STA, 12 October 2020 - The recently established Slovenian-Chinese business council at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) expressed concern in a public letter on Monday over the government's alleged plans concerning Chinese company Huawei.
According to unofficial information, the government could label Huawei a high-risk supplier in the coming weeks. A document obtained by the media shows that the initiative for this had come from the Public Administration Ministry and that the matter was still being discussed.
In the letter addressed to Prime Minister Janez Janša and the cabinet, the council, chaired by Žiga Vavpotič from the companies Outfit7 and Globaldreamvision, says that an open, stable, predictable business environment providing equal opportunities is crucial for good functioning of the economy, even more so in the period of post-pandemic recovery.
The leadership of the council also expressed concern that such a government decree would be an important precedence.
Suggesting that such a label would damage any company's reputation and "represent illegal discrimination of a company based on subjective criteria that cannot be measured", the council warned that such a government move would strongly undermine foreign investors' trust in the Slovenian business system.
Companies, both Slovenian and foreign, need a predictable business environment, so such sudden and unpredictable government decisions are extremely harmful, the council said.
It also pointed to the risk of damage for Slovenian companies if China decided to retaliate, and the damage that could be caused to the bilateral relations with China, which both countries have been building in recent years.
China has some strategically important investments in Slovenia, the council said, pointing to the household appliance maker Gorenje, owned by Hisense, while Slovenian companies have important investments in China.
The council stressed that the efforts for improving bilateral relations should continue, and that ways should be found for cooperation also "when we may not see eye to eye (politically)".
It called on the government to make a decision based on equal treatment of all business entities operating in Slovenia and taking into consideration Slovenia's economic interests in China.
Apart from Vavpotič, the list of signatories includes the council's deputy chairs Franjo Bobinac, the former Gorenje CEO, and Jure Tomc, whose company in Hong Kong offers assistance to companies entering SE Asian markets, Gašper Cotman from Huawei Technologies, founder and CEO of company Cosylab Mark Pleško, Saša Saje Wang from KF Finance and Daniela Voljč from the Ljubljana School of Economics and Business.
STA, 8 October 2020 - Ngen, an energy system solutions company, launched its second battery storage in Kidričevo on Thursday. The EUR 15 million system, located near aluminium maker Talum and considered the biggest in the wider region, will store excess energy. It is similar to that the company has launched in Jesenice, near the Acroni steelworks.
Ngen boss Roman Bernard said that the power of connection of the Tesla-made battery was 15 megawatts and has a capacity of 30 megawatt hours. The company has developed its own software solutions steering all devices connected to the system.
"This is only the beginning. For now, we are only linked to the primary grid," he said, adding that the battery takes advantage of all effects of energy surges or drops in the grid. This is overseen by grid operator Eles, while Ngen carries out the service, he said.
"Battery storage will allow us to reduce deviations. These occur, for example, when solar plants produce excess energy on sunny days," Bernard illustrated at the opening, which was also attended by President Borut Pahor.
Talum, majority-owned by Eles, was chosen as a location for the battery storage because the company has the required infrastructure and appropriate connections to the grid, and uses a lot of power.
Talum believes the storage system will provide an additional level of energy security, allowing the facility to operate in case of short-term power outages.
On the other hand, energy from Talum's generators will be stored in the battery, which will allow the company to provide systemic services and help provide better stability of the grid.
The Talum launch comes shortly after Ngen, in cooperation with hardware retailer Merkur, launched the sale of Tesla household batteries. These are 6 kilowatt solar units with a battery capacity of 14 kilowatt hours.
Ngen was established two years ago. It was co-funded by Bernard and Damian Merlak who made millions by selling his cryptocurrency exchange Bitstamp in 2018.
STA, 6 October 2020 - Hemp growers and supporters have called on the Slovenian government to regulate hemp growing in the country so that farmers producing industrial hemp could be internationally competitive and the industry may grow. They have also called for the commitments for legalisation of medical marijuana to be met.
The call was issued at Tuesday's press conference by the interest association Cannagiz, the Konopko cooperative of hemp growers and the Ljubljana-based International Institute for Cannabinoids (INCANNA).
Presenting the letter sent to the government and parliament, Cannagiz president Rok Terkaj noted that the national authorities have not even gotten the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs from 1961 translated into Slovenian.
As a consequence, the legislation on hemp in Slovenia is one of the most obsolete in the EU, and the growing and processing of hemp is consequently uncompetitive.
Industrial hemp grower Bogdan Mak noted that the size of agricultural land covered with industrial hemp was dropping drastically. Five years ago, it was 500 hectares and now it is less than 200 hectares this year.
