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Romanian business - Flexibility and agility in a high-potential market

It's anniversary time, with Romania celebrating its national day at a time when its image is coming into serious question at an international level. This month is also an anniversary landmark for The Diplomat - Bucharest, as the magazine celebrates its 14th year of high-level reporting locally.

2018-12-19 09:46:34

It′s been 100 years since the Romanian state was born through the unification of the three historic provinces, making way for the Greater Romania. It′s been 29 years since the bloodiest revolution in the region put an end to the communist reign, and last but not least, it′s been 11 years since Romania joined the European Union.

Romania is host for almost one million companies, according to the National Trade Register Office, of which around 90 per cent have either 100 per cent Romanian capital (more than 870,000), or in part (38,000). The sectors with the highest interest among Romanian companies are construction, wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, professional, scientific and technical activities, manufacturing industry, and hotels and restaurants.

The Diplomat - Bucharest talks to important local entrepreneurs and Romanian-based companies to discuss their development during this year and their views about Romania′s economic environment and the future.

Cosmin Ghita, Nuclearelectrica: SNN estimates a profit of 365 million RON at the end of 2018

For SNN, 2018 represented a year of preparations for the major investment projects undertaken by the company; a year for setting the guidelines and parameters that would create the optimum background for growth and sustainable development; a year for launching strategic projects with impact on the company and the energy sector in Romania in the medium and long term, according to Cosmin Ghita, CEO of Nuclearelectrica.

"The company's main directions of action, undertaken by the management and reinforced in 2018 were mainly related to investment projects and the maintenance of the high level of performance in the operation of the Cernavoda nuclear units and nuclear safety," he told The Diplomat-Bucharest. "When taking office in September 2017, the targets undertaken by the management at the time were the following: ensuring operational safety - the ‘Zero' priority of Nuclearelectrica; refurbishing Unit 1; ensuring constant and secure access to the resources the company needs for operation via an integrated supply chain; adopting a human resources policy that would ensure the attraction and retention of highly qualified personnel and the diversification of the company′s sources of revenues. This last point in particular was correlated to the diversification of our portfolio, while remaining in synergy with the company's core business."

At the end of the first nine months of 2018, Nuclearelectrica delivered a quantity of 7,640,217 MWh to the National Energy System at an average capacity factor of 96.74 per cent for Unit 2 and 84.08 per cent for Unit 1, which was subject to planned outage in 2018.

On average, Nuclearelectrica has ensured about 18 per cent of Romania′s energy needs, with a constant production, fully compliant with nuclear security and with no greenhouse gas emissions.

"As a matter of fact, the capacity factor of Cernavoda′s nuclear units, from their initial commissioning, place Romania first, at the top of the 375 nuclear units operating in the world," Ghita underlined. "This representative indicator for the nuclear industry is not stand-alone, it is underlined by performance indicators at all levels, from the manufacture of quality nuclear fuel bundles to maintenance plans performed on time, environmental protection indicators above the international averages, and a culture of solid nuclear security. These results are reviewed on a regular basis, independently, by international assessment missions, composed of experts from other power plants. Constant checking and benchmarking provide us with an intercomparing of results, as well as a pathway to continuous improvement and learning."

At the end of 2017, SNN's General Meeting of Shareholders approved the launch of the first phase of the Unit 1 refurbishment project at Cernavoda NPP, a project in stages that will allow the extension of the life cycle of the unit for another 30 years, at less than half of the costs of building a new nuclear unit.
According to Ghita, the refurbishment of Unit 1 is probably the most ambitious energy project undertaken by a Romanian company, which will involve joining financial, human and technical resources on a large scale, and which will generate a growth effect in the horizontal nuclear industry, in research and education.

He explained: "The refurbishment projects for CANDU units have been successfully implemented in Canada, South Korea and currently in Argentina. The refurbishment project of Unit 1, estimated at 1.5 billion Euro, will be performed in three stages: the first stage, started in 2017 and continued in 2018 includes project organization activities (including the creation and population with specialists of the specialized structure within SNN), activities required for the extension of the Unit's number of operating hours, before shutdown for refurbishment, based on the studies conducted, completion of supporting documents required for the preparation of the feasibility study, to be presented to the shareholders in 2021. In the second stage, the main engineering, procurement and construction equipment and services will be contracted, and the necessary authorizations will be obtained, and then the third stage will be dedicated to the refurbishment works, estimated for the period December 2026 to December 2028."
During the course of 2018, a number of decisions were adopted, allowing for a stronger positioning of SNN on the energy market, by means of a flexible sales strategy, correlated with the liberalization of the energy market as of January 1, 2018, and in relation to its suppliers, with SNN becoming aware of the importance of maintaining an integrated supply chain, according to Ghita.

