded saddles. Prices begin at RON 200 for hats and RON 150 for jodhpurs and boots.

Contact details é Arkadia Horse

Ciofliceni village in Snagov, phone: 0722 243 227 é Bucharest Riding Club (Clubul de Echitatie Bucuresti)

2, Jandarmeriei St, phone: 0726 284 224/0731 330 090 é Hipocan Corbeanca

Corbeanca, 68,DJ101, phone: 0741 100 214 é HorseLand

Voluntari, 79, Bucharest-Stafanesti Road é Mogosoaia Equestrian Academy (Clubul Sportiv Academia Ecvestra)

Mogosoaia, 28 Zamfirei St, phone: 021 211 52 74 é Piccadilly riding club

542 Bucharest-Ploiesti Road, phone: 0744 293 942

17


LINKS

LAURENTIU OBAE

One-minute movies make their mark In the era of YouTube home movies, an international festival is channeling filmmaking quality into a 60-second format designed to challenge filmmakers, writers, animators, artists, designers and creative producers to develop and submit the world's best one-minute films. Simona Fodor John Ketchum (pictured above), co-executive director and head of the jury for the Filminute film festival, traces the beginnings of the project to a similar film festival in Brazil, when he was asked to bring some of the films showing there to Romania. “I had just finished my first feature film and so anything short was pretty exciting and I probably paid more attention to that. I looked at it and said no, it’s not very interesting to me. There were a lot of films on that website but none of them grabbed me, a lot of them were experimental,” 18

Ketchum says. Still, he put the idea out into his network and got very positive feedback, most importantly from his current main partner Sabaa Quao, who is based in London, one of the cities where films in the festival have been shown, alongside Bucharest and Toronto. Besides the artistic challenge of doing a one-minute film, Ketchum, who came to Romania as marketing director of Connex, the Canadian-financed mobile operator bought by Vodafone in 2005, says another attraction was the potential spotted in the need for good content for mobile devices. “For five or six years we touched on content for phones and

there was nothing. And you could see that potentially there would be a need for good content.” With this in mind, the oneminute idea seemed just the thing, as the timing would make it suited to a large variety of formats. “We thought one minute was perfect because it would go on mobile phones, it wouldn’t kill the batteries, it would go on the internet, it would work on television, it had worked in theaters before – it’s got something,” Ketchum says. The selected films can currently be seen on the iPhone and other smart phones. In the era of YouTube home filmmaking, the organizers say the festival was very focused on quality from the beginning, and films submitted need to be story-focused. “A lot of the internet is gags and we don’t go for gags. We try to avoid the cheap laugh because that wouldn’t be a film anyway,” Ketchum says. To this end, the festival organizers provide feedback to filmmakers who have submitted their work. “One thing people don’t realize when they go ‘whoa, the films are really good!’ is that it’s because with over half of them we’ve helped the filmmaker. So we’ve got a film and then said, ‘ok, but you need to work on your sound’.” Given the versatility of the format, the organizers insist this is not an internet film festival. Films in previous editions have been screened in various locations. In Romania the films were shown in the Orange concept store, and were also broadcast by Prima TV. In 2008 they were shown in the Selfridges store in London, last year they were broadcast in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and this year they can also be seen in a theater in Moscow. The variety of the venues is just one reflection of the global spirit the festival aims to embody, and one of the plans is to bring one-minute filmmakers from different places to do a film that’s shot globally, putting together scenes shot in different locations of the world. The requirement for the film length to be exactly sixty seconds is what defines the festival and makes it appealing to both directors and the jury. For directors a one-minute film means a significantly lower budget. “If you want to put in a full day of preparing,

