Banking, Finance & CM

Croatia: Selling an NPL but Buying Business Unit – Can it be?

The sale of NPLs increased in Croatia in the last years. What could materially hit buyers is if an NPL sale ends up as a transfer of a business unit.

Transfer of a business unit – potential repercussions

Over the past two years, the sale of non-performing loans 1 (“NPL”) has gained momentum in Croatia, with a dozen NPL transactions initiated and quite a number completed. In 2015, banks alone sold EUR 500 million NPL claims (including off-balance sheet items). One of the legal issues that emerged in NPL transactions that could materially hit buyers is whether an NPL transaction can end up in a transfer of a business unit of a creditor. Some repercussions of this include extra liability of the buyer for debts of the business unit, automatic transfer of employees and different tax treatment (eg application of VAT).

Transfer of debts of a business unit to the acquirer arises out of the Croatian Civil Code of Obligations. Accordingly, the person to whom a business unit or a part of a business unit is contractually transferred shall be liable for debts pertaining to such unit or its part, jointly and severally with the previous holder, up to the value of assets of the business unit (whereas provisions on excluding or limiting liability in the agreement would produce no legal effect towards third-party creditors).

The transfer of a business unit’s employees to the acquirer arises out of the Croatian Labour Act. Thus, if a legal transaction results in the transfer of a business unit/undertaking, businesses or parts thereof (retaining their economic integrity), all employment contracts of the workers employed with that business unit or part thereof – or of those who are connected with the business or part of business being transferred – shall be transferred to the new employer (the buyer). The affected workers shall retain the rights arising from their employment with the previous employer, including rights under applicable collective bargaining agreements, patronage of workers’ council, if any, etc. In addition, the new and the old employer shall be jointly and severally liable for obligations to the employees that arose prior to the transfer.

Defining a business unit

In the absence of a civil/corporate law definition of a business unit, such a definition shall be sought in Croatian legal texts (traditionally relying on German law and legal writings).

Accordingly, a business unit shall be regarded as a conglomerate of objective, subjective and organisational components, with objective components being the assets without which the business unit cannot operate, subjective components being eg the skills of the employees, and organisational components being the platform interconnecting objective and subjective components (managers, business plans, budget, etc.). It is an organised economic and legal unity – a living organism, without prejudice to the importance of any of the components for the life of the unit. In addition, a business unit needs to have a market presence (with permanent direction) and the goal of making a profit.

Among local laws, only the Croatian General Tax Code provides a definition of a “business unit”, calling it an aggregate of all assets and obligations which, in an economic and organisational sense, make a standalone entity/unity capable of independently carrying out its activities. Further tax regulations define “transfer of business unit” as a transfer of the assets, claims, rights and obligations that make up the short-term and long-term assets of the business (enterprise) so that it can continue to independently carry out its activities as a going concern.

The management of an NPL portfolio can easily be regarded as a living organisation on a standalone basis through the cited components: objective (loans and assets), subjective (manpower handling the portfolio) and organisational (separate part of workout department of the creditor, assigned personal, budget, IT support, etc). Nevertheless, it is certain that a material number of NPL transactions will not trigger this issue, nor was this the original intention of the Croatian regulator of the banking sector – the Croatian National Bank. Yet, over and above the regulations, a due standard of professional care in NPL transactions implies legal, financial and tax analyses via facti on a case-by-case basis.

Therefore, the answer to whether or not an NPL sale has the potential to lead to the transfer of a business unit lies in a proper due diligence. Some of the parameters to be examined are: the structure of the portfolio, the percentage of the portfolio (compared to the entire size of the creditor’s portfolio), the percentage of the creditor’s employees handling the portfolio (compared to the entire size of the creditor’s staff), the percentage of non-performing clients of the creditor (among all the creditor’s clients), etc. While the risk of business transfer is latent in most NPL transactions, it lies in the hands of the potential buyer and must be carefully addressed.

Nevertheless, it is certain that a material number of NPL transactions will not trigger this issue, nor was this the original intention of the Croatian regulator of the banking sector – the Croatian National Bank. Yet, over and above the regulations, a due standard of professional care in NPL transactions implies legal, financial and tax analyses via facti on a case-by-case basis.

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Commonly covers all exposures to the client where at least one claim is due for more than 90 days or it is deemed probable that the borrower will not meet its obligations in full.

Hrvatska: Prodaja NPL-ova, ali kupnja poslovne cjeline – može li se tako?

Prodaja NPL-ova u Hrvatskoj intenzivirala se u proteklim godinama. Ono što može u bitnome utjecati na kupce jest ako prodaja NPL-a završi kao prijenos poslovne cjeline.

