Business

20 Nov 2019, 12:18 PM

STA, 19 November 2019 - The Ljubljana-based energy equipment maker Kolektor Etra has acquired the Polish company Weltech for EUR 7 million in what the company's management sees as a key acquisition in terms of market share, with Kolektor Etra outbidding two rival companies and two financial funds, the business newspaper Finance reports.

Based in Myslowice near Katowice and employing 180 people, Weltech last year generated EUR 9.6 million in revenue and operated at a profit.

It produces power tanks and traction tanks, with its key clients including Germany's Siemens and France's JST Transformateurs, the latter being its previous majority owner.

Peter Novak, the commercial director of the Slovenian manufacturer of power transformers and power generator transformers, has told Finance that four more bidders had been in play to acquire Weltech.

It has outbid two industry rivals - Siemens and SGB - and two financial funds, Novak said, adding that the interest had been high as it was hard to find good and reliable suppliers of power tanks as one of the key components of power transformers.

According to Kolektor Etra director Tomaž Kmecl, producers of tanks are actually dictating the market, while Novak added that Weltech was punctual and reliable and was one of the best power tank producers in Europe.

The acquisition cost EUR 7 million, with a 51% stake going to Kolektor Etra and the remaining shares to three companies from the Kolektor group.

Asked whether there was concern about Siemens ceasing to order tanks from Weltech now that the rival company had acquired it, Novak said that nothing implied that Siemens had "something against us becoming owners of the Polish plant."

Even if Siemens indeed reduced its orders from Weltech, Kolektor Etra's "demand for tanks is higher than planned, so they will be supplied by our new Polish factory."

Kolektor Etra generated 90% of its revenue on foreign markets, with the Nordic countries accounting for almost half of the exports or 40% of total sales.

Last year it surpassed the EUR 100m mark in revenue and posted a EUR 4.5 million net profit, while plans for this year is to reach EUR 110 million in revenue.

In the summer, Kolektor Etra signed a deal to produce, supply and install seven 400 kW power transformers to the Finnish national grid operator Fingrid by 2023. Worth EUR 20 million, it is the largest in the company's history.

19 Nov 2019, 09:43 AM

STA, 18 November 2019 - National grid operator ELES officially launched in Beričevo on Monday a high tech diagnostics and analytics centre that is meant to enable a systematic approach to energy infrastructure management.

The primary goals of the centre, whose costs so far have amounted to EUR 730,000, include the planning, construction, expansion, modification and maintenance of energy infrastructure, the head of the centre Uroš Kerin told the press.

By making use of the digital potential, the objective is to monitor the efficiency of the network in real time, optimise costs and also find optimal solution in crisis moments.

Kerin explained the energy sector was being affected by a number of new trends, including new energy sources, new technologies and digitalisation.

New players are emerging on the market that are no longer only using the network as a source of energy but as a means for activities while power production is no longer only passive.

"The network is getting older, which is why it will be necessary to think about modernisation and due to new players also about voltage changes," Kerin said.

The new diagnostics and analytics centre, which will bring together experts from various disciplines, will be of help as these decisions are adopted.

18 Nov 2019, 16:00 PM

STA, 18 November 2019 - The Slovenian Business Club (SBC) has launched a programme with which it wants to promote entrepreneurship in society as a value and do away with what it believes is stigmatisation of entrepreneurs in society. The initiative aims at associating representatives of various social groups and calls on the public to present their proposals.

 SBC executive director Goran Novković told the press in Ljubljana on Monday as he presented the For Entrepreneurial Slovenia programme that the club wanted to contribute to raising awareness about the role of entrepreneurship in development and social welfare.

They also want to "reduce the still present stigmatisation of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs" and strengthen entrepreneurship as a value, according to him.

Novković noted that the programme is much more than only promotion of entrepreneurship, as it was also about encouraging entrepreneurial spirit, i.e. courage, creativity, inventiveness, ambitiousness, enthusiasm and other things associated with that.

He added that, if these values were emphasised and appreciated more, the foundations for development would be established. This requires changes both in politics and the social climate and mindset in general, which is why it will be a multi-year campaign.

According to the SBC executive director, more entrepreneurship means fewer unemployed persons, better jobs, higher wages, more career opportunities, creativity, equality and higher budget revenues and pensions etc.

"The more entrepreneurship there is, the better we will live," he said, adding that Slovenians had apparently failed to adopt that simple logic.

Novković believes that there is still a huge difference in the attitude towards entrepreneurs in Slovenia and in the economically successful countries Slovenia models itself after, and that the line between tycoons or greedy business executives who destroy jobs and successful entrepreneurs who create them is still frequently being blurred.