full day of shooting, and full day of post-production and editing you should be able to make a very good one-minute film and that’s something where you could ask a really good actor, ‘could I have you for a day?” and they might do it for free. So there’s an accessibility that the minute allows.” And with its short format and presence of advertising people on the jury, some four or five filmmakers end up being contacted by the ad agency that was on the jury that year, and a few ads have happened, Ketchum says. The big names assembled on the jury is what makes the festival attractive to directors submitting their works. When putting the jury together, organizers try to make it relevant and contemporary, with a mix of people from film, the arts, advertising, and literature. While past names on the jury have included Michael Ondaatje, the Canadian novelist who wrote The English Patient, and Paul Haggis, who wrote the scripts for Crash and Million Dollar Baby, this year the line-up includes Neill Blomkamp, the South African director of District 9; Mark Tutsell, global chief creative officer for Leo Burnett Worldwide; Jan Lumholdt, the Scandinavian film critic for the popular Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet; film historian and critic Ronald Bergan; and Indian director and writer Tanuja Chandra. “I would like to eventually turn it into something where significant things happen to the filmmakers after,” Ketchum says. And with movie studios taking the internet more seriously because of budget cuts associated with the crisis, it might just happen. Video on demand platforms and content licensing deals are some of the opportunities available after the festival. So far, Filminute has done licensing deals with narrowcast networks and VOD platforms in Canada and formed festival partnerships in Canada, France, Italy, Romania and Australia. Furthermore, this year organizers are trialing a new mobile platform in India called Jigsee. “I’m betting a lot on the internet and the need for good content,” Ketchum says. To vote, go to www.filminute.com before September 30! BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


FILM REVIEW

FILMREVIEW: Knight and Day Imagine being on a flight where all the other passengers want to kill you. If you’re a parent of a young child, a seat kicker or a snorer, you probably don’t have to imagine. But poor June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is none of these things, yet still finds herself in the midst of a lethal case of air rage as she flies home to Boston from Wichita, where she’s been buying spare parts for a car. If it seems

unlikely that somebody would bother to fly around the US picking up spare parts which they could simply have FedExed, set your mood to credulous because this is just an hors d’oeuvre on the menu of silliness that is Knight and Day. June’s mid-flight turbulence comes courtesy of Roy Miller (Tom Cruise), a charming stranger she meets at the airport. Rather than the

average passenger you get stuck next to on a plane, who wants to tell you about their recent operations or complain nonstop about the food and service, Roy impresses June with his pithy banter. Too bad that their airborne flirtation is interrupted when Roy, a secret agent suspected of having gone rogue, has to crash land the plane, bringing June’s Little Miss Ordinary lifestyle to an end.

Henceforth June and Roy must race from one exotic, glamourous location to another, dispatching the acne-scarred, dubious-facial haired Europeans who are trying to kill them, all to get their hands on a special battery that never runs out. (Yes, it’s all over an infinite battery. Perhaps noone has told them about chargers.) The FBI are in there somewhere too. Cue high-octane car chases (baddies in black SUVs, as usual), noisy shootouts and various allusions to far superior actions films such as North by Northwest and The Lady Vanishes. The characters are paper thin, and the movie sometimes feels like it was taken from a comic book, which it wasn’t. Don’t make the mistake of thinking too much about the plot, which is equally flimsy and collapses at the merest probing. But plot and characters are secondary in a comic action caper of this kind to the juggernaut of star power. It’s Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz! (And, thankfully, not in Vanilla Sky.) Okay, we’re not talking Bogart and Bacall chemistry, but Tom and Cam are likeable and bankable, and they’re not going to make a hash of an old-school spy flick like this. It’s also nice to see that having committed the cardinal Hollywood sin of passing 35, a woman is still entrusted with a lead action role. Set piece action sequences – some of which, including a bull run, are rather spectacular – follow hot upon each other’s heels, punctuated by a bit of flirting and some smart lines. It’s all very action-by-numbers, but Knight and Day never takes itself too seriously. For the most part it flows along nicely – probably because any pause would have given viewers the opportunity to consider the plot weaknesses. Cruise has played this sort of spy several times in the Mission: Impossible franchise and both he and Diaz set about their roles with some gusto. It’s all set to a fun, upbeat soundtrack. And credit to Cruise: he is looking great considering he’s pushing 50, the megawatt smile still intact. Summer blockbusters seem to get more dismal every year, but while Knight and Day is about as cerebral as the average footballer, it’s amiable enough in a big, dumb way. Take your popcorn, leave your critical faculties at home Debbie Stowe Director: James Mangold Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz On at: : Cinema City Cotroceni, Cinema City Sun Plaza

20

BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


RESTAURANT REVIEW

BRASH AND FLASH MARKET 8. STR SERBAN PETRESCU. TEL 021 231 5143

I

communist practice of hiding your wine. We ordered from a well thought out wine list. But I groaned in disbelief at the sight of a modern restaurant wine waiter walking away with my bottle after pouring my first glass. I retrieved it and placed it on my table where it belonged. So let’s eat. For starters there was prawn tempura and Thai consommé with vegetable tempura. Do not be impressed by the Japanese term “tempura”. It is nothing more than a batter made from egg, iced water and flour. Thereafter the food is dipped in it and fried. We passed on those dishes together with prawn wontons which are equally easy to make. But we had to have their ‘steamed scallops with a ginger and spring onion emulsion’. It was beautifully presented with three Queen scallops on a thick green bed of sauce. But the scallops were not freshly prised from the shell, and the sauce was almost flavorless. Inexplicably this hot dish was virtually cold. Furthermore we waited a full fifteen minutes for it, with nobody else eating at the time. Away we went to a mushroom soup with truffle oil. It was foamed soup which other chophouses refer

