25 Oct 2021, 17:43 PM

A US technology consulting and development company from Silicon Valley, HTEC Group, has announced the establishment of their High Tech Engineering Center in Ljubljana. The company is already hiring engineers, designers, product and project managers and other top talents to work on exciting projects. Niko Slavnic, as the Chief Marketing and Growth Officer and a keynote speaker at Slovenska Marketinška Konferenca in Portorož, presented HTEC Group for the first time in Slovenia by sharing the amazing story of scaling up from 238 to more than 1,000 professionals since beginning of last year.

The opening of HTEC’s Ljubljana Development Center confirms the company’s commitment to bringing cutting edge technologies and existing projects to professionals in Ljubljana, with ambitious plans to hire more than 100 people in the first two years of operations in the country. HTEC Group is a US R&D technology development company that provides world class engineering, R&D and product design services in a wide range of industries, such as core engineering, retail, logistics, medtech, fintech and others.

HTEC currently employs close to 1,000 professionals, with offices in the US, UK, Netherlands, Sweden and Slovenia, and several development centres across Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.

As Chief Operating Officer of HTEC Group, Mr. David Schoch, puts it: “We are extremely excited about coming to Slovenia and the opportunity to work with engineers here on strengthening the digital transformation that we currently see driving all industries. The Development Center in Ljubljana is extremely important for us because it has been shown that engineers from this region excel not only in their engineering talent, but also in their ability to work in teams, communicate with clients, provide innovative solutions and care deeply about their professional development.”

HTEC Group will continue to hire top talent in Slovenia with the goal of employing more than 100 technology experts in the next two years and keep providing them with challenging projects to work on with the most forward-thinking companies in the world. The company prides itself on offering unique career development opportunities that allow its employees to fast-track their career and reach global success in the company’s fast-growing and quality-driven environment.

Learn more at the company’s website or follow on Facebook

22 Oct 2021, 13:36 PM

STA, 22 October 2021 - The average gross pay in Slovenia in August stood at EUR 1,900, down 2.1% nominally and 2.2% in real terms compared to July. The average net wage was EUR 1,228, down 1.7% in nominal terms and 1.8% in real terms, the Statistics Office said on Friday.

The average gross pay in August was EUR 2,179 in the public sector and EUR 1,773 in the private sector, while the average net pay stood at 1,400 and 1,149, respectively.

The average gross pay in the public sector was 7% lower month-on-month, while it was up by almost 1% in the private sector, show the Statistics Office data.

The highest average gross pay in August was recorded in electricity, gas and steam supply, standing at EUR 2,864, while this sector also recorded the largest monthly increase at 8.5%. The largest decrease in gross wages (-16%) was recorded in education.

More on this data

22 Oct 2021, 13:29 PM

STA, 22 October 2021 - The Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre is hosting its first fair after an interlude of a year and a half due to coronavirus. However, CEO Iztok Bricl says he does not expect business to get back to normal before the autumn next year.

The 51st iteration of the Nature-Health fair opened at Gospodarsko Razstavišče (GR) on Wednesday, the first such event after the 59th Home fair had to close a day early in March 2020 when the coronavirus epidemic was first declared.

"Nature-Health is our third largest fair. It's featuring 140 exhibitors and we've leased out over 2,500 square metres of exhibition space," Bricl has told the STA in an interview.

A bigger question is the turnout. "Realistically, I believe the visitor numbers will be halved. The recovered-vaccinated-tested rule being the condition to visit, we've organised free testing for the visitors," says Bricl.

November will see the 31st Ambient Ljubljana furniture fair with the construction fair Dom Plus, which make up the second largest fair at the Ljubljana fairgrounds. The largest one is Home, which is due back next March.

Lockdown measures have had a major impact on business. "We saw a decline of nearly 60% last year. We generated 2.6 million in revenue, which compares to roughly six million in the years before. We made half a million euro in loss in 2020."

The company had been doing very well in the years before Covid, in particularly after 2016. Half the revenue was generated by fairs and half by conventions and large events. Both divisions ground to a halt. The staff was thus cut back from 39 to below 30.

GR made use of state aid measures such as furlough and compensation for fixed costs, deferring the land contribution tax payment of EUR 180,000 a year by a year as well as delaying the payment of the corporate income tax.

"Gospodarsko Razstavišče survived that period by means of loans and the cash flow that had been generated before. State aid was not enough, it didn't offset even a third of the loss," says Bricl.

He does not think the government acted fast enough to provide loan guarantees or provided sufficient support for the events industry, which was hit the hardest. "Everything they gave, came late," he says, comparing measures to those in Austria, Germany and Italy.

