Private sector investment is another important component of the partnership between the United States and Serbia. The United States is one of the largest foreign direct investors in Serbia, with total committed investments of over $1.5 billion. In addition, U.S. companies employ over 16,000 Serbians while supporting many more additional jobs when you factor in partners, suppliers, and downstream beneficiaries.
Through our Foreign Commercial Service, the level of U.S. commercial interest in Serbia continues to grow. U.S. investment in Serbia strengthens the economy, while creating jobs. Such investment also increases bilateral trade, creating new opportunities for both U.S. exporters and local businesses.
Major U.S. investments in Serbia include the Philip Morris Corporation purchase of the Nis Tobacco Factory (DIN) in August 2003. Philip Morris has invested EUR 636 million and employs more than 1,150 people. Colorado-based Ball Corporation made the largest green-field investment in Serbia to date with a $75 million investment to produce beverage cans.
In February 2005 the Coca Cola Company purchased bottled water producer Vlasinka, for EUR 21.5 million. In January 2008, Merrill Lynch purchased a 25% stake in real estate firm MPC Properties and subsequently worked to build the Usce Mall in New Belgrade. In August 2008, PepsiCo invested over EUR 200 million to acquire Marbo.
The U.S.-Serbia commercial relationship is not just restricted to investment. More U.S. companies are looking for agents, distributors, and representatives in Serbia, which again, increases employment and economic prosperity. U.S. Embassy Belgrade is active in promoting other sector-specific opportunities in Serbia such as film production and franchising.
We also actively engage with the American Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations to help formulate strategies to improve the overall business environment in Serbia in order to continue to attract U.S. business to Serbia.
In August 2003, The Philip Morris Corporation purchased the Nis Tobacco Factory (DIN) through the privatization process. Phillip Morris’ total investment of EUR 636 million makes it the single largest U.S. investor in Serbia.
Van Drunen Farms: The Illinois-based privately-held company invested in an agro-processing venture in late 2002. The first phase of investment was $15 million and is expected to increase to $40 million. The facility engages in the drying/freezing/crushing of fruits to develop extracts and flavors for biotech uses. It is preparing the majority of its products for export.
Ball Corporation: Colorado-based Ball Corporation made the largest U.S. green-field investment in Serbia to date, with construction of a new factory for the production of aluminum beverage cans. Total investment has thus far reached EUR 50 million. The facility exports more than half of its production to support Ball customers in other markets within the region.
The Coca Cola Company: In February 2005 Coca-Cola Co. and Greek Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co. (CCHBC) joined forces to acquire 100% of water bottler Vlasinka from Serbian furniture maker Simpo. Coca-Cola paid EUR 21.5 million for Vlasinka’s capital.