He called for regulations to be changed so that multiple sowing of hemp is possible in one year and that growing in greenhouses is allowed, which would increase the volume of produce in a small area and make Slovenian growers competitive in Europe.
Terkaj said that due to restrictions, Slovenian industrial hemp growers were forced to move their businesses to Austria and Italy.
The regulations limit the content of the psychoactive substance THC in industrial hemp to 0.2%, while Cannagiz proposes that the limit be increased to 1%, which would provide for the same level of safety while enabling better production.
When it comes to the use of medical marijuana, the Health Ministry has been called to draft legislation enabling treatment with medical marijuana as a medicine and growing and processing of hemp for medicinal purposes.
Tanja Bagar of INCANNA noted that patients in Slovenia could get synthetically produced cannabinoids in pharmacies, but many of them wanted hemp products due to synergies of various cannabinoids. They resort to black market, where they get unregulated products, she added.
Cannagiz has also called for legalisation of the production and sale of cannabidiol (CBD) extracted from hemp, which is not a psychoactive substance, as only the sale of pharmaceutically synthesised or isolated CBD is allowed in Slovenia at the moment.
Gorazd Reberšek of the association noted that producers of natural CBD were treated by Slovenian law as organisers of the production and trade in prohibited substances.
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STA, 7 October 2020 - Slovenian companies and individuals wanting to crowdfund their projects on the platform Kickstarter long had to rely on foreign partners to get their projects going. As of this week, the platform is directly available in Slovenia.
Slovenian projects have so far been quite successful on Kickstarter. They collected almost EUR 7 million and their success rate was 45% compared to the global average of 38%, show data from the company.
However, most of the projects were initiated by start-ups since they required significant effort and foreign partners.
Now, it will be easier for smaller and more diverse projects to seek financing since the barriers to entry are much lower, according to Heather Corcoran, the head of design and technology at Kickstarter.
"Everyone with a Slovenian bank account, an individual or a company, can now launch their project on Kickstarter," Corcoran told the STA.
Kickstarter does not have a target range for the number of projects in Slovenia but will focus on preserving the high success rate and a good user experience.
Along with Slovenia, Kickstarter this week entered Poland and Greece.
STA, 3 October 2020 - During the Covid-19 epidemic months, only average pay for March was lower compared with that for February, the last pre-epidemic month in Slovenia, while average earnings for April, May and June were higher. Hospitality sector employees saw the biggest drop in average monthly gross pay in that period.
If average pay per employee is calculated on the basis of paid hours, excluding the impact of the furlough scheme compensation, the figure in the April-June period would be higher than February average pay, mostly due to crisis bonuses, show data from the Statistics Office.
On the other hand, employees working in cafes, pubs and restaurants suffered a considerable drop in their wages - their average March gross pay was 977 euro, down some 20% on February. The figure increased somewhat in the following three months, but it did not reach February pay.
In healthcare, social care, financial and insurance sectors, and in electricity, gas and steam supply services average wages increased during the epidemic.
In the public sector, average gross earnings in the March-June period were higher than average gross pay in February.
The average gross earnings of those working in the private sector increased only in April in May compared to February, whereas in March and June, they earned less.
You can explore this data below
STA, 4 October 2020 - Nepremicnine.net, the leading real estate website in Slovenia, has been taken over by Real Web, a company owning several leading internet real estate platforms in Europe. According to news portal Siol, Real Web has acquired a 60% stake, while the rest will be preserved by Nepremicnine.net's founders.
Nepremicnine.net, established in 1999, has developed into the leading internet real estate platform in Slovenia and is also one of the busiest websites in the country with about 800,000 visits each month.
The takeover, whose details have not been disclosed, strengthens the presence of the international group Indomio, associated with Real Web, in Europe. The group includes the biggest internet real estate platform in Italy Immobiliare.it as well as the leading Greek platform Spitogatos.gr.
Nepremicnine.net co-founder and executive director Primož Jazbec told Siol that cooperation with Indomio presents a strategic opportunity, providing the platform with crucial technological know-how to grow business operations.
"It also secures long-term growth as a result of the strongest possible positioning in other EU member states," he added.
Immobiliare.it co-founder Silvio Pagliani said that they had known Jazbez and Aleš Ravnikar, also a co-founder, for several years and were exited to start cooperating.
"This cooperation allows us to continue building the leading real estate platform in multiple European countries," Pagliani said.
Spitogatos.gr co-founder and executive director Dimitris Melachroinos said the joint brand will be even more recognisable due to shared technology.
