Known throughout the world as a respected manufacturer of skis for both convention and jumping disciplines, it will come as a surprise to many than Elan are in fact an established Slovenian enterprise, going toe to toe with winter-sports behemoths such as Nordica and Salomon. Indeed, Germany’s Volkl felt so threatened by Elan’s market-share that they saw fit to report the Gorenjska based operation for receiving illegal state aid, money that had found its way to Slovenia from the European Commission. The deadline for reimbursing an eye-watering €12 million lapsed at the end of 2014, with payment still outstanding. Whilst it would seem that this hasn’t precipitated the need to sell Elan, the fact it so desperately needed a financial stimulus of such magnitude would indicate a new direction and management structure is required to take the company forward and, has been for some time.
To say though that Elan is ailing in the manner of other high-profile Slovenian companies would be misleading. With a healthy order-book, including a recently signed deal with Siemens relating to wind-farm technology, Elan has proved to its critics and potential suitors that it has the ability to diversify away from its core market and secure contracts with industry big-hitters. Underlying debt-issues underpin the generally negative opinion of Elan but such financial headlines will always linger in the minds of the general public, rather than the positives of agreeing lucrative contracts for winter-sports equipment or what I presume will be blades for wind-powered technology. The gloom surrounding the company is also exacerbated by the lawsuit overshadowing a possible takeover, a situation the plaintiff, former president of the Elan executive board Uros Korze, will hope to bring to a satisfactory conclusion prior to a takeover being finalised. It is though impossible to say whether the two firms vying for Elan will follow through on their initial interest in acquiring the company until any court-case or out of court settlement has been reached with Mr. Korze. I am unaware of the relevant law statutes in Slovenia that would indicate whether a case filed against an incumbent management structure becomes null and void in the event of the said company changing ownership. For all the positives surrounding Elan, its history and forthcoming projects, a clean-slate minus the legal dispute, debt issues and disputed legitimacy of the EC subsidy via the Slovenian government is the only way it can emerge intact from this turbulent period of its history.
Of the two companies who’ve so far expressed interest in taking Elan forward, Czech sports equipment manufacturer Sporten seem to be the best fit. Robert Antunovic, a Slovene-American businessman and head of baby carrier manufacturer Boba brings a Slovenian flavour to Elan’s potential future under his auspices, which will certainly gain popularity with traditionalists alarmed at the amount of Slovenian companies being bought out with foreign money. Whilst the correlation between the manufacture of baby carriers and skis does stretch the imagination somewhat, it must be remembered that Elan are now in the wind-farm business with their economic partner Siemens. For sporting reasons alone though, it would seem of the two interested parties Sporten will be able to bring into Elan the requisite knowledge and experience of the conventional markets where Elan does most of its core business. When money though talks, even the angels listen; anyone with deep enough pockets and who are in effect willing to accept Elan’s baggage will surely in the end be seen as the preferred bidder.
Further reporting on this issue can be found at: RTV Slovenia: Elan seeks successful conclusion to buyout proposal