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Deal 5: ElevenEs CEO Nemanja Mikac on Battery Factory Partnership

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On November 3, 2021, CEE Legal Matters reported that Karanovic & Partners had advised ElevenEs on partnering with EIT InnoEnergy to build a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery factory in Subotica, Serbia. CEE In-House Matters spoke with Nemanja Mikac, CEO at ElevenEs, to learn more about the matter.

CEEIHM: To start, tell us about the Al Pack Group and ElevenEs.

Mikac: ElevenEs is an industrial spin-off of the multinational Al Pack Group, which produces more than 40 million square meters of processed aluminum foils every year and has been operating on the packaging market for more than 25 years. The Al Pack Group uses processes similar to electrode manufacturing, which is a key process in battery production. ElevenEs has an advanced research and development center that has been operating since June 2021 in Subotica, Serbia, on the premises of its parent company. It employs an international team of engineers and scientists.

CEEIHM: What about the partnership with EIT InnoEnergy to build a lithium iron phosphate battery factory in Subotica, Serbia – how did this partnership come to be?

Mikac: We are very proud that EIT InnoEnergy chose to support us at the beginning of this huge and exciting journey. We have been working together for the past last year and a half so they became quite familiar with how easily we can transfer our know-how in the aluminum packaging industry to cell production. As you already know, LFP batteries are the next big thing in this field of industry. By 2023, the ElevenEs plant will be able to produce LFP cells with a total estimated annual capacity of 300 megawatt hours. The construction of the 100% renewable energy-powered 8 t plant in Subotica (Serbia) will start in 2024. It will later be expanded to a capacity of 16 Gigawatt hours – enough to equip more than 300,000 electric vehicles (BEVs) with batteries each year.

CEEIHM: And what does the partnership entail precisely?

Mikac: The most important thing from this partnership is that someone recognized our project as important, not just locally, but on the European scale. This gives us real support, recognition that we are moving in the right direction, and a motivation boost to continue. From a technical point of view, this support opens many doors and will help us to make connections throughout the entire supply chain, but also through the complete downstream, which includes contacts with large OEMs.

On the financial side, we now have the credibility to approach a wide range of funds, investors, and financial organizations. The authority that InnoEnergy will, in negotiations with them, give a good reference, and guarantee that the entire project and investment is sustainable in the long run.

CEEIHM: What were the most complex aspects of the agreement from your perspective?

Mikac: Coordinating our start-up thinking with the need to stay within project boundaries. When leading a start-up sometimes you have a need to react fast and seize an opportunity, no matter if it is not defined by the project. That can be some research direction or an amazing hire that was not predicted by the budget. Sometimes you will pivot around some concept to increase productivity or performance while sacrificing something else. I have to say that InnoEnergy is an amazing partner on that and we find a lot of deep understanding of both industry and start-up process from them.  

CEEIHM: Why did you turn to Karanovic & Partners for advice on this matter?

Mikac: When you are trying to build an amazing enterprise, you have to work with partners that will enable your vision and empower your quest. Not just regarding one subject but as a crucial guiding principle.  

When it comes to corporate and commercial law, Karanovic & Partners is one of the leading companies in the region. For us, it was very important to have a world-class partner, who has expertise in different areas. So when we need high-level negotiating (e.g. term sheets), tax, employment, or intellectual property support, in Karanovic we have found a great and safe partner. Also, personal experiences from the past gave us much-needed confidence to choose them.  

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