"In Slovenia, the government was saving jobs, not companies. That's a major difference," says Bricl, who is also the head of the Chamber of Fairs and Meetings Industry.

Everyone in the industry is now waiting for the call for funds that is being promised by the Economy Ministry "so we can survive and get prepared for the coming years".

While noting the uncertainty surrounding the epidemic in view of the low vaccination rate in Slovenia, Bricl expects GR to get back to business as usual in the autumn of 2022 when he expects a major new problem to be finding the right staff.

This year the company has been holding mostly smaller events, seminars, meetings of up to 50 people. The CEO expects revenue to the tune of EUR 2 million with the loss likely at last year's level.

The pandemic has also put investments on hold. Plans for a new multi-purpose hall remain with the city council expected to endorse the relevant zoning plan in about a year.

Next year they plan to hold ten major international conventions, five of which have already been confirmed. Provided people can travel normally, they will also carry them out.

21 Oct 2021, 14:15 PM

STA, 21 October 2021 - Novartis has signed an initial agreement to use its manufacturing facility in Ljubljana to fill the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19. The Novartis Technical Operations site in Ljubljana will fill at least 24 million doses in its sterile manufacturing facilities in 2022, the Swiss pharma company announced on Thursday.

Novartis plans to take bulk mRNA active ingredient from BioNTech and fill it into vials under sterile conditions for shipment back to BioNTech for its distribution.

Subject to reaching a final agreement, Novartis plans to start filling and finishing the vaccine in Ljubljana in the first half of 2022 once it has transferred the manufacturing process from Stein, Switzerland, to Ljubljana.

Novartis has been filling for BioNTech at its Stein site since June after the European Medicines Agency approved the filling-and-finishing plant. Under the agreement signed at the beginning of 2020, Novartis will fill more than 50 million doses of the vaccine in Stein this year.

Novartis says the facility in Ljubljana is "a state-of-the-art aseptic filling operation which manufactures and supplies a broad range of aseptic products" for its division Sandoz.

Novartis plans to disclose more details once it has concluded specific agreements. It did say however, that it continued to offer its "world-class capabilities to other companies to take over manufacturing activities including a variety of technologies such as mRNA production and others".

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the most widely used Covid-19 vaccine in Slovenia. According to the National Institute of Public Health, 1,514,526 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the country so far.

21 Oct 2021, 12:02 PM

STA, 20 October 2021 - The government reintroduced administered pricing of heating oil by issuing a regulation on the pricing of petroleum products at Wednesday's correspondence session. The distributors' margin has been limited to a maximum of six cents per litre of heating oil.

Pricing will be based on the prescribed methodology as the average 14-day price of the current period, says a press release by the Government Communication Office.

The first day of the average 14-day selling price of the current period, without duties, will be the period from 25 October to 5 November, and the first day of regulated prices kicking in will therefore be 9 November.

The government has decided for the same format of administered pricing of heating oil as in the period before liberalisation of heating oil prices in April 2016.

The possibility of such a move was floated by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek on Tuesday in the wake of escalating energy prices.

The government paid special attention to heating oil price trends due to the upcoming heating season. The retail price of heating oil in the second half of this year has exceeded the 1 euro mark, with a litre already costing EUR 1.10 in October. Taxes and levies have remained unchanged.

A thorough analysis of the situation in the oil product market following last year's liberalisation of oil product prices has found that the market is functioning in Slovenia, the Economy Ministry said, adding that none of the companies had been standing out significantly price-wise.

Price increases are not disproportionate to the international environment or to prices in the industry, the ministry said.

The government decided to reintroduce administered pricing of heating oil in the evening after it got acquainted with a report by a task force to contain energy prices.

In the afternoon, during a regular session, the government discussed potential measures limited to proposals identified as acceptable by the European Commission. Guidelines on state aids were also taken into consideration.

On Monday, Prime Minister Janez Janša announced concrete measures after the EU summit starting on Thursday. The topic will also be discussed next week by EU ministers in charge of energy.

Janša mentioned regulating margins on energy prices and energy vouchers for households at risk as two possible options.

20 Oct 2021, 14:01 PM

STA, 20 October 2021 - The average electricity prices for households increased slightly in the first half of the year at the EU level compared to the same period in 2020 to EUR 21.9 per 100 kilowatt hours, with the largest increase recorded in Slovenia, Eurostat has reported.

The electricity prices for households increased in 16 member states, topped by Slovenia with a 15% rise, followed by Poland (8%) and Romania (7%).

On the other hand, the largest decreases were observed in the Netherlands (-10%), Cyprus (-7%) and Lithuania (-6%).