The initiative will be interactive, with a steering committee, featuring representatives of various social groups, watching over it. It is a new, broader social dialogue supporting entrepreneurship, he said, adding that the SBC did not want to be part of the Economic and Social Council (ESS), as it was not really efficient.

On the other hand, the public will be able to contribute their proposals for measures and policies for boosting entrepreneurship on a special website. The proposals will be examined and a selection of them will be presented to political decision-makers.

Štefan Pavlinjek, the boss of the industrial group Roto and co-founder of the SBC, said that the objective should be that Slovenia became a country of entrepreneurs and employers, instead of relying on workers, especially those in companies with a low added value.

"We must know how to live off our brains, not only our hands," he said, adding that this meant that Slovenia should promote the employment of highly educated people, prevent skilled young staff from leaving the country and strive to be globally successful on the basis of innovativeness.

Also present were some members of the steering committee, including Alma Kochavy, the co-founder of the Odprta Kuhna open-air kitchen project, young adult fiction author Žiga Gombač, Janez Kodila of the meat processing company Šunkarna Kodila and innovative farmer Matic Vizjak.

They said they wanted to promote entrepreneurship with their examples and experience, especially among young people. The press conference also heard calls for a more stimulative environment for development of entrepreneurship, to help those who have ideas but lack capital.

The related website is here, while you can also follow the SBC on Facebook

18 Nov 2019, 11:24 AM

STA, 14 November 2019 - The Slovenian-founded omni-channel retailer Studio Moderna got a new CEO, as Jan Heere, former global managing director of the cosmetic division at Percassi Group, was appointed to the post on Thursday. He will succeed Adrian Burleton, who was CEO for the last eight years. Burleton will go on to become chairman.

Prior to his post at Percassi Group, Heere held various senior positions at a Spanish multinational clothing company Inditex, and also served as international director at Marks and Spencer.

Studio Moderna, founded in 1992 by Sandi Češko, one of the richest Slovenians, started out as a distribution channel for Kosmodisk, a product against back pain, and has since evolved into a leading omni-channel e-commerce and direct-to-consumer platform in Central and East Europe.

Mr & Mrs Login the Richest Slovenians Again, with an Estimated €689m

It currently employs some 7,000 people, while its network reaches more than 360 million consumers across 21 markets.

Češko has recently sold his half of the Studio Moderna Holdings, which is headquartered in the Netherlands and holds a key role in Studio Moderna, to the owners of the other half, financial funds Insight Venture Partners, Templeton, General Atlantic and JH Partners.

Češko has only kept the part of the company specialising in mattresses, encompassing the brands Dormeo and Octaspring, but only for western markets, Asia and the US, the newspaper Finance reported in September.

Češko told the paper that the Studio Moderna group's revenue totalled EUR 470 million last year.

Češko's 55% share in the holding was estimated at EUR 283 million last year, but this included the Netherlands-based company Studio Moderna Brands, whose value was estimated at EUR 50 million. The latter remains in Češko's ownership, according to Finance.

18 Nov 2019, 09:20 AM

STA, 14 November 2019 - Matjaž Merkan, the chairman and CEO of the state-owned telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije, has resigned after less than two months on the job effective immediately.

 The resignation, submitted at a supervisory board session on Thursday, comes after days of media reports that Merkan was on his way out.

Radio Slovenija said he stepped down after refusing to launch an inquiry into his predecessor Rudolf Skobe, whose tenure has been in the spotlight after Telekom has been ordered by an arbitration tribunal to pay millions to the Greek Antenna Group, which wants to exit a media joint venture.

TV Slovenija has quoted anonymous people privy to information that he was not up to the job.

The company today rejected these reports and said he was resigning for personal reasons.

His deputy, Tomaž Seljak, will serve as interim boss until a new chairman is appointed, Telekom announced.

Before coming to Telekom, Merkan headed Weiler Abrasives, the maker of abrasives formerly known as SwatyComet, for just over six years.

In the afternoon, Telekom issued a statement that the supervisors also decided to change Skobe's termination contract today.

In April, Telekom and Skobe agreed that his employment would be terminated on 29 February 2020. But under the changes made today, Skobe's employment will be terminated at the end of the month.

TV Slovenija said that Skobe was no longer needed by the supervisors. Earlier termination means Skobe will not get ten salaries and severance as stipulated in the original agreement but only seven salaries.

15 Nov 2019, 17:07 PM

STA, 15 November 2019 - The average wage in Slovenia amounted to EUR 1,712.11 gross or EUR 1,105.26 net in September, a decrease of 0.8% on August in nominal terms and of 0.6% in real terms in both cases, the Statistics Office said on Friday. It pointed to lower one-off payments as the main reason for the decrease.

