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Erste Group Said to Win Croat Highway Advisory Contract

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Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- A group led by Austria’s Erste Group Bank AG won an $8.6 million contract to advise the Croatian government’s search for an operator of the country’s new highway system, Transport Minister Sinisa Hajdas Doncic said.

Other members of the group are Deloitte LLP and Wolf Theiss Rechtsanwalte GmbH. The future operator will run the highway system for 30-35 years for as much as 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion), Doncic said today at a press conference in Zagreb.

Croatia is working to improve its infrastructure, including highways and bridges, as it prepares to join the European Union in July. The government owes banks an estimated 3.7 billion euros ($4.8 billion) for financing road construction in the Balkan country.

“The criteria for selection were business references and financial concerns” ie money they wanted,’’ Hajdas Doncic said. “We will only sign the contract with the future operator if their model satisfies us.”

The other seven bidders included Macquarie Group Ltd., Goldman Sachs International, BNP Paribas SA, N M Rothschild & Sons, as well as Zagrebacka Banka d.d., a unit of UniCredit SpA, in a joint bid with JP Morgan Chase & Co. They have 15 days to appeal the award, the minister said.

Erste’s group had the lowest bid in a range that reached 86 million kuna.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jasmina Kuzmanovic in Zagreb at jkuzmanovic@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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