Regulator clears state takeover of spa company

Ljubljana – The Competition Protection Agency has given the go-ahead for Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) to take over spa operator Terme Olimia in what is seen as a step in the creation of a state hospitality holding.

SSH acquired a 20.9% stake in Terme Olimia from the NKBM bank in 2019, thus raising the overall interest held by the state and state-owned companies over the takeover threshold.

As a result SSH will now be required to publish a takeover bid for the remaining shares, but it has been waiting for the regulatory approval before making the move. The SSH confirmed receiving the clearance today.

The value of the takeover will be made known once the takeover bid is published, but the newspaper Delo valued it at EUR 8.2 million in total in a report today.

Terme Olimia runs the spa under the same name in Podčetrtek in the east of the country and the spa Terme Tuhelj across the border in Croatia. The state holds stakes in the company through SSH, Pension Fund Management (KAD), railways operator Slovenske Železnice and the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC).

Under the national tourism development strategy, ownership and management of state-owned tourism companies is to be consolidated in a tourism holding.

Apart from Terme Olimia, the holding is to absorb Istrabenz Turizem and Thermana, both of which have been transferred to special purpose vehicles incorporated by BAMC, as well as Sava Turizem, Adria Ankaran and Hit Alpinea, the tourism arm of the gaming company Hit.

SSH is currently in talks to acquire a 43% stake in Sava, the holding company owning Sava Turizem, from the private equity fund York. SSH and KAD own 46% of Sava. All three are Sava creditors with the combined EUR 60 million owed due for payment by end of June.

According to unofficial information available to Delo, a decision on the acquisition of the stake in Sava is being postponed until the release of the 2020 results and projections for this year. The price tag is said to be a good EUR 40 million.

SSH would also need to obtain regulatory approval to take over Sava and for the holding. Delo reports that state ownership concentration in tourism could be problematic, so SSH might involve private investors in the project beforehand.

The tourism holding has been championed by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, who served as the boss of Terme Olimia before becoming minister.