Household Disposable Income Rose 5.5% in 2018, Highest in Koroška, Lowest in Pomurje

Compared to September 2018, the average gross wage in September was 4.9% higher in nominal terms, while in the first nine months of the year it increased by 4.3% year-on-year in nominal and by 2.6% in real terms.

In the private sector, the monthly decrease was 1.3%, while the average wage in the public sector remained almost level.

Foreign Nationals in Slovenia, by Country, Region & Continent

The highest average net wage was recorded in electricity, gas and steam supply, where it stood at EUR 1,518.66, followed by finance and insurance with EUR 1,512.66.

The central Osrednjeslovenska statistical region had the highest average wage. Amounting to EUR 1,199.86 it was 8.6% higher than the Slovenian average. The southern Primorsko-Notranjska region had the lowest, at EUR 1,000.72.

See more statistics on Slovenia here

14 Nov 2019, 17:01 PM

STA, 14 November - The total assets of 100 wealthiest Slovenians amount to EUR 5.6 billion, down 2% over 2018, the magazine Manager says on Thursday, attributing the drop to a worse outlook for doing business. The spouses Iza Sia Login and Samo Login continue to top the list for the sixth year running.

The Logins are the main founders of Outfit7, the company which has developed globally popular apps, which was sold for US$1 billion to China's United Luck Group in 2017.

Their assets are estimated at EUR 689 million, the same as in 2018.

Similarly, the second placed Sandi Češko and his partner Livija Dolanc have recently sold their 55% stake in Studio Moderna, an omni-channel retailer.

But their wealth is estimated much lower than that of the Logins, at EUR 296 million, a drop of 11% from last year.

Marko Pistotnik is another former owner of Outfit7 among the top 10, placing third with assets worth EUR 210 million, flat with 2018.

Placing fourth is the Lah family of financial investors with EUR 169 million, up 11%, followed by Joc Pečečnik, owner of gaming products provider Interblock, with EUR 155 million, down 20%.

Igor Akrapovič, the owner of exhaust maker Akrapovič, placed sixth with EUR 135 million, up 4%, while Damian Merlak, who sold his cryptocurrency exchange Bitstamp last year, is eighth with EUR 124m.

Rounding off the top ten rankings is construction magnate Dari Južna and his spouse Vesna Južna, whom Manager estimates to have EUR 111 million, up 10%.

The biggest leap was made by Boštjan Bandelj, founder of Belektron, a fast-growing company trading in emission coupons. His assets rose by 150% to EUR 98.8 million.

The magazine says that ever more founders of companies managing parking lots make it to the 100 top list, having constantly invested in the companies developing them to net tens of million euros.

The profit and loss statements of the companies owned by the wealthiest lot show that many have practically no debt, Manager points out.

This year's list features only one newcomer, while ten individuals or families made it to the list again after a break.

The magazine also notes that the least wealthy of the 100 richest Slovenians has EUR 22.2 million in assets, EUR 2 million less than the last-placed last year.

TOP 10

1  Iza and Samo Login             EUR 689m (+0%)
2  Sandi Češko and Livija Dolanc  EUR 296m (-11%)
3  Marko Pistotnik                EUR 210m (+0%)
4  Lah family                     EUR 169m (+11%)
5  Joc Pečečnik                   EUR 155m (-20%)
6  Igor Akrapovič                 EUR 135m (+4%)
7  Tatjana and Albin Doberšek     EUR 126m (-31%)
8  Damian Merlak                  EUR 124m (+0%)
9  Franc Frelih                   EUR 112m (+20%)
10 Dari and Vesna Južna           EUR 111m (+10%)
14 Nov 2019, 09:29 AM

STA, 12 November 2019 - Several civil initiatives turned to the OECD over the plans of the British oil and gas exploration company Ascent Resources for hydraulic fracturing in eastern Slovenia. The move comes after the company announced it would demand damages from Slovenia for delays in obtaining a permit for the controversial gas extraction project.

The civil initiatives and organisations filed a complaint on Tuesday with the Slovenian and British national contact points for the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, demanding that Ascent Resources fully adhere to the guidelines.

"Given the gravity of the potential harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing adhering to the guidelines could very well mean that Ascent Resources will have to stop these activities immediately," said Lidija Živčič of NGO Focus, one of the 17 participating organisations and initiatives.

They believe Ascent Resources has in many aspects not adhered to the guidelines on corporate social responsibility, especially when it comes to the contribution to sustainable development, as hydraulic fracturing has been found to have multiple negative effects on local environment, people's health and the climate.