The household electricity prices in the first half of 2021 were the lowest in Hungary (EUR 10 per 100 kWh), and the highest in Germany (EUR 31.9). In Slovenia, it was EUR 16.62.

The average natural gas prices meanwhile registered a slight drop to EUR 6.4 per 100 kWh in the first half of 2021, as they fell in 20 of the 23 EU member states that report gas prices in the household sector. Slovenia recorded a drop of 7%.

The prices were the lowest in Lithuania (EUR 2.8 per 100 kWh) and the highest in the Netherlands (EUR 9.6). For comparison, the average gas price in Slovenia in the first half of the year was EUR 5.47 per 100 kWh.

16 Oct 2021, 12:31 PM

STA, 16 October 2021 - After Slovenia's largest energy company Petrol announced earlier this week that it will increase the price of electricity in December, some predicted that other suppliers would follow, but most suppliers now forecast that their prices of electricity for households would not increase until next year.

However, most companies also said that increases could very well happen in 2022, as purchase prices of electricity are rising, having increased by more than 200% on international markets in the last year.

Gen-I, Slovenia's largest electricity supplier with over 190,000 customers across Slovenia, told the STA that prices for their existing customers were to remain unchanged for now.

The same was said by ECE, the company created in a merger of Elektro Celje and Elektro Gorenjska, of which a 51% share was recently acquired by Holding Slovenske Elektrarne (HSE), the state-owned power company and the country's largest producer of electricity from renewable sources.

"Prices will remain the same this year, but we will be forced to increase them next year, unless there is a significant reduction in prices on the upstream markets," said ECE.

The Ljubljana-based Elektro Energija with more than 140,000 customers and Maribor's Energija Plus, which supplies electricity to more than 120,000 customers, do not plan to raise electricity tariffs this year either.

"However, given the recent increases in energy prices on global markets, which are at historic highs, it is realistic to expect a correction in electricity and natural gas prices in the future," they said.

This year has seen a sharp rise in energy prices predicted for 2022, 2023 and 2024. Electricity prices depend on many factors, including weather, carbon prices, supply, demand and political uncertainty.

The marginal price of electricity production has recently started to rise sharply and in early October, it exceeded the price of EUR 180 per megawatt-hour for next year in Hungary, the reference market for Slovenia.

According to current projections, the final amount on the electricity bill of the average consumer could be around 20% higher after the increase.

Energija Plus added that future prices would largely depend on other energy products, the availability of renewables, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the capacities of natural gas storage facilities in Europe and winter temperatures.

Reactions and debates on this matter followed Petrol's announcement on Tuesday that it will increase the price of electricity by 30% from December. The final bill for the average household customer is expected to rise by just over 10%.

The issue of the rising energy prices on world markets was also brought to the attention of the government this week. They explained that the situation in the markets was abnormal and the result of several different factors.

The Infrastructure Ministry has taken note of the proposals for action presented by the European Commission, which they deemed not needed in Slovenia as of yet. However, Slovenia has convened an emergency meeting of EU energy ministers for 26 October.

15 Oct 2021, 11:53 AM

STA, 15 October 2021 - The price of diesel at petrol stations along Slovenian motorways has reached a record high of around EUR 1.49 per litre as soaring global oil derivatives prices have spilled over into the Slovenian market.

The previous record price of diesel was in October 2018, when drivers had to pay EUR 1.464 per litre, show Economy Ministry price data.

Currently, the average price at petrol stations on the Slovenian motorway network is EUR 1.49.

Elsewhere in the country, diesel costs from EUR 1.402 to EUR 1.472 per litre, depending on the location and the provider, according to the fuel prices website

This means that the price of diesel at petrol stations outside of the motorway and expressway network increased by more than 44% since the liberalisation in October 2020, when both diesel and regular petrol cost around a euro per litre.

The price of regular petrol has increased by 33% on average since the full liberalisation.

The two largest retailers, Petrol and OMV, currently sell it at EUR 1.333 and EUR 1.334 per litre, respectively, outside the motorway network.

Regular petrol is even more expensive along motorways, with the current price set by the two providers at around EUR 1.389 per litre, which is nevertheless still below the of EUR 1.576 recorded in September 2012.

The Economy Ministry says it is closely following the situation in the market, noting that the prices in Slovenia are not much different than in other EU member states and are in line with forecasts made before the market was fully liberalised.

"The higher prices of fuel are not a consequence of price liberalisation, but of high prices of crude oil in global markets," the ministry told the STA on Friday.

Asked in what case the state would decide again to intervene in the market and how, the ministry said that the control mechanisms for detecting possible disputable practices were contained in the prevention of restriction of competition act.

It noted that the Competition Protection Agency was in charge of supervising the market, adding that it would intervene if it detected certain irregularities that would demand action according to the law.

