20 Apr SEAF Exits Serbian Supermarket Company Gomex
SEAF has completed the exit of Gomex, a holding in the South Balkan Fund. Founded by Goran Kovacevic, Gomex is a supermarket company with stores across the country of Serbia.
Goran arrived in Serbia as a penniless immigrant, displaced from his home in Bosnia as part of the ethnic realignments by the warring factions in the Balkan conflict. Goran founded Gomex in 1997 as a wholesaler in Northeastern Serbia, a region of the country with historically high unemployment and little economic investment.
SEAF invested in Gomex in 2007, at a time when it operated only 16 stores with 306 employees. Gomex has since evolved into a neighborhood-supermarket concept: its stores are big enough to offer a wide selection at competitive prices, but small enough to be located near customers in congested urban areas. Today, Gomex is one of the most important employers in the country, employing approximately 2,500 employees at 207 stores. Following SEAF’s investment, Gomex was able to grow its employee base 9.7x, and increase its sales revenue 9.3x.
Gomex is now a sought-after employer in the region. Well-paying jobs and generous benefits packages have motivated employees to create a positive work environment. Minorities, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups are welcomed at Gomex, noticeable in the approximately 76% female makeup of the workforce, including a co-founder and two executive managers.
As a refugee himself, Goran has emphasized providing sustainable employment, particularly to young adults. Training programs and providing paths to career growth have garnered a loyal workforce and alleviated the region’s high youth unemployment rate. This and Gomex’s continued dedication to sourcing local food products, with an emphasis on sustainable foods, and engaging in charitable activities have made Gomex a significant regional source of development.
SEAF provided Gomex extensive post-investment business assistance, including:
- Recruiting industry experts to train employees across all organizational levels, ranging from store managers to senior staff;
- Playing a vital role in selecting Gomex’s management team;
- Analyzing potential targets for Gomex to acquire;
- Negotiating favorable financing terms with banks and suppliers; and
- Facilitating a partnership with Spar, Migros and Dekamarrkt, leading European grocery chains, and bringing in their senior management to advise Gomex on its store layouts, cost management, merchandising and expansion planning.
With the investment from SEAF, Gomex successfully penetrated the Vojvodina region as well as Central Serbia.
CEECAT Capital has recently acquired a majority stake in Gomex, capitalizing on Gomex’s strong brand and network, which will further accelerate Gomex’s growth and market position in Serbia. The investment in Gomex is CEECAT Capital’s first investment in Serbia and the fifth investment in its new fund, CEECAT Fund II. CEECAT Capital has also set up a new office in Belgrade from which it will look to source and execute further deals in the region.
CEECAT Fund II focuses on regional champions, supporting the Fund’s themes driven by core convergence, customer orientation, export competitiveness, and import substitution in the fast-growing markets of Emerging Europe.
Anthony Stalker, Partner, CEECAT Capital noted, “We look to investing in companies that have the potential to emerge as regional leaders in their core industry. Gomex has proven its capabilities with its successful penetration and leadership position in Northern Serbia. We will enhance and support the existing strong core management team and invest into the human capital backbone of Gomex to catalyze its next phase of growth. Our target is to help create the means for Gomex to fulfill its potential to emerge as the national leader in grocery retail in the neighborhood/convenience format, building on the work that Goran has done with SEAF over the past 15 years.”
On the investment from CEECAT, Goran stated, “I established Gomex to fulfill my dream of building a leading nation-wide grocery retailer. With the dedication of our stakeholders and employees, we have developed Gomex to its current stage. With the help of CEECAT Capital, Gomex will accelerate its growth and will have a more powerful claim to be one of the leaders in its industry with this investment.”
Hubertus van der Vaart, Co-Founder and CIO of SEAF agreed, saying, “Goran was a wonderful partner who has built a robust and highly successful business benefitting virtually all of northern Serbia. We wish our friends at CEECAT Capital every success in working with Goran to grow Gomex to a nationally successful neighborhood grocery store chain.”
SEAF is an SEC-registered global impact investment management company located in Washington, D.C, with 15 offices in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Utilizing an ESG+ investment approach, SEAF selectively makes structured debt and equity investments in locally-owned small and medium enterprises in emerging markets that have high growth potential, focusing on the key impact themes of climate resilience, food security, and inclusion. Over the past three decades, SEAF has managed more than 40 Funds with over 400 investments across 33 countries.
About CEECAT Capital
CEECAT Capital advises funds investing in small and mid market companies in Emerging Europe and Central Asia. Our investors include global financial institutions, pension funds, endowments and family offices. Our mission is to create long-term value for our investors by investing in and promoting the growth of our portfolio companies.