According to the civil initiatives, Ascent Resources also violated those guidelines by avoiding the legal constraints and claiming that hydraulic fracturing would not affect the environment.

"Ascent Resources also violated OECD guidelines through inconsistent implementation of due diligence measures and measures to minimise risks, but also by not demanding corporate social responsibility from its affiliate and contractors in Slovenia."

The NGOs claim that this is the first case of a complaint to the national contact point of OECD in Slovenia. "We expect the OECD to recognise the gravity of the violations and demand from the company to strictly implement the guidelines even if that meant Ascent Resources has to stop its fracking activities in Slovenia," Živčič said.

Operating in a joint venture with Geoenergo, which is co-owned by the Slovenian state-controlled energy companies Petrol and Nafta Lendava, the UK company wants to extract gas on a large scale in Petišovci in east Slovenia despite much controversy and problems in obtaining environmental permits.

The company announced this summer it would demand EUR 50 million in damages from Slovenia for delays in obtaining a permit to develop the Petišovci gas field.

It also plans to lodge an investment treaty arbitration claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

It decided for the move after the Environment Ministry upheld a decision of the Environment Agency that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit are necessary before the project could start because the location of the gas wells was close to water sources and agricultural land.

All our stories on this case are here

13 Nov 2019, 10:07 AM

STA, 12 November 2019 - The ultralight electric aircraft maker Pipistrel confirmed on Tuesday that it had submitted a bid for the Adria Airways flight school, which is part of the bankruptcy estate of the former flag carrier. Pipistrel is bidding for the school as a whole, including all its assets, brand and licence.

A day after the call for bids for Adria assets came to a conclusion, Pipistrel owner Ivo Boscarol told the STA that the company wanted to keep the pilot school at Brnik airport and also expand it to Maribor airport.

"Pipistrel already has its own aviation academy but we would like to upgrade it with Adria's and merge them," said Boscarol.

The plan is to move Pipistrel's aviation academy, now based in Ajdovščina, to Brnik and in part to Maribor airport, with the latter being very suitable for pilot training, both at the beginners' level as well as advanced, according to Boscarol.

He said that Pipistrel had decided to bid because Adria's flight school had a very good reputation. "The Adria brand stood for high-quality training and we want it to stay in Slovenian hands," he said.

The merger with Pipistrel's aviation academy would also benefit the Adria flight school, which would get an on-line academy, allowing advanced training to pilots for large aircraft.

Moreover, some of Adria's students have already switched to Pipistrel after the receivership was launched in late September, and so did some of the Adria instructors, he added.

Adria Airways receiver Janez Pustatičnik announced today that five bids came in for the flag carrier's estate. He also said that he would meet with potential buyers on Thursday and Friday and that one bidder was from abroad.

According to public broadcaster TV Slovenija, bids have also been submitted by another two Slovenian entrepreneurs.

Joc Pečečnik, who owns a gaming products maker, has submitted a bid for the entire estate in cooperation with a partner from abroad.

The business newspaper Finance meanwhile said that Pečenik's plan was to build a new Adria with the help of the carrier's former CEO Mark Anžur.

Meanwhile, produce importer and real estate developer Izet Rastoder is bidding for the carrier's air operator's certificate (AOC), the licence that permits commercial flying.

13 Nov 2019, 08:03 AM

STA, 12 November 2019 - The mayor of Velenje has appealed to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec to prevent the head office of the household appliances maker Gorenje being moved to Ljubljana as planned by its new Chinese owners.

Mayor Bojan Kontič sees the plans, announced by Gorenje in late October, as yet another step to centralisation, which he says is one of Slovenia's key problems.

A press release from the Velenje city said that the mayor's letter of protest had been forwarded to Chinese Ambassador to Slovenia Wang Shunqing, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Boštjan Gorjup and the media.

The reaction comes after Gorenje announced it would split up into two companies as part of its integration a year after it was taken over by Hisense.

The management and administration was to move to Hisense Europe, headquartered in Ljubljana, which was to provide corporate support services for all Hisense companies in Europe.

Production was to remain based in Velenje, now Slovenia's sixth largest city where Gorenje has been operating since its inception in 1950.

The release from the city administration expressed concern over the latest activities and plans in what has been the pillar of the local economy for seven decades and one of Slovenia's largest exporters.

"The current situation at the company, the new management's plans and the mood among the employees are far from the promises and commitments the new owners made upon the takeover," reads the release.

The local government met Gorenje chief managing director Chao Liu and representatives of the staff and their trade union in recent days over what it described in today's release as a critical situation.

The employees are worried and scared because of conflicting information about the company's plans and future, which they do not get until after they have become facts, say the city authorities.

