The fate of the Uljanik shipyard is still hanging in the balance as talks between management, Danko Končar, and government officials yield little progress.
Uljanik representatives, government officials and strategic partner Danko Končar of Kermas Energy were in meetings at the Ministry of Economy all day Wednesday to try and negotiate a deal that would save the troubled shipyard. Union representatives were pushing for the shipyard's restructuring plan to be adopted today, fearing that they are running out of time. Danko Končar, chosen earlier this year by Uljanik’s former board as a strategic partner, spears to be having second thoughts about taking on the role, as workers step up the pressure to inject cash into the company to settle back wages owed to them.
The chairman of Uljanik's new board, Emil Bulić, said that there had been no major developments in the talks, but that there had been some progress. Asked whether Danko Končar was still the strategic partner, he responded, "I have to believe it is so, that we are working in good faith."
Uljanik’s management has promised to have a restructuring plan ready to send to Brussels soon.
Assistant Economy Minister Zvonimir Novak, asked whether the government was looking for another strategic partner for Uljanik, said that there was no reason why other businesses that may have expressed interest should be excluded from the process.
Workers are also concerned about the idea of diversification, fearing that Končar will phase out shipbuilding in favor of more lucrative tourism enterprises on the shipyard's waterfront real-estate. Končar appears to be saying he is not willing to put up the cash to solve the company’s liquidity issues, at least not without some kind of deal that would ensure the company could operate sustainably.
"You have a huge debt accumulated over time. How are you going to cover it? The solution is not in a strategic partner. Having a strategic partner does not equal financing. The key question is, when this company is restructured, is shipbuilding the business that will keep it sustainable," Končar said.
Uljanik's workers have been on strike since Monday. One of their clients has suspended work on a polar cruise ship to reduce tensions at the dock. All of the sides do agree on one thing, that Uljanik has a future, however, their visions of what that future looks like are not in agreement at this time.
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