"In order to ensure the raw materials necessary for operation, in a constant and predictable manner, at competitive prices, a strategy of diversification of the sources of supply with raw materials was adopted, which entails the gradual transition from uranium dioxide to uranium octoxide to be processed by the Feldioara Branch belonging to the National Uranium Company, by 2020," he continued. "Complementary to this transition process, Nuclearelectrica concluded a framework contract with qualified suppliers of uranium dioxide (Cameco and CNU) for a period of 36 months, with the purpose of ensuring the raw materials required for operation, at the request of SNN. Based on the diversification strategy previously mentioned, SNN also conducted an analysis regarding the optimum solution for developing its own uranium octoxide into uranium oxide processing capacities, with AGA mandating the Board of Directors in August 2018 to conduct a due diligence analysis (technical, environmental, financial and legal) in view of a potential takeover by SNN of the processing line from CNU Feldioara Branch."

In his opinion, the strategy adopted brings benefits both to SNN and the national economy through the measures that allow the maintenance of an integrated supply chain in Romania. Without bringing any change to the diversification strategy adopted by SNN, the Romanian Parliament adopted Law no. 193/2018 ensuring Romania′s national strategy regarding the maintenance of the integrated nuclear cycle, effective as of 26.07.2018.

He went on to say that, in relation to the Project of Units 3 and 4, during 2018 strategic measures have been adopted to change the strategy for continuing the project approved by the Romanian Government in 2014, measures envisaging the clear delimitation of the responsibilities of SNN and the Romanian state for streamlining the negotiation process and accelerating the process for the achievement of project stages. SNN and the Chinese partner are currently deep in the process of negotiating the investment documents: Investors′ Agreement and the Articles of Incorporation of the new project company.

"The negotiations regarding the investment documents represent a very important stage for the future development of the project," Ghita underlined. "Nuclearelectrica is interested in maximizing its position, in the relationship with the new independent energy producer, by ensuring the operation and maintenance of the new units, as well as by supplying nuclear fuel.

"Being aware of the company′s long-term needs, as well as of the risk associated with the migration of highly qualified personnel to nuclear projects developed by other countries, SNN has adopted a human resources strategy focused on individual performance and employee motivation and loyalty programs, so that we may retain the specialists within the company. In addition, SNN has also launched a scholarship program for students of the Politehnica University of Bucharest, the increased staff recruitment activity being visible through the increased number of jobs opened for competition for young graduates without experience, whom we want to train on-the-job. The development of highly-qualified human resources entails providing a nursery, increasing the level of training in faculties, with Nuclearelectrica taking part, during 2018, in several projects and initiatives for the promotion of education and research in the nuclear field."

In 2018, Ghita noted a market stabilization tendency, in the context of two market events occurring in the winter of 2017, when prices rose to historical levels, which has led energy traders to turn to contracts for longer periods of time, with a stable price.

"This trend is in line with SNN′s market interests, which, through the specific nature of its technology, seeks to conclude contracts mainly on the forward market," he said. "For example, in the first nine months of 2018, SNN sold an 82.2 per cent share of the total volume of electricity produced on the competition market of bilateral contracts, up in relation to the same period of last year, reducing at the same time the quantity of energy sold on the spot market from 23.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to 17.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2018. In correlation to the market trend previously mentioned, the average price on the forward market for the contracts concluded by SNN increased by 21 per cent in relation to the same period of the previous year, and the price on the spot market, characterized by increased volatility, decreased from 207.48 RON/MWh in 3Q 2017 to 173.97 RON/MWh in 3Q 2018."

Ghita also said that the market stabilization is beneficial both to producers, traders and end-users, since the demand and supply evolution follows the actual curve of the needs and provides protection against uncontrolled developments.