Prijenos poslovne cjeline – potencijalne posljedice

Tijekom protekle dvije godine u Hrvatskoj je prodaja neprihodonosnih plasmana 2 (“NPL”) dobila na zamahu s preko desetak započetih NPL transakcija od kojih je dobar dio i završen. U 2015. godini samo banke su prodale NPL-ove u vrijednosti od oko 0,5 milijardi € (uključujući i izvanbilančna pot-raživanja). Jedno od pravnih pitanja koje se postavilo u NPL transakcijama, a koje u bitnome može utjecati na kupce, jest može li se NPL transakcija pretvoriti u prijenos poslovne cjeline prodavatelja. Neke od pos-ljedica toga uključuju solidarnu odgovornost kupca za dugove poslovne cjeline, au-tomatski prijenos zaposlenika i drugačiji porezni tretman transakcije (primjerice primjenjivost PDV-a).

Prijenos dugova poslovne cjeline na kupca proizlazi iz hrvatskog Zakona o obveznim odnosima. Sukladno tome, osoba na koju na temelju ugovora prijeđe neka poslovna cjelina ili neki njen dio, odgovorna je za dugove koji se na nju odnose, pored dota-dašnjeg imatelja i solidarno s njim, do vri-jednosti aktive poslovne cjeline (pri čemu odredbe ugovora kojima bi se isključivala ili ograničavala odgovornost nemaju pravni učinak prema trećim vjerovnicima).

Prijenos radnika poslovne cjeline na kupca proizlazi iz hrvatskog Zakona o radu. Nai-me, ukoliko transakcija rezultira prijenosom poslovne cjeline/poduzeća, gospodarskih djelatnosti ili nekog njihovog dijela (a koji zadržava svoju gospodarsku cjelovitost), svi ugovori o radu radnika koji rade u toj poslovnoj cjelini ili nekom njezinom dijelu – ili koji su vezani uz obavljanje te go-spodarske djelatnosti ili nekog njezinog di-jela – bit će preneseni na novog poslodavca (ovdje kupca). Tim radnicima zadržavaju se sva prava koja proizlaze iz njihovih ugovora o radu s prethodnim poslodavcem, uk-ljučujući prava iz važećih kolektivnih ugo-vora, obveze prema radničkom vijeću, uko-liko ih ima, itd. Dodatno, novi i stari poslo-davac solidarno su odgovorni za obveze prema radnicima nastale do dana prijenosa poslovne cjeline.

Definiranje poslovne cjeline

U nedostatku građansko-trgovačko pravne definicije poslovne cjeline, takvu definiciju treba tražiti u hrvatskoj pravnoj literaturi koja se tradicionalno oslanja na njemačku pravnu stečevinu. Shodno tome, poslovna cjelina se smatra kao konglomerat objek-tivnih, subjektivnih i organizacijskih elemenata. Pod objektivnim elementima podrazumijeva se imovina bez koje poslov-na cjelina ne može poslovati, pod subjek-tivnim elementima primjerice vještine i Stoga, odgovor na pitanje ima li ili ne pro-daja NPL-ova potencijal da rezultira prije-nosom poslovne cjeline leži upravo u rezul-tatu pravilno provedenog due diligence-a. Neki od parametara na koje treba svakako obratiti pažnju jesu: struktura portfelja, postotak portfelja koji se prodaje (u odnosu na ukupni portfelj prodavatelja), postotak prodavateljevih zaposlenika koji su angaži-rani na portfelju (u odnosu na ukupan broj zaposlenika), postotak prodavateljevih kli-jenata u zakašnjenju (u odnosu na ukupan broj klijenata) i slično. Iako je rizik prijeno-sa poslovne cjeline latentan kod najvećeg broja NPL transakcija, na strani potencijal-nog kupca ipak postoji te zbog toga mora biti adekvatno adresiran.

Ipak, jasno je da najznačajniji broj NPL transakcija neće inicirati ovaj problem, a niti je to bila namjera hrvatskog regulatora bankarskog sektora – Hrvatske narodne banke. Međutim, uzevši u obzir sve gore navedene propise, zahtijevani standard profesionalne pažnje u sklopu NPL transak-cije implicira pravne, financijske i porezne analize via facti od slučaja do slučaja.

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Uobičajeno pokriva sve izloženosti prema klijentu gdje dužnik kasni s podmirivanjem obveza dulje od 90 dana ili se smatra vjerojatnim da dužnik neće u cijelosti podmiriti svoje obveze.

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