LAURENTIU OBAE

Pieces of 8: everything is for sale, including the fixtures and fittings BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010

LAURENTIU OBAE

realize that this is a food column, but please bear with me whilst I describe the décor of the new Market 8, as it is the restaurant’s most outstanding feature. So picture if you will, a riot of mismatched pastel shades painted onto stone walls and all protected under sheets of glass. Add to that bespoke made furniture of a contemporary Italianate design and you have the best restaurant design I have seen here for years. The desk informed me that the restaurant is a working showroom and everything, but everything (including architectural design) is for sale. I had to applaud them for their initiative, but I found it less easy to applaud them for their food! The menu revealed a pleasant surprise, namely that there were only four starters, three salads and six mains. This is fine because the chef should be able to fine hone his skills on that small menu, and better still – there will be no ‘not available’ items. But the menu was not perfect as most dishes contained descriptions in French. If the House thinks this adds gravitas to the dining experience, they are mistaken, for it is irritating and pretentious. Equally irritating was their old

Market value: the eatery’s aesthetic appeal scores more highly than the food

to as “mushroom cappuccino”. Again, it was weak in flavor and, in a gesture of pure meanness, there was a pin head drop of truffle oil which, at that size, did nothing to enhance the flavor of the dish. Off to mains, and my halibut with miso and lemon risotto saved the day. The halibut was perfect. Miso is a Japanese soup made mainly from soy and fish sauces with onion and water. It was an inspired addition, but it came only as a tiny drizzle. I would have liked it poured liberally. Again it was all beautifully sculptured, with the risotto packaged as a tennis ball sized, round dish but with no lemon flavor. You should never cook lemon juice, only squeeze it over a completed, cooked dish. Alternatively you can cook with thin slices of lemon skin. We passed on their tuna Teriyaki, and here we go again with more Japanese names out to impress. Well don’t be impressed because Teriyaki

sauce is a simple thing you can make at home with soy sauce, sugar, fresh ginger and garlic – all boiled with water or white wine. Easy. In a similar fashion we passed on their Argentinean beef and settled for their white chicken on a bed of fried spinach with a soy and ginger dip. Yet again I have to admit its presentation (chefs call it “plating up”, and believe me it is a skill) was good. The chicken came as a ball with a fried breadcrumb exterior. But the fried spinach let it down. Frying spinach kills the flavor. Far more exciting if they blanched rucola in chicken stock instead. Market 8 is a triumph of design over functionality, and of presentation over flavor. However with the shallow, superficial riffraff of what laughingly passes as Bucharest ‘society’ on their doorstep, I will confidently predict that it will be a huge success. Michael Barclay mab.media@dnt.ro 21


CITY

Art Boulevard Festival showcases culture in Tineretului Park

STOCKEXCHANGE

Sk8er boy: urban sport is part of the fun

Art Boulevard Festival takes

Oscar winner NICOLA PIOVANI will hold a concert in Bucharest on October 9 at the Radio Hall, as part of the closing gala of the sixth International Film Festival RO-IFF. The Italian light-classical musician, theater and film score composer for over 130 movies, including Holocaust fable “La vita e bella” (“Life Is Beautiful”) will commence his recital at 20.00, after the RO-IFF award ceremony. For the “La vita e bella” film score, Piovani received an Academy Award for Original Dramatic Score at the 1998 Oscars. As with ABBA Generation’s performance, all the proceeds will go to the Coltea Foundation. Tickets for Nicola Piovani’s recital can be purchased online on www.eventim.ro and www.bilete.ro. The Radio Hall (Sala Radio) is located on General Berthelot Street, no. 60-64.

place in Tineretului Park in Bucharest, an outdoor event dedicated to music and art. The festival, which runs until September 25, will consist of various artistic, cultural, educational and interactive disciplines from the urban art sphere, concerts, music workshops, sneaker, roller and skater culture, dreadlocks culture, urban theater, graffiti and graphic design, body painting and tattoos, break-dancing championships, handmade fair, paint and photography exhibitions as well as other activities. Corina Dumitrescu