"Furthermore, correlated with Romania′s intention to become a regional energy hub, it is necessary to harmonize the primary and secondary legislation related to the energy market, support low carbon emission sources, while simultaneously supporting technological neutrality," he explained. "Another challenge for which SNN adopted an integrated plan of measures with short, medium and long-term effects is represented by the migration of personnel to nuclear projects in other countries, where the salary level exceeds by far the possibilities of the Romanian market. The retention of highly specialized personnel within the company is one of our targets and, in order to achieve this, we are working simultaneously on several levels, from diagnosis and analysis of work processes and staff motivation, to retention plans, training programs in partnership with UPB and attracting young people to the nuclear field."

According to Ghita, one of the major legislative changes intervened since January 1, 2018 is the full liberalization of the energy market, with SNN thus selling all the energy produced on the competition market (5.7 per cent on the regulated market in 2017).

He explained: "The liberalization of the energy market was correlated with the price stabilization tendency and the reduction of volatility by lowering the spot market share, leading to SNN achieving very good results in the first nine months of the year. In addition, as of this year, we have entered the OTC market segment, a market characterized by greater stability and liquidity. Another legislative change currently under implementation is Law no. 193/2018 for the regulation of the principles ensuring Romania′s national strategy regarding the maintenance of the integrated nuclear cycle, which has become effective as of July 26, 2018. The law has a direct impact on the nuclear fuel cycle in Romania, establishing the ensured operation of Cernavoda NPP with nuclear fuel, and uranium dioxide powder, respectively, produced on Romanian territory by the National Uranium Company (CNU). In the event that CNU may not ensure the quantity of nuclear fuel required for the operation of Units 1 and 2 in full, competitive procurement procedures may be organized. The law sets forth that the purchase from CNU will be done at a regulated price, to be established by the Ministry of Public Finance or by the Competition Council. This regulated price has not been set to this date. In order to ensure the raw materials required for operation, SNN is applying the provisions of the diversification strategy of the sources of supply of nuclear fuel, approved by the shareholders, which does not contravene the provisions of the law subsequently adopted by the Romanian Parliament."

SNN′s evolution in the first nine months of 2018 compared to the similar period of last year indicates an increase, both in terms of financial results and the degree of achievement of the annual investment program. At an energy output roughly similar, SNN earned a profit of 320 billion RON in the first nine months of 2018, up by 28.30 per cent in relation to the similar period of last year. The profit increase is generated by the 13 per cent increase in EBITDA, as compared to the same period of the previous year, mainly following the increase of operational revenues by 12 per cent, influenced by the increase by 11 per cent of the revenues from the sale of electricity.
SNN sold 18 per cent more on the competitive market of bilateral contracts, compared to the similar period of last year, and benefited from an increase of the average sale price on this market by 22 per cent (price without Tg), while the electricity quantity sold on the spot market (PZU and PI) decreased by 27 per cent, whereas an average sale price on this market lower by 16 per cent (price without Tg) was registered.

The revenues obtained from the electricity market related to electricity deliveries over the period January 1 - September 30, 2018 are of 1.5 billion RON, 1.3 per cent higher than the budget revenues over the period January 1 - September 30, 2018, and respectively 10.91 per cent higher than the revenues in the same period of the previous year.

The investment program of SNN for 2018 is sized at 244 million RON. The degree of achievement of the investment program, as of September 9, 2018, is 47.6 per cent compared to 26.7 per cent in the similar period of 2017.

The highest share in the investment program is represented by long term investments (ongoing). This is due to the need of upgrade/replacement of certain systems, out of economic reasons - specific consumption deductions, improvement of certain parameters related to served processes, with a positive impact on efficiency, out of legal reasons – the need to implement new upgrades associated with nuclear security, environment protection and labour security representing imperative requirements from the regulatory authorities in the field.

Ghita mentioned that the absolute priority for Nuclearelectrica is to maintain the operational safety of Cernavoda NPP, with the units being certified as among the safest in the world, and with the highest installed power capacity factor.

The total value of the investment program of SNN for 2018 is 244 million RON (without the component allocated to the payment of debt service related to long-term loans). The main investment projects are those related to the operation of Units 1 and 2 under safe and efficient conditions.
According to the budget approved by the shareholders of SNN for 2018, SNN estimates a profit of 365 million RON at the end of 2018. For 2019, the budgeted profit is 373 million RON, according to the budget approved by the shareholders in the GSM of March 2, 2018. The turnover projected by SNN for 2018, according to the budget approved is 2.05 billion RON.

At the end of the first nine months of 2018, the actual number of employees is 2,035. In the short term, SNN is seeking to "enhance the loyalty of existing employees and retain them within the company using an integrated strategy of human resources based on performance and meritocracy".

