The Begunje based and world-renowned winter-sports equipment manufacturer Elan seem to be finally entering its proprietorship end-game. With firm declarations of interest now registered by American-Slovene businessman Robert Antunovic and the Czech-based Sporten, the latest protracted saga regarding a well-known Slovenian concern appears, despite several legal wrangles overshadowing the sale, to be entering the final stages.
Without a hint of irony it has been announced that “binding” offers have now been received from both interested parties but issues remain, potentially forestalling a quick and smooth transition of ownership. A quick sale of Elan is needed by the Slovenian administration and the European Commission, who are pressing for the repayment of an EU subsidy it payed in 2008 to Elan via the then incumbent government which, has since been declared as illegal state aid. Considering this amounts to €12 million plus interest but is being held up by a court appeal lodged by Elan, the positive news of a full order-book is somewhat overshadowed by this and a lawsuit lodged by former CEO, Uros Korze. Along with creditors to also satisfy, these are testing times for all associated with Elan.
With a quick sale being urged and hoped for in equal measure but with many obstacles to still overcome, the danger is clear and present that jobs and expertise could be lost to the Gorenjska and Slovenian economy as a whole. Rumours have circulated should Sporten win the race to secure Elan that jobs would be relocated to its Czech factories. Surely such a situation cannot be allowed to happen and therefore, despite its willingness to seemingly sell off the family silver to the highest but not necessarily the best suited bidder, the current Slovenian administration undoubtedly has to place as a condition of sale on proceedings that Slovenian jobs and skills must stay within its borders. Whilst on paper Sporten would seem to be the best fit to take Elan forward, their denials that jobs would be moved to the Czech Republic will be viewed with scepticism purely down to the maxim that there is no smoke without fire. Robert Antunovic’s company Boba Ing is better known for manufacturing baby carriers and whilst this wouldn’t appear to be a line Elan would have much familiarity with, their diversification into wind-farm technology should be remembered, having recently signed a deal with global giants Siemens. It is presumed that Antunovic will wish to keep the manufacture of Elan products on Slovenian soil, thus securing employment for its incumbent workers and assuaging the obligatory doubts voiced by trade unions who, in such situations will always view an acquisition by a native or someone with Slovenian roots as the preferred purchaser.
With interest continually mounting on its illegally acquired subsidy Elan cannot afford to keep the EU at bay for much longer. It is to be hoped that this, other legal and debt related issues don’t bring about the demise of one of Slovenia’s marquee names. With work on the books and staffed by a knowledgeable workforce, the future of Elan will hopefully flourish in the right hands and continue to do so on Slovenian soil.
Further reporting on this issue can be read at: Gorenjski Glas: Elan sale update