14 Oct 2021, 16:58 PM

STA, 14 October 2021 - The government got acquainted with the current price trends in energy markets on Thursday and decided not to take any action for now. Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said there was no reason to panic. 

"Slovenia is on the safe side for now, but it is absolutely necessary to invest more in renewables and in new nuclear technologies," Vrtovec said after the cabinet session.

The government set up a task force led by Vrtovec to keep an eye on the situation. It also got acquainted with the toolbox of measures presented by the EU Commission yesterday to tackle high prices.

"It determined there is no need at this point for Slovenia to take any action. But if that is required, we are ready," he said.

The statement comes after energy group Petrol announced it would raise electricity prices by 30% and gas prices by 12% as of December.

A few weeks ago, a small electricity provider announced it was ceasing operations and urged customers to switch providers.

Asked about this, Vrtovec said the market was working: "Don't panic, switch the provider."

13 Oct 2021, 10:33 AM

STA, 12 October 2021 - Economist Velimir Bole told the Portorož Business Conference on Tuesday that the economic outlook for 2022 was relatively favourable, as the external factors were expected to calm down, including the growth in prices of raw materials. He nevertheless noted that events that trigger uncertainty could happen any time.

Short-term price expectations are very high, including in industry, construction sector and services, and only in commerce they are at ordinary levels, Bole told the first day of the two-day conference hosted by the publisher Finance.

The scientific advisor at the Economic Institute of the Ljubljana Faculty of Law added that short-term expectations regarding production activity and employment in industry and construction were at the 2016-2018 level.

The external factors of business are expected to calm down in 2022, and when it comes to global prices of raw materials, growth is expected to drop below 4% a year.

Bole said that the consensus forecasts of economic growth in the eurozone, Southeast Europe and Slovenia ranged from 4.2% to 4.6%.

Presenting the trends during the Covid-19 pandemic from March 2020 to the beginning of 2021, he noted that expenditure in Slovenia had increased at a higher rate than in the eurozone on average and in Southeast Europe.

However, this has not had as favourable effect on the gross domestic product (BDP) or social security, Bole said.

Comparative data on added value, employment and hours worked also show that the measures taken by the state, in particular subsidies to companies for workers who were not able to work, have not been very well targeted.

There was excessive support for industries that were not strongly affected by the closure of public life, while there was too little support in industries that were the most affected - commerce, transport, warehousing and hospitality, Bole said.

The economist noted the high increase in the general government sector debt. While he does not claim that high debt will not be sustainable in "normal" circumstances, it will be important how Slovenia will be perceived by investors.

The expected calming down of the growth in prices of raw materials reduces the probability of the European Central Bank "pulling the handbrake", i.e. introducing a stricter monetary policy. If it does, consequences will come quickly.

"Forecast for next year is favourable ... and debt will be sustainable if what happened in the eurozone, when mark-ups increased and the ECB started to intervene, does not happen here," Bole added.

According to him, an increased debt will reduce the potential of the state to support long-term technological restructuring as part of green transition and for some other major fiscal commitments, such as investments in healthcare.

12 Oct 2021, 16:08 PM

STA, 12 October 2022 - Most basic food products became more expensive in 2020, the year marked by the Covid-19 epidemic, the Statistics Office said on Tuesday in light of the upcoming World Food Day on 16 October. They added that price rises were the most substantial in apples (+35.4%) and minced meat (+22.8%).

Other basic foodstuffs that have recorded price rises in 2020 include a packet of 10 eggs (+9.8%), a kilogram of bread (6.6%) and a litre of milk (+4.1%). Meanwhile, the price of potatoes was down 18.9%.

Last year, the average Slovenian consumed 119 kilograms of vegetables, 116 kilograms of cereals, 88 kilograms of meat, 64 kilograms of potatoes, five kilograms of rice and one kilogram of honey.

The agricultural products self-sufficiency rate in Slovenia increased last year compared to 2019 for all products included in the Statistics Office's calculations, most prominently in honey and cereals.

The highest levels of self-sufficiency were recorded in eggs (95%) and cereals (89%), followed by meat (84%), potatoes (60%) and vegetables (48%).

Meanwhile, the most imported food products in Slovenia last year were vegetables and fruit, with a total value of EUR 488 million, the Statistics Office said.

The most valuable exports were dairy products and eggs, valued at EUR 250 million. The most food imports in value terms came from Italy, and the most exports went to Croatia.

Food manufacturing companies in Slovenia generated just under EUR 2 billion in sales last year, a decrease of 3.6% compared to 2019. Food production contributed 7.1% to the total manufacturing turnover.

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