Corina Popescu, Electrica: We have the most ambitious investment plan in the industry

One of the main achievements of the Electrica Group this year is the start of the most ambitious investment plan in the industry, with a total value of 900 million RON and which aims for the rehabilitation and modernization of the distribution networks, according to Corina Popescu, CEO of Electrica.

"As far as the supply segment is concerned, we continue with a comprehensive business reorganization project, moving from the position of the energy vendor to the integrated service provider," she told The Diplomat-Bucharest. "The first steps towards the creation of a multi-utility company were made last year, when Electrica Furnizare obtained the license for the supply of natural gas. It is an area that the company plans to develop to meet customer expectations."

In response to changes in the energy market, Electrica continued the program of transformation and optimization of distribution and service activities started last year.

"It aims at implementing a new distribution network organization model, based on redesigned processes, focusing on the efficiency and quality of customer services and the internalization of certain activities in Electrica Serv," Popescu explained. "The new operating model has the main benefit of increasing efficiency through the functional coordination of all activities within the company. This will increase the ability of companies to optimize their operations, make investments and improve network access and, most importantly, better coordinate on-site activities."

The end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 is a time when all companies in the field are facing challenges in their work, according to Popescu. "The challenges of this period are precisely the priorities that the Electrica Group has in mind. These are varied and include aspects such as: finalizing the ambitious investment program scheduled for 2018, finalizing the negotiations with ANRE for the next regulatory period, resulting in a correct positioning of the company, accelerating the process of organizational transformation and aligning the procedures of the company's distribution."

Concerning the work started under the investment program, she said efforts are being made to speed up implementation, both with internal resources and with third-party suppliers, as Electrica faces delays in delivering equipment and a labour shortage to external suppliers.

Popescu went on to say that the results of Electrica Group for the first nine months of the year are "truly remarkable." "The company recorded a consolidated net profit of 315 million RON, an increase of 220 million RON, 230 per cent compared to the same period of 2017, and an achievement of 124 per cent of the consolidated net profit budgeted for 2018. EBITDA increased by 297 million RON, which translates to 73 per cent. Thus, in these nine months, we have not only achieved, but we have already surpassed by 24 percent the budgeted results for 2018. The increase in the third quarter of the year is mainly due to the results recorded on the supply segment."

The Electrica Group′s strategy for the next period addresses three main objectives: operational excellence, providing a dedicated workforce, and implementing corporate governance standards, specific to a private company, listed on the local and London stock exchange, according to Popescu.

In the field of electricity supply, we have an extensive business reorganization project in order to turn into a multi-utility company, thus moving from the position of the energy vendor to that of an integrated service provider. In this regard, we launched an integrated supply of electricity and natural gas as well as digital services," she explained. "In the distribution area, the main objective remains the one related to the quality of services and we mainly target two relevant indicators in this respect - the number and the average duration of interruptions for a client in one year. As part of the development plans for distribution networks, we also look at components of the smart grid concept, with several pilot projects already under consideration and in the analysis phase. In essence, we aim to increase the operational efficiency and quality of the services offered, as well as the ability to respond to market demands. There are other development opportunities here, such as the electric mobility area, where we were among the first to have initiatives in the Romanian market, and in terms of supporting the prosumers, where despite the fact that we are still expecting the finalized regulations on this area, our distribution operators have already made available (including on-line) all the information they need."

Upgrading the networks to the level of the three distribution operators within the Electrica Group continues to be a priority for the company.

"As mentioned above, for 2018 we have the most ambitious investment plan in the industry, worth a total of 900 million RON, which will be directed towards the rehabilitation and modernization of distribution networks," said Popescu. "It is very important to note that for this year, the planned investments will be financed exclusively from internal resources, including the capital contribution made at the IPO. In fact, Electrica Group′s investments in infrastructure have increased significantly from one year to the next, so that the cumulative value of investments made in 2017 was more than 30 per cent higher than in 2016 and more than double since the year of listing. It is also worth mentioning that during the four years since the privatization, the Electrica Group invested 2.16 billion RON in the distribution infrastructure."

At the same time, Electrica has planned important investments in improving and modernizing IT infrastructure, management systems as well as investments in cyber security and continuity of business, aiming at improving data protection and, implicitly, the quality of the services provided.
Electrica has about 8,000 employees, according to the company's CEO. "Last year, the process of reorganizing the distribution area was launched - a transformation project was launched that, among other things, managed to internalize a significant number of people in the service division in the three electricity distribution companies within the Group′s framework," added Popescu. "The ultimate goal of internalization was the integration of staff dedicated to making investments with their own forces in order to achieve the highest possible degree of investments made in 2018."