STA, 2 October 2020 - Media have reported that the government is drafting a bill which would merge eight key regulators into two super-agencies, whose managements would be appointed by the cabinet. The main arguments for the restructuring is debureaucratisation and streamlining.
The bill, drafted by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, is in coordination between departments from the middle of this week until Monday.
The public agencies affected by the bill reportedly received the draft only on Thursday, and had a mere 24 hours to send in their comments and remarks. Its wording is not public and there will be no public consultation about it.
The draft obtained by several media outlets envisages an agency for market and consumers, which would absorb the Energy Agency, Agency for Communication Networks and Services, Competition Protection Agency, Traffic Safety Agency, Civil Aviation Agency and Railway Transport Agency.
The new super-agency would regulate the following markets - energy, telecommunications, postal services, media and audiovisual services, and all forms of transport, while also supervising mergers and takeovers and competition and consumer protection.
The government would meanwhile also merge the Securities Market Agency and the Insurance Supervision Agency into a new public agency for financial markets, which would also take over some of the powers from Banka Slovenije, the central bank.
The ministry says the main motivation behind the bill is debureaucratisation, synergies and streamlining of processes, while the media note that the proposals encroached upon the agencies' independence.
The agency for market and consumers would be managed by a seven-member council and a four-member management with a five-year term. Both would be appointed by the government, the latter on proposal from the council after a public call for applications.
The council members in charge of telecommunications, consumer protection and energy would get six-year terms, and the remaining members three-year terms.
A rotation system is envisaged under which up to half of the council may be replaced at once, which is expected to increase the body's independence from economic interests.
The management would feature members in charge of postal, media and audiovisual services, of transport, of electronic communications and of consumer protection.
This is a major difference in comparison with the existing regulation, under which the majority of agency directors need to also be confirmed in the National Assembly.
The super-agency for financial markets would be governed by a five-member council and a three-member management, which would be appointment under the same procedure. Members of both bodies would be appointed for six-year terms.
If the bill is passed in parliament, the two agencies would assume all employees, property, assets, powers, archives and current cases from the existing eight agencies, while the terms of their managements would be terminated immediately.
The government is expected to adopt the bill soon and send it into regular procedure in the National Assembly.
Media are noting that attempts at similar mergers were already made by the second government of Janez Janša (2012-2013), and that ideas about merging financial regulators were floated during the government of Miro Cerar (2014-2018).
STA, 1 October 2020 - A chain of Ljubljana's most prominent hotels Union Hoteli is changing its business model after the corona crisis slashed its business, pushing the group into a loss of almost two million euros in the first six months of the year. The group will now focus on Slovenian guests and renting.
"The Union Hoteli group was faced with the biggest drop in revenue in all its history in the first half of this year," the group, which consists of the company Union Hoteli and the sheltered company IP Central, said in a report released on the web site of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
The trends at the beginning of the year were promising, but the government-sponsored lockdown decree in mid-March changed all that.
"We resumed operations in June but the demand for hotel services dropped drastically," the group said, adding that it was changing its business model to return to profitability.
Now, they are focussing on Slovenian guests and long-term renting of their real estate. Central Hotel and The Fuzzy Log in Ljubljana's city centre will be turned into student dorms.
The Union hotels generated EUR 3.6 million in net sales revenue in the first half of the year, a 69% drop compared to the same period last year. After posting a net profit of EUR 2 million in the first six months of last year, this year the group was EUR 1.8 million in the red in June.
The company Union Hoteli saw a 68% drop in net sales revenue to EUR 3.4 million, while its loss stood at EUR 1.6 million. The company posted EUR 1.9 million in net profit in the first six months of last year.
Union Hoteli is owned by Axor Holding, the hotel arm of the former ACH conglomerate. It manages the Ljubljana hotels Grand Hotel Union, uHotel, Hotel Lev and Central Hotel as well as youth hotel The Fuzzy Log.
STA, 30 September 2020 - Telekom Slovenije's sale of Planet TV to Hungarian media company TV2 Media has been finalised, the national telco said on Wednesday. The purchase price is EUR 5 million, but Telekom also provided a capital injection for its troubled subsidiary, which produces the eponymous TV channel, via debt to equity conversion before finalising the transaction.
Telekom already signed the sales contract with TV2 Media, owned by Jozsef Vida, whom media associate with the business network of the Hungarian ruling party Fidesz, in July. It said now that Planet TV has not been sold at a loss.
From Thursday, Planet TV will be formally part of TV2 group, which will add three to its portfolio of 14 TV channels.
