EBRD and Zagreb Stock Exchange present SME project for Croatia and Slovenia

By Axel  Reiserer

EBRD and Zagreb Stock Exchange present SME project for Croatia and Slovenia

SME trading platform to be launched next year under the name “Progress”

The EBRD and the Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) presented their plans for a trading platform for small businesses from Croatia and Slovenia in Zagreb today. The platform, supported by the TaiwanBusiness-EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund, will be launched early next year under the name “Progress” with the aim of facilitating local small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs’) access to the capital market.

The presentation today followed the conclusion of a feasibility study by KPMG, the consultancy, and marked the start of the implementation phase of the project. “Progress” will address a core issue for sustainable economic development in Croatia and Slovenia. While small businesses constitute the backbone of the economy, their access to finance remains limited.

Although it is widely accepted that this is holding back the growth of SMEs, and wider economic development, new regulations for the financial sector in the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis are reducing the availability of funds. The trading platform will offer another option for companies and its success will also boost the development of the local capital market.

Martina Dalić, Croatia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, welcomed the project and said that its implementation was coming at the right time when Croatia has returned to growth and the business climate is favourable. The platform would provide support for the capitalisation of SMEs and by strengthening their base would allow them to develop new products and compete on new markets.

Vedrana Jelušić Kašić, EBRD Regional Director for Croatia, Hungary, Slovak Republic and Slovenia, underlined the significance of an innovative approach to financing the growth of European companies: “With the new instrument, Croatia will be the first country in the region to introduce a platform dedicated to the financing of SMEs, offering better access to capital and finance.”

ZSE Management Board member Tomislav Gračan said that SMEs are the major drivers of growth and development of the local economy. Croatia alone has almost 13,500 SMEs, of which more than 1,300 are mid-cap companies. For these firms the new platform will represent a viable and attractive alternative.

Ms Jelušić Kašić also announced the launch of a new capital market initiative developed with the Croatian regulator HANFA and ZSE about training and implementation of corporate governance. ZSE will take the lead and develop a corporate governance code. The goal of the initiative is to enhance the key corporate governance practices of listed companies, disclosure practices and monitoring of corporate governance.