Romgaz marks five years on BVB and the company is among the most traded issuers

The listing of Romgaz (SNG), the largest natural gas producer and the main supplier in Romania, was one of the largest equity sales performed by the Romanian state on the Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB).

SNG shares started trading on the Main Market of BVB on November 12, 2013, following a successful offering worth a total of 1.7 billion RON, made both on BVB and the London Stock Exchange. For Romania, it was the largest sale until that time of a state-owned company using the stock exchange, and it became the second largest ever, following the State sale in Electrica one year later.

"Romgaz′s listing on the Bucharest Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange was an important moment in the history of the company. Through the listing, the degree of transparency and communication has increased as far as the relationship with investors, the business environment and the public in Romania and abroad are concerned. Romgaz has fully assumed the responsibilities of being a listed company, which includes reporting and communicating important business events to the stock exchanges. Also, the listing process brings additional benefits to the brand image. Institutional and individual investors, the media in general, the business environment... they all closely follow the evolution of the company and contribute favourably to increasing the reputation, promotion and development of our business," said Adrian Volintiru, General Manager at Romgaz.

Five years after the listing, the price share surged by 17 percent, while the dividend yield amounted to 64 percent.

In 2013, the Romanian state, the majority shareholder of SNG, sold 15 per cent of the company′s equity. The offer included the sale of up to 57,813,360 shares issued by the company, as shares and global depositary receipts (GDR). The sale price was 30 RON per share and 9.25 USD per GDR, which made the total value of the offer amount to 1.7 billion RON.

"The listing on the capital market incentivizes us to perform. At the moment, we have several directions. First of all, we will continue to invest in onshore exploitation, as we focus on replacing existing gas reserves with new ones. We want to invest in petrochemicals and obviously in strengthening our position in the energy trading markets. In the electricity production field, Romgaz has decided to go for a more efficient approach regarding the Iernut Thermoelectric Plant, meeting environmental requirements and increasing safety in exploitation", said Volintiru.

The value of dividends given by SNG to its shareholders was 7.4 billion RON for the period 2013-2017. The largest shareholder of the SNG, with a 70 per cent stake in shares, is the Romanian state through the Ministry of Energy.

Traian Halalai, EximBank: We are preparing to conclude the sixth consecutive year of increasing results

EximBank started this year with the desire to make a significant contribution to the development of the economy by supporting as many projects of the Romanian companies as possible, according to Traian Halalai, CEO EximBank.

"Following this goal, we have succeeded in consolidating our position as an open bank to the business environment, including in our portfolio companies from the Romanian business elite as well as small and medium-sized companies," he told The Diplomat-Bucharest. "I would say that this year′s most important achievement of the bank was that we managed to prove that we have all the strengths to become the preferred financial partner of the business environment, being able to propose complex and attractive financial solutions for all kinds of companies."

According to Halalai, EximBank′s challenges derive from those of their partners. "We like to plan everything down to the smallest details, but we know that the business environment can be unpredictable, so our major challenge is to adapt easily and to look at new openings," he explained.
"This year, EximBank has boosted its activity while remaining within the same performance parameters: we have increased lending while retaining our profitability and good asset quality. For example, after the first nine months of the year, EximBank′s assets have gone up by six billion RON, an increase of about 500 million RON as compared to 2017, a trend that strengthens our position on the banking market. We can say that we are preparing to conclude the sixth consecutive year of increasing results while ensuring all the conditions to continue the seventh."

Halalai went on to say that the banking community faces almost every year with different challenges - both internally and internationally, but despite these, it managed to maintain its structural stability.
"I believe that the banking system will continue this solidarity course, even if it goes through a period of consolidation and concentration, and it will remain a key pillar in delivering sustainable economic growth," he concluded.

