The Slovenia Times

Fate of Luka Koper CEO Matić in shareholsers' hands


Matić has been at the helm of Slovenia's sole port operator since June 2014. His appointment was designed to stabilise the management of Luka Koper, which had been replaced three times in less than a year before his arrival.

But speculations about his replacement started as soon as he took over; he told the press last week that activities for his replacement had started in early 2015.

He suggested the dismissal motion was pushed by stakeholders with vested interests in the Divača-Koper rail expansion, the port licence, and expansion of the port infrastructure.

Early in his term, Matić criticised the state for delaying the Divača-Koper project; when a public-private funding of the project was subsequently proposed, he opposed it saying that infrastructure should be built by the state alone.

At around the same time, the government and the Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) indicated they had started losing their trust in Matić and his board.

The situation heated up when the government made an attempt to replace several supervisors last July, which upset the employees and a group of locals to the extent that they closed the port for several days in protest.

The protest also damaged the port's relations with railway operator Slovenske železnice. The relations with the municipality of Koper, which holds a 3% stake in the port operator, have also been tense ever since Matić started his term.

Koper Mayor Boris Popovič claims the port operator management does not care about the interests of the local community, and the municipality has been obstructing the planned expansion of the port infrastructure using legal means.

In its second attempt, SSH managed to overhaul the supervisory board at a shareholder meeting at the end of June this year without protests at the port.

The replacements of chief supervisor Alenka Žnidaršič Kranjc and three other supervisors came only a few months before the expiration of the supervisors' term and despite the port's excellent results, but SSH boss Lidia Glavina maintained that a better team was needed and better results were possible.

New chief supervisor Rado Antolovič said at the maiden session of the new supervisory board in mid-July that a decision on potential replacements on the management board would be made after an audit into the port's operations in the last three years was concluded.

The audit, whose findings Matić disputes, found irregularities in the hiring of dockworkers through special outsourcing companies and corruption risks.

The issue of the outsourcing of dockworkers prompted an outcry from trade unions this autumn and leftist politicians joined their demand that these workers should be hired directly.

After the Administrative Court confirmed a labour inspection decision that Luka Koper must hire dock workers from one of the outsourcing companies, the supervisors called an extraordinary meeting to present the audit results to shareholders and decide on the management's dismissal.

Matić has rejected accusations regarding the outsourcing of dock services, saying his management was the first to have started tackling the issue. He stressed the plan was to hire 500 people in the next five years, noting that more intensive hiring would hurt the company's bottom line.

The shareholders will vote on the motion of no-confidence on Thursday, while the supervisors will discuss future steps on Friday. The supervisors reportedly have a list of candidates to replace the current management but the names remain confidential.

Media have been mentioning Dimitrij Zadel, the former CEO of fuel retailer OMV, as a candidate for the new CEO. Metod Podkrižnik, the head of logistics company Fersped, and Irma Gubanec, former boss of the publisher Delo, have been tipped as possible board members.


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