"Due to substantial pressure on stepping up the work tempo, sickness absences are getting longer, increasingly many qualified staff is leaving, employees, including those with disabilities are being made redundant, and discontent among the employees is growing by the day."

Arguing that moving highly-qualified staff to Ljubljana does not augur well, the city authorities say they believe the Gorenje management can run the company as well as it stays in Velenje.

The local authorities are also concerned about Gorenje's plan to move its call centre to Serbia, saying it suggests the management was planning to keep only production at minimum possible costs in Velenje.

In response to the mayor's letter, Gorenje said that calls on the prime minister to interfere in business decisions of a fully privately-owned company were unjustified and illegitimate.

The company is planning to accept the invitation to join the December session of the city council in order to present Hisense's plans in detail.

Gorenje expressed understanding for the local community's concerns, while it also said that it fund the local community's support and cooperation exceptionally important.

The company said that Slovenia would gain from the creation of Hisense management hub for the whole Europe in Ljubljana.

The owner is organising the company in such a way as to integrate it into the Hisense corporation's business environment, while also restructuring operations in order to preserve the company and to allow it to grow in the long run, Gorenje said.

It added that this should be in the interest of the municipality in which Gorenje with more than 4,000 employees was becoming Hisense's central production location for the entire Europe.

12 Nov 2019, 08:30 AM

STA, 11 November - As of midnight, employees of the national postal company are on strike, with the representative union saying that the participation rate in the morning shift was above all expectations, with as many as 70% of postal workers deciding to join what is the first ever strike in Pošta Slovenije.

 Saša Gržinič, the president of the Trade Union of Postal Workers, told the STA that "according to the preliminary data, there is almost no post office in Slovenia where postmen are not on strike."

According to him, they have been joined by many workers in post offices, and although there are no official numbers, the strike is supported by more than half of all employees of Pošta Slovenije.

Gržinič said that work had stopped all around Slovenia, with the strike being the most intense in the coastal area, where the trade union was based, while the participation rate was also high in Maribor, Celje, Novo Mesto and Kranj.

"We did not expect such a response. We have a thousand members, and we have made 1,600 badges saying STRIKE, and we ran out of them as early as half past seven," he said, adding that non-members had apparently also joined the strike.

Probably joining the strike are Pošta Slovenije employees who are members of the Trade Union of Transport and Communications Workers, which had formally not joined the strike demands and strike.

Postal workers have expressed several demands when announcing the strike a fortnight ago, including a 10% pay rise and an increase in staff by 300 in the company which employs around 6,300 people.

Gržinič said that the state-owned company could not argue that the strike was unwarranted, as the management had issued the instruction that postal workers would have to work overtime in order to take care of mandatory deliveries despite the strike.

According to the trade union, the delivery system collapsed already in the morning due to the high participation rate, as postmen perform only the minimum amount of work required by the relevant law.

"This proves what we have been constantly arguing - that there is a shortage of employees," said Gržinič, adding that the strike was not directed against customers, who indeed already feel the impact of the industrial action.

Letters and packages of up to 10 kilos are delivered as usual, as are international and urgent mail. The services affected include the dissemination of advertisement material, packages of over 10 kilos, payment services, and sale of merchandise at post offices.

The management gave a news conference later in the day at its seat in Maribor, with director general Boris Novak stressing they were willing to discuss a pay rise but in a way that would not jeopardise business and jobs.

Meeting the demand for a 10% pay rise, which would cost the company EUR 12 million a year, would result in Pošta Slovenije starting to operate in the red in 2020.

"We cannot agree to such an unrealistic pay rise. We see the strike as unwarranted, because the existing agreement already improves working conditions," he said.

He also noted the Trade Union of Transport and Communications Workers had not joined the strike, as it considered the two-year deal reached in February as good.

Novak added that a pay rise could be transferred to 2020, when talks on a new collective bargaining agreement would start.

Postmen currently get an average monthly net pay of EUR 1,040, while post office counter employees receive an average EUR 1,194.

The management's goal is to bring positions of the two sides closer together, said Andrej Rihter, a member of the board, so talks with representatives of the striking postal workers are to resume tomorrow.

Rihter questioned the number of striking postal workers provided by the union, noting less than a third of postmen was on strike, the majority in Koper and Celje.

Karmen Lebe Grajf, who represents the company in the talks with the striking workers, admitted any strike was a shock, especially for a system as big as the postal company, but she rejected the trade union's statement that the delivery system had collapsed already in the morning due to the high participation rate.

Novak meanwhile said the damage caused to the company had not yet been accurately assessed, but noted individual clients had already started cancelling contracts.

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