MORA gallery hosts art courses for children and adults

Movie for Life awards best cancer awareness short films

LAURENTIU OBAE

Mora art gallery is hosting four art classes, two for children and two aimed at adults. Ocean Diorama, for children aged between 5 and 10, will take place on Sundays between October 10 and November 7, between 10.00 and 12.00. The course aims to stimulate children’s creativity and imagination, by starting from the ocean’s fauna and reaching a three-dimensional creation. Children aged between 8 and 13 may attend the course Initiation in Art and Study of Plastic Language Elements, while adults can sign up for Learn to Look and Painting Class. More

Art for art’s sake: the courses teach you to look

information available is available at www.fundatiamora.org. Corina Dumitrescu

Autumn harvest fair to be held at Drumul Taberei A regular weekend event, Roadele Tomnei, a fair of ecological, organic, handmade and traditional Romanian products, is being held. The event sells fruit and vegetables, at cost price, as well as traditional products from all across Romania: honey and honey products, Romanian bread, pretzels from Brasov, wines from Valea Calugareasca and Urlati, palinca from Maramures, tuica

from Salaj and Arges, ginger bread and kurtos kalacs from Harghita, cheese and meat products from Bran and Sibiu, as well as handmade decorations, toys and clothes. Organized by the sixth district’s town hall, the fair takes place in the car park of Piata Drumul Taberei, every Friday and Saturday (7.00-19.00) and Sunday (7.00-16.00). Corina Dumitrescu

Former cotton factory reborn as hip arts venue Param Pam Pam, a new hotspot for parties and hip Bucharest events, has opened in the former cotton spinning factory in Timpuri Noi. Some 1,500 sqm will be given over to warehouse parties, artistic productions, exhibitions and urban festivals. “It all started from a concept that operates in Berlin, Leipizig, Prague and, actually, all the major cities 22

of the West and which was also needed in Bucharest: a generous and flexible space to be able to sustain the most diverse projects and which in time will become a platform for art and the creative industries, a cluster of people and ideas that interact and generate ideas,” said founder Alexandru Toader. Corina Dumitrescu

The second Avon Movie for Life contest is inviting professional and amateur movie makers to create a short film promoting the message of the breast health campaign, “Promising means doing. Promise you will go to an examination”. Entries may be submitted by October 27 to http://creator.iqads.ro/avon, which is also where the competition’s brief, regulation and other details for

participation are available. The creations will be judged by a professional jury and the audience at Kinofest, as well as by online viewers, between November 4 and 28. Kinofest, now on its fourth run, will take place at the National Museum of Contemporary Art between November 3 and 7. More info on http://kinofest.com/. Corina Dumitrescu

Spanish photography goes on show in Bucharest The work of 10 Spanish photographers will be exhibited as part of the “Itinerarios. Afines” exhibition until October 10 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The event will bring contemporary Spain into the limelight, showcasing photographs of former battlefields, rural Spain and urban Cuba. The photographers are Bleda & Rosa,

Ferran Freixa, Alberto García-Alix, Cristina García Rodero, Cristóbal Hara, Chema Madoz, Ángel Marcos, Ouka Leele, Xavier Ribas and Javier Vallhonrat. Curator Oliva Maria Rubio made her selection to include aspects interesting to the host country, including Spanish culture, traditions and practices. Corina Dumitrescu

Artist Ioana Nemes exhibits at Visual Introspection Center Romanian artist Ioana Nemes is holding a solo show at the Visual Introspection Center. The exhibition, which focuses on the standing of young artists in Romania, runs until October 2. One of the most acclaimed and exhibited Romanian artists of her generation, Nemes has participated, among other shows, in the Istanbul Biennial, (2009), UTurn Copenhagen (2008), Prague Biennial (2007) and Bucharest Biennial (2006). Her forthcoming solo exhibition Textsurfer Classic will open in mid-November at the Pianissimo gallery in Milan. Nemes lives and works in Bucharest. The Counsel for a Young Art Collector which features on page 20 of this week’s issue has been drawn up by Nemes especially for Business Review. You can read more on the artist in upcoming issues of BR. ■ BUSINESS REVIEW / September 20 - 26, 2010


Business Review, Issue no 34, September 20 - 26  

BR 34 Back from the brink Asesoft is taking over insolvent IT&C retailer Flanco, one of the biggest local casualties of the recession, inj...

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