The company said that new executive director of Planet TV will be Pavel Stantchev, already executive director at TV2. Špela Pirnat, who served as financial director between 2013 and 2016, will join Planet TV as financial director.
Stantchev pledged for the team to work hard to meet expectations of the greatest possible number of viewers, while bringing greater competitiveness and choice needed in the Slovenian market.
Telekom launched Planet TV in 2012 under the then Janez Janša government. It was reported that the telecoms incumbent had been looking for a strategic partner which would buy a 49% share in the TV production company already at the beginning of January, only to change its mind later on.
According to the newspaper Delo, Planet TV has cost Telekom Slovenije EUR 80 million in the form of capital injections, advertisements, loans and other services since it was launched in September 2012, and has operated in the red.
The latest blow was the Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce ordering Telekom last year to pay a EUR 23 million buyout to Antenna Group, the Greek partner who wanted out of the joint venture.
The news portal Necenzurirano.si has reported about unofficial plans to merge Planet TV and Nova24TV, the news portal and website associated with Janša's ruling Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and also in the ownership of Hungarian individuals reportedly close to Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban.
Meanwhile, Telekom moreover started this month with procedures to sell its subsidiary TS Media, which owns the news portal Siol, as well as the web portals Najdi.si in Bizi.si.
STA, 29 September 2020 - The National Assembly has passed legislation that will close stores on Sundays and public holidays with the exception of small shops at places such as service stations, airports, hospitals and other small shops where the customers will be served by proprietors themselves with the assistance of students and pensioners.
The amendments to the retail act, sponsored by the opposition Left, were passed by 72 votes to 13 on Tuesday with bi-partisan support with notable exception of the liberal coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the National Party (SNS).
"The sector employs some 115,000 people, part of whom must work Sundays, which means they cannot spend the day with their families," the Left's Luka Mesec argued when first presenting the bill, proposed in response to the Labour Day call by the Trade Union of Workers in the Trade Sector to keep stores closed on Sundays for good.
This was after the government imposed a temporary ban on Sunday shopping as part of the measures to stem the spread of coronavirus in March.
The original plan was to have the permanent ban enacted by the summer, but coalition amendments adopted just before parliament went into recess meant the bill did not proceed to third reading before the government's temporary Sunday shopping ban has already been lifted.
The amendments will come into effect 15 days after being published in the Official Gazette.
They mean retailers will no longer be able to keep stores open on Sundays, except for shops of up to 200 square metres at service stations, border crossings, ports, airports, train and bus stations and hospitals.
Other shops of such size will be allowed to be open on Sundays and public holidays only if on those days the customers are served by the owners or their representatives, students and pensioners.
In a 2003 referendum more than 57% voted in favour of a ban on Sunday shopping.
The government does not support the ban, with the Economy Ministry arguing that retail was a strategic sector of the Slovenian economy and expressing concern about the impact of the ban on the sector, jobs, suppliers and tourist centres.
Instead, the government argued for the trade union and employers to reach a solution in dialogue. The currently valid collective bargaining agreement provides for most stores to be closed on all 15 public holidays and limits Sunday opening times to 12 Sundays a year.
The Chamber of Commerce has been opposed to the ban, arguing that closing shops on Sunday would lead to layoffs. It has also raised the possibility that it will challenge the ban at the Constitutional Court.
STA, 29 September 2020 - A Slovenian-Chinese business council was set up at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Gospodarska zbornica Slovenije – GZS) on Monday to strengthen cooperation and business relations between the two countries, the GZS said in a press release on Tuesday.
More than 30 founding members decided for the move to create better conditions for strengthening the ties and friendship between Slovenia and China, and help companies access the Chinese market.
"It is essential for Slovenian companies to cooperate with the world; being involved in international business operations is key for creating added value," said GZS director general Sonja Šmuc.
Economy Ministry State Secretary Ajda Cuderman stressed that the government supported businesses wanting to cooperate with China. According to her, new market niches need to be found to increase Slovenia's exports to China and Slovenia's achievements in high-tech, biotechnology, automotive industry, new materials and alternative sources of energy need to be highlighted.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Shunqing said the Slovenian-Chinese projects were doing well at the moment, growing, and stressed that the new section at the GZS must serve as a platform for economic exchange and cooperation in other areas relevant for business as well.
China would like to cooperate with Slovenia and hopes Chinese companies will get a fair opportunity for taking part in various projects in Slovenia, he said.
The new council elected Žiga Vavpotič from the companies Outfit7 and Globaldreamvision its chair. He expressed hope the new GZS section would be able to "build a bridge between east and west, economy and politics, and expectations and opportunities".
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