Roxana Magopet, FAN Courier: We made the first steps towards internationalization by opening a HUB in Budapest

FAN Courier has reached 20 years of activity in the Romanian economy, an impressive milestone for any local company.
"We are, as one might say, one of the pioneers of what was a quasi-unknown industry more than 20 years ago, and we are glad to have put our shoulder to the development of a sector that is approaching half a billion Euro," Roxana Magopet, Marketing & PR Manager, FAN Courier told The Diplomat-Bucharest.
"Leaving aside macroeconomic issues, 2018 was a challenging year of both innovation and consolidation. We made the first steps towards internationalization by opening a HUB in Budapest; finalizing the new investment in the Stefanesti HUB which will increase the productivity of our current business; introduce our first electric cargo bike into our fleet, and focus on the projects which will improve our relationship with customers. The ‘smart ticketing' application we recently launched will serve to centralize and facilitate direct correspondence with the end customer and faster resolution of the various situations that occur during an expedited service."

Magopet said that the crisis in the labour market remains the main challenge that FAN Courier must face on an ongoing basis. "Poor infrastructure is also a constant source of challenges that cannot be solved by either increasing the fleet or hiring additional personnel. It is a problem that all road-users face," she added. "Legislative changes are constantly a challenge for us as well. On the one hand, you have to respect them, apply them, and on the other hand you owe the client to give him the stability and the possibility of a correct prediction. These two extremes force you to meld things exclusively inside your company, exclusively on your own costs. And the result can only be an unfavourable influence on your own profitability. In the courier market, more than most other industries, you cannot make cost changes from one day to the next, even if the changes come from tomorrow, so you have to find solutions permanently to manage your cost increases, without affecting the final price of the service."

Maintaining and strengthening the local activity is the first long-term goal for FAN Courier team. "The internationalization and accompanying consolidation is a priority because Romania is part of a European economic mechanism, not just a part of a political union. Investing in value-added services to increase customer satisfaction is the third direction and of course you don't forget about cost control," said Magopet. "Our company increases the number of employees as activity increases. Our average team grows by ten per cent yearly and this percentage is valid for the current year. The FAN Courier team has over 6,000 employees across the country. The plans are to raise our own staff with our new FAN School".

Bitdefender sales to large companies have tripled over the past three years

Bitdefender′s largest acquisition so far took place in early 2017 when the company announced the takeover of its French partner, Profil Technology, as part of its business expansion strategy for large companies. The takeover allowed the Romanian company to strengthen its position on the French market in both the business segment and the consumer market. Present on the French market since 2001, Bitdefender quickly became a strong player in France′s cyber security retail, controlling one-third of the market for solutions purchased by French consumers. Bitdefender also protects more than one million business computers in all industries (public sector, education, health, financial sector).

In the fall of 2018, Bitdefender also took over the Australian partner, SMS eTech, as part of its global business expansion strategy. Bitdefender′s acquisition strengthens the company′s position in the Asia-Pacific region and globally by creating its own subsidiary, Bitdefender Australia. By integrating the business line of its eTech distributor - the distributor of Bitdefender products in Australia and New Zealand - Bitdefender has directly established its local presence by opening an office in Melbourne, the company′s first in this region of the world.

At the end of October, Bitdefender also bought the Dutch company RedSocks Security BV, the first technology company bought so far by the cyber security solution manufacturer. Part of Bitdefender′s merger and acquisition strategy, the investment extends its portfolio of network security solutions and monitoring complex information threats and marks a new step in the company′s development. RedSocks Security Company specializes in automatic detection of suspected network traffic incidents and trafficking, and cybercrime. Combining Artificial Intelligence algorithms with attack visibility, RedSocks offers customers real-time fault detection solutions and security incident response mechanisms. RedSocks solutions respond to a stringent market need resulting from the growing number of large-scale breaches caused by sophisticated attacks that cannot be blocked by market-based solutions. The takeover of the Hague RedSocks offices and the integration of local sales and R & D teams will develop business opportunities on the Dutch market through the establishment of Bitdefender Netherlands and will support the expansion of operations in Western Europe.

"Bitdefender′s business model implies presence in certain markets through exclusive partners who fully manage Bitdefender′s sales and marketing activities. The decision to acquire partners is being taken to accelerate the development of Bitdefender in strategically important markets through massive investments aimed at strengthening the relationship with distributors and customers," Bitdefender told The Diplomat-Bucharest. "Innovation has been a decisive factor in gaining the trust of families and companies in over 150 countries. Around 50 per cent of the company′s employees are involved in research and development activities in our four R & D centres in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Iasi and Timisoara, with Bitdefender accounting for the highest share of the technical staff in the total number of employees. Bitdefender employees can allocate 20 per cent of their office time to developing revolutionary ideas for generating a high degree of innovation. As a result of the implementation of this program, Bitdefender has registered 48 patents for pioneering technologies in the last three years, out of a total of 76 previously recognized, and another 28 patents are under review. Many of the patents are the secret of Bitdefender′s latest innovations - machine-learning algorithms capable of detecting the most advanced cyber threats, Bitdefender BOX, the first smartphone security market, and Hypervisor Introspection, the first security solution operating outside of the operating system, to virtual environments and data centres."

