05BUCHAREST1304 / 2005-06-03 13:24:00
Embassy Bucharest
                UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BUCHAREST 001304 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WSILKWORTH, EB/TPP/ATT 
USDOC FOR 4232/ITA/MAC/EUR/OEERIS/CEED/JBURGESS/JKIMBAL L 
TREASURY FOR STEWART 
LONDON FOR EBRD - GRETCHEN BIERY 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EFIN, ECON, ETRD, RO, EBRD, corruption 
SUBJECT: PROSPECTIVE EBRD LOAN WOULD REINFORCE UNFAIR 
COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE OF ROMANIAN COMPANY 
 
 
THIS MESSAGE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED.  IT CONTAINS 
BUSINESS PROPRIETARY INFORMATION AND SHOULD BE HANDLED 
ACCORDINGLY. 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: Post was unpleasantly surprised to learn 
that the EBRD office in Bucharest is contemplating a loan 
worth over 200 million dollars to a Romanian company that 
has repeatedly come into our sights as an unfair and abusive 
competitor in the soft drinks and consumer product markets. 
Post believes strongly that awarding bad corporate practices 
by granting a preferential loan to such a company would send 
a signal that cheating is the best way to get ahead in 
Romania's market economy.  Post therefore strongly opposes 
this loan.  End Summary. 
 
A Surprise from the Local EBRD Representatives 
--------------------------------------------- - 
2. (SBU) An alert member of the Economic Section's staff in 
Bucharest noticed on May 31 an EBRD website announcement 
about a contemplated loan of over 200 million dollars to 
Romanian food and beverage company European Drinks Group. 
She immediately alerted us to this because Embassy considers 
this particular company to be one of the worst in Romania 
for its blatant financial and tax manipulation that helped 
it gain unfair competitive advantage over other companies, 
including Coca-Cola. 
 
3. (SBU) In subsequent communication with the USG's EBRD 
representative in London and in discussions directly with 
EBRD representatives in Bucharest, it became evident that 
EBRD Bucharest had circumvented both the U.S. Embassy and 
U.S. companies in Romania in its so-called "due diligence" 
in investigating European Drinks Group (ED).  This is 
astonishing, because if EBRD had queried companies belonging 
to the American Chamber of Commerce in Bucharest and/or the 
U.S. Embassy, the EBRD's representatives would have heard a 
resounding salvo of complaints about ED. 
 
4. (SBU) According to the project summary document on the 
EBRD website, the European Drinks project has passed the 
concept review and is pending final review.  This makes it 
all the more urgent that officials in Washington and the 
USG's representative to the EBRD in London understand the 
implications of allowing this loan to go forward. 
 
5. (SBU) Post Economic and Commercial Officers have now held 
two information sharing meetings with EBRD local Deputy Head 
of Office and the EBRD's Associate banker responsible for 
the crafting the loan project.  We expressed our 
disappointment at not being put into the process of due 
diligence until the project is seemingly a "done deal." 
Moreover, since it is our strong impression that the EBRD 
has already made a decision to move forward with this 
project, we are providing now to USG officials the same 
basic set of concerns that we submitted to the EBRD in 
Bucharest for its response, rather than wait for the EBRD's 
replies. 
 
A Company with a Reputation for Dubious Business Tactics 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
6. (SBU) Post has heard and read many negative reports about 
this company and the men who control it.  Emerging from the 
raucous early years of post-revolution Romania as 
"entrepreneurs," the main owners of the company, twin 
brothers with the family name Micula, have aggressively 
pursued business growth, seemingly at any price.  They have 
created a network of holding and offshore companies to 
become substantial players in Romania's growing beverages 
and food sector.  They are also allegedly engaged in bribery 
and intimidation as a part of their business strategy. 
However, in a country with pervasive political and 
administrative corruption and a dysfunctional judiciary, 
most of the reports of wrongdoing and corporate malfeasance 
will never even reach a formal legal investigation and will 
almost certainly not be tested in a court of law.  In 
addition, sadly for Romania, officials at every level in 
this country are still easily bought off and will change 
records for a fee. 
 
7. (SBU) Despite the murkiness of the roots of ED's wealth 
and the slipperiness of its owners, Post believes that 
overwhelming circumstantial evidence points to a company 
that has repeatedly manipulated the political and economic 
system in Romania to claw its way to a substantial market 
position to the detriment of honest American companies that 
must hold themselves to a higher standard of integrity. 
 
