Interview of NIS CEO Kirill Kravchenko for “Politika”: NIS in leading position notwithstanding oil industry crisis

December 31, 2016

Low prices of crude oil have been plaguing the entire oil industry for two years now. Does NIS operating performance satisfy you against this background? Our financial performance this year will be similar to the previous ones, regardless of the low price of oil and gas. We expect the operational profit indicator (EBITDA) to reach almost 35 billion dinars, and net profit around 12.5 billion dinars. We may be satisfied with the achieved results, as many oil companies are plagued by plunging profits and their investment compared to the previous year. In terms of anticipated prices of crude oil, we took a conservative stance and reckon the prices of Brent oil to be 42 dollars per barrel in 2017, and following that 50 dollars per barrel. We have continued our contribution of almost 15 per cent to republic’s budget. These accomplishments have yet again proven that we have created a good business model, which boosts business efficiency and makes savings. The anticipated effect of NIS efficiency boosting measures taken in 2016 is in excess of 8.5 billion dinars. Where have you made the greatest savings? First and foremost, we tapped into the ideas put forward by our staff as to how to put the existing equipment to best possible use, whereby minor investments bring profit. In addition to that, we make arrangements with our partners to reduce prices of their services and goods. Secondly, we have slashed down the current overheads. Thirdly, travel and corporate cars expenses were reduced. These three have been the core of savings made. Will the coming period keep the measures in place and will you maybe have to keep hunkering down? NIS will keep its commitment to increasing operational efficiency as a key response to unfavourable market trends. Two years ago, we had devised a serious system of savings. We do everything to achieve greater efficiency. Within a triennial programme we have managed to save around 150 million euros, but there still are capacities for more savings. We seek to become business efficiency leader. Could these unfavourable crude oil price developments compel you to change the dividends policy? No they could not. The amount of the paid out dividends remains 25 per cent of net profit posted last year. This a decision made by our shareholders and we expect no changes whatsoever. We take pride in the fact that notwithstanding difficult operating conditions, NIS remained a steady source of revenue for its shareholders and this has been the fourth consecutive year, when we paid dividends in the total amount exceeding four billion dinars. Which previously announced projects will come to fruition in the coming period, what are the anticipated investment funds? Recently, we adopted the 2017 Business Plan and principal areas of company development by 2019. Next year’s reckoned investment value exceeds 28 billion dinars. So, it remains at this year’s level. We will continue investing in 2018 and 2019, when we plan to invest another 80 billion dinars. It is essential that we continue delivery of key projects. One of them is Bottom-of-the-barrel at Pancevo Refinery, so as to achieve the greatest possible quantity of light products. 300 million euros will be invested in this project in the next two three years and it is expected to be launched in 2019. Along with that we continue to streamline our retail chain and keep expanding the network of our refuelling stations in the region. We plan further development of premium branded fuels and accompanying services at NIS retail points, аnd other than that in the next three years we will remodel and build more than 50 refuelling stations in Serbia and region. We will continue to invest into the exploration and production of oil and gas, so as to keep the trend of growing oil-gas reserves. In the next three years, we plan to increase the reserves of oil and gas on average by 3 per cent annually. Other than that, we will also invest into power generation projects. What specific power generation projects you have in mind? First of all, these are large power generation projects for which our partners display great interest, as in the construction of CHPP Pancevo and a wind farm. These projects have already been approved and in the next three years they will receive investments to the tune of around 300 million euros, which NIS attracted as investments from foreign partners. Other than that, at this juncture, we have 14 cogeneration facilities for power generation out of gas at oil and gas fields in Serbia. We produce electricity out of the gas what we previously burnt on flares. We develop projects tapping into geothermal power and to this end we signed a strategic partnership agreement with a Chinese company, with which we plan, along with delivery of projects pertaining to geothermal power, and producing electricity out of these sources. We have already been selling the electricity in this region’s five countries, and plan to expand electricity trade to 12 countries. We are the only Serbia’s power producer, other than Serbia’s electricity grid, which sells it in free market. What is NIS loan burden? The total debt as of late November was around 670 million dollars. This is good state of affairs for NIS, because we have been keeping abreast of the correlation between the operational profit and the level of indebtedness. In the next three years also, notwithstanding these investments in NIS, we will keep following this correlation. It is important that NIS indebtedness is within allowed limitations defined by obligations to creditors. This is crucial information for creditors and investors, as we, being a responsible company, take care to keep the indebtedness within the optimum limits so as not to jeopardise the business. What is the extent of public enterprises debt and will NIS own Petrohemija? The issue pertaining to debts towards NIS is being settled in a partnership manner with Serbia’s Government and we always manage to find a mutually acceptable solution. It is only natural, as Serbia’s Government is also a NIS shareholder and is interested to keep the company developing. The money that comes from the returned debts will be invested in strategic projects, most important being bottom of the barrel. As for the relationship with Petrohemija, at this juncture, we remain a minority shareholder, but it is important that in a pooled effort with the state we have devised a plan as to how to help this enterprise to continue operation when the arrears are settled. Secondly, we have been looking into the matter of investing into the new factory of polypropylene in Petrohemija, we assist increase of it operational efficiency and we provide expert support to management. The result of these efforts enabled Petrohemija, for the first time in many years, to post a positive operational profit in the recent two years. Additional improvement of energy efficiency of Petrohemija will be achieved once CHPP Pancevo is completed. This will expand the capacities for power generation and thermal energy in Pancevo, that would suffice for the requirements of Petrohemija, which, in turn, brings great savings to this company in the future. Are you satisfied with cooperation with Serbia’s Government as minority shareholder? We have a great cooperation with Serbia’s Government and I am very pleased. The successful NIS is in the interest of both shareholders – „Gazprom neft“ and Serbia’s Government. Other than that, we have good personal relationships and we facilitate them in every possible way. You have a reputation of a socially responsible company Socially responsible running of business is our strategy. Notwithstanding the oil crisis, we will continue investment into education, science, sport, young talents, culture, and charity projects. This year alone, the programmes „Common Cause - Community“ helped collect more than 110 million dinars, we supported projects in 11 cities and municipalities across Serbia. Other than that, „Gazprom neft“, our parent company, managed to deliver a great number of projects in Serbia, in which in the last seven years we invested in excess of 32 million euros. I would like to mention our assistance to those affected by the floods in 2014, then, mosaic cladding of the dome of St. Sava Cathedral in Belgrade, support to classical music festival „Bolshoi“ in Mecavnik. Does NIS grant classical scholarships? Do you take on staff those who you provide with scholarship? Our scholarship provision scheme has so far covered dozens of students; our company has employed almost 700 young professionals in recent four years. We have been actively cooperating with universities in Serbia and Russia. The „Power of Knowledge” programme alone has provided support to science and education to the tune of more than four million euros. We are proud to have completed these activities that facilitated Serbia’s mathematicians, physicists and chemists to win a great number of medals at international competitions world over. This interview has been published in Politika newspaper 30th of December 2016.