Bitdefender invested 89 million Euro in R&D during 2014-2017, and a quarter of this budget is allocated to projects with the potential to become revolutionary. Bitdefender ended the year 2017 with a turnover of 591.8 million RON, a net profit of 28.4 million RON and total exports worth 578 million RON.
Powered by the latest technology innovations, Bitdefender′s sales to large companies have tripled over the past three years, and the company has gained the confidence of large customers in securing hybrid infrastructure. In the last three years, the number of employees has doubled to 1,600, of which 1,350 are in Romania and 250 in offices abroad.

Razvan Petrescu, UTI: We estimate a turnover of 90 million Euro in 2018

This year has been marked by strategic reorganizations, large successful projects and a repositioning in the market for UTI, said Razvan Petrescu, chairman of the board at UTI Group.

"From the first category, I would mention the completion of the partnership with PineBridge Investments, the investment fund that has been our partner for the last 13 years, through the redemption of the shares held by the majority shareholder," he told The Diplomat-Bucharest. "Thus, at the 28th anniversary of its establishment, UTI Group became a company with full Romanian capital. We are close to finalizing a strategic restructuring of business units through which the UTI fleet will have a simpler, more horizontal, coherent and better tailored structure in the market."

This year, UTI continued its partnership with major technology companies, such as Leonardo for the development of NATO-housed hardware and software products: with Smiths Detection, the leader in threat scanning and detection technology; with Honeywell, and Alstom, an approach consistent with UTI′s strategy to focus on providing complex solutions for targets exposed to security risks (defence, critical infrastructure, prisons, border crossings, embassies, entertainment and sports arenas, tourist attractions, etc.).

"In the area of completed projects, I mention only a part of them," Petrescu added. "In the field of transport infrastructure, we have completed the extension of the Bazilescu - Straulesti subway section on the fourth subway line of Bucharest, a project that included the construction of a depot, a multimodal terminal and a park & ride system (parking and bus station). We have the works for the fifth subway line in Bucharest, Drumul Taberei - Eroilor II, as well as the modernization of the technical infrastructure of the main tram depot from UT Arad. Our aquatic endeavours include the modernization of the Agigea, Cernavoda, and Ovidiu canal locks - managed by the Navigable Canal Company - the most complex project to modernize the maritime transport infrastructure since 1990. In the field of airports, we have completed the works at the control tower of Bacau International Airport and the modernization of the light beacon of the Sibiu International Airport runway, and we are carrying out the project for the construction and modernization of Oradea Airport.

"Also, this year, the Collaborative Information System for the Performing Public Procurement (SICAP) was finalized and launched, which UTI has developed and implemented.
"On the traffic management solutions market, we have completed a traffic light project in Craiova and we have traffic management projects and maintenance services for the traffic light systems in Ploiesti, Pitesti, Campina, Alexandria, Sibiu and Targu Mures."

2019 will begin in a new organizational resource formula for UTI, so the company can maintain "flexibility and agility in a market that will enter a two-year electoral sequence."

"Thus, we will return to a structure of smaller operational companies with well-defined identities for each field of activity (IT, security, construction, maintenance) and for each business model (infrastructure projects implementation, product development)," Petrescu explained. "The purpose of this reorganization is to develop, in separate companies, those UTI Group business lines that have growth potential. We will continue to invest in research and development. We already have an important intellectual property portfolio and for UTI, research is a regenerative engine, a way to bring about economic growth and added value through innovation. Next year, we will focus on security solutions and products (video analysis, command and control centres, physical security, etc.) designed to respond to the real threats facing the current society (border protection, disaster management, etc.)".
The next year′s plan is underway, but UTI is also to invest in the consolidation of those areas of business that have proven profitable in research and development. For this year, UTI estimates a turnover of 90 million Euro, with a similar result in 2019.

UTI Group has around 1,220 employees and the company strives to keep its key people, those "who know very well what the benefits are, but also the challenges of working in a company like UTI".

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