8. (SBU) The following list outlines our major concerns with 
this company and with the manner in which the local EBRD 
office pursued its "due diligence" for this potential loan: 
- Avoiding American opinions.  As already stated, EBRD's 
work in preparing the loan circumvented the U.S. Embassy in 
Bucharest and also American companies directly harmed by 
ED's business practices.  Post notes that the EBRD's 
Bucharest Deputy Director claims to have consulted with 
other foreign embassies in Bucharest and with the Bucharest- 
based Foreign Investors Council (FIC), on whose Board the 
EBRD's Director sits. 
- Political conflicts of interest. Current Finance Ministry 
Secretary of State Doina Dascalu is married to Romulus 
 
SIPDIS 
Dascalu, director of the "SC Scandic Distilleries SRL" and 
"General Transilvania Exim SRL," firms of the European 
Drinks Group.  People employed by European Drinks Group hold 
political positions in various cities and counties in 
Romania in which the company has received special treatment. 
- Anticompetitive practices using state aid. European Drinks 
has notoriously been one of the main beneficiaries of state 
aid, to the detriment of legitimate corporate taxpayers and 
to free market in Romania. By financing a company that has 
benefited from the distorting mechanism of preferential 
state aid, the EBRD would reinforce the outcome of these 
practices.  This is inconsistent with EBRD's stated goal to 
"help move the country closer to a full market economy." 
- Possible improper externalization of debt by the European 
Drinks Group.  The transfer of two companies of the group 
(General Transilvania Exim and Interstock) that had ROL 450 
billion (about 13.8 million dollars at the average 2004 
exchange rate) in arrears to the state, to two offshore 
companies resulted in decrease of ED's reported arrears. 
Manipulation of ED's books to make it seem less like a tax 
deadbeat is an obvious possible result. 
- Noncompliance with antitrust legislation and other 
financial legislation. European Drinks was allowed to 
purchase state-owned entities (enterprises and hotels) at a 
time when it owed the Romanian treasury back taxes.  Post 
questions how this could have been done legally, since 
Romanian privatization legislation restricts companies with 
budget arrears from purchasing state-owned companies.  These 
probably were not approved by the Romanian Competition 
Council in a manner which will stand up to the current 
intense scrutiny of the European Commission Directorate 
General for Competition. 
- Operations of ED in tax havens. European Drinks 
transferred ownership of Original Prod company to Limerock 
Holdings Limited in Cyprus.  The management of Limerock 
included Traian Bulzan.  At the same time, Mr. Bulzan held a 
managerial position with European Drinks.  Post questions 
the ability of EBRD to perform the necessary due diligence 
for a company with obvious complex ties to offshore entities 
and the possible implications for financial transfers to 
those offshore companies. 
- Intimidation and harassment of Coca-Cola company in 
Romania.  Managers of the local Coca-Cola company in Romania 
have complained many times in the past of the thuggish 
tactics of ED in destroying its property and threatening its 
employees.  Since Coca-Cola is a member of the American 
Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Bucharest and adheres to the 
ethics of the AmCham, it is already in a disadvantaged 
position vis-a-vis many Romanian and other foreign 
competitors in its own choice of business tactics.  In 
addition, Coca-Cola always pays its debts on time; again, 
another disadvantage in its competition with European Drinks 
that seems always able to find a way out of paying its fair 
share of the national tax burden on time. 
- Abuse of customs legislation through imports through 
disadvantaged zones.  American soft drinks companies and the 
Romanian Sugar Association have repeatedly complained about 
ED misusing the custom duty exemption for imports into 
disadvantaged zones to import sugar that it has either re- 
exported or used for soft and alcoholic drinks, in breach of 
Romanian legislation, and with an unfair price advantage 
compared to its law-abiding competitors. 
 
Conclusion 
---------- 
9. (SBU) Post strongly urges the USG to oppose this EBRD 
loan project in order to prevent the American taxpayers' 
money to go to help a company as unsavory as European Drinks 
Group.  Post notes that it is deeply ironic that the stated 
purpose of the EBRD loan is to make ED "more transparent in 
its corporate operations."  We believe that there must be 
honest entrepreneurs in Romania who are already transparent 
and ethical for whom an EBRD loan would enhance their 
ability to compete fairly in a modern market economy. 
 
Delare 

            
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