19 Jul 2021, 14:24 PM

STA, 19 July 2021 - The Infrastructure Ministry has issued an energy permit for the construction of the second unit at the Krško nuclear power station, a step that allows permitting procedures to begin and comes a week after the national climate strategy enshrined nuclear as a long-term energy option. The project will be managed by the state-owned Gen Energija.

"The energy permit kick-starts the broadest possible public debate, not just at the expert level but also among the people," Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec told the press on Monday, adding that this did not mark the final decision on the investment, it is merely the first step.

Only after a broad social consensus is reached, procedures such as siting, the acquisition of a building permit, selection of contractor and construction itself will begin.

Project details such as estimated price, time frame or selection of technology have not been determined yet, nor has the precise location.

Vrtovec said the energy permit would serve as the basis for the verification of environmental, spatial, technical and economic parameters in the form of a national spatial plan, environmental impact assessment, cross-border impact assessment, building permit acquisition, selection of supplier and financing.

He said the plan was to build a 1.1 GW unit with an estimated production of 9,000 GW of electricity per year and a life span of sixty years.

The best available technology at the time of tendering will be used. According to Gen Energija director general Martin Novšak, for now the best and safest technology is a pressurised water reactor of the kind currently in use in Krško.

New generations of nuclear reactors are under development, including small modular reactors, but the technology has not hit the market yet.

Novšak said the second unit was "necessary and technologically feasible" and provided the answer to the energy trilemma - the balance of reliability of supply, environmental acceptability and economics. The company has enough experience to manage the project economically and transparently.

The investment would be financed with a combination of own sources, potentially with the help of co-investors and even with EU funds, according to him.

Novšak said the optimistic scenario was to arrive at a final decision in five years, whereupon it would take five years to complete construction. "This is a really ambitious goal," he said.

President Borut Pahor recently mentioned that a major decision such as this should be put to a referendum. Vrtovec said there was "no hurry" to do that, but if the people want a referendum "I see no serious problem why the people should not express their opinion."

Judging by good experience with the original power station, Vrtovec expects that the people will support the project.

As for the sentiment in neighbouring countries - Austria is a staunch opponent of nuclear and some stakeholders in Italy have expressed apprehension - Vrtovec said their positions were clear, but "every country secures its own energy mix".

Given that Slovenia plans to abandon coal by 2033, he does not imagine the country could secure energy independence only with alternative energy sources, without nuclear.

Slovenia's current nuclear installation, launched in 1983, has a permit to operate until 2023 but a 20-year extension has already been requested and is now the subject of various assessment procedures.

There is cross-partisan support for nuclear energy in the country and the plant has a flawless safety record.

12 Jul 2021, 14:02 PM

STA, 12 July 2021 - The number of housing transactions in Slovenia dropped by 17.5% last year, the second sharpest fall among the 13 EU member countries for which data are available, Eurostat data show.

Data released by the EU's statistics office on Monday show Cyprus seeing the biggest drop in the number of transactions, at 23.3%, followed by Slovenia, Belgium, at 17.4%, and Ireland, at 16.4%.

Only three countries recorded an increase in the number of housing transactions: Finland (+7.7%), the Netherlands (+10.0%) and Denmark (+20.1%).

Eurostat notes the drop in the number of transactions can be linked to lockdown measures, in particular in the second quarter of 2020, which included a temporary suspension of real estate activity.

It also notes that the fall in housing transactions came despite a continued increase in house prices and after nearly all the countries that saw a drop reported an increase in the number of transactions the year before.

09 Jul 2021, 09:15 AM

STA, 8 July 2021 - Pharmaceutical group Krka posted a net profit of EUR 177.4 million for the first half of the year, up 11% on the back of sales that reached EUR 808.6 million, up 1% over the same period last year, CEO Jože Colarič said at the company's annual general meeting in Otočec on Thursday.

Operating profit dropped by 8% to EUR 200.1 million according to early figures and gross operating profit decreased by 7% to EUR 254.7 million, Krka said in a release.

As much as 95% of the sales were generated on markets outside Slovenia, where products worth EUR 764.8 million were sold.

Krka's biggest single market, Eastern Europe, accounted for over 34% of the sales, or EUR 276.5 million, up 2%.

The dominant market within this region is Russia, where sales dropped by 7% to EUR 168 million, while growth was posted in most of the Eastern European markets and Asia.

Following Central Europe as the second biggest market accounting for 23.4% of the sales, Western Europe was third with an almost 20% share, and Germany the leader.

SE Europe placed fourth with 14% or EUR 112.3 million in sales, while in Slovenia, Krka's sales rose by 9% to EUR 41.8 million, accounting for 5.2% of group sales.

Other, overseas markets accounted for 3.4% of all group sales in the first six months, translating into EUR 27.5 million, up 14%.

The Novo Mesto-based group's investments in January-June amounted to over EUR 28 million, including over EUR 22 million at the parent company, the company said, adding the supervisory board would discuss the unaudited business results on 28 July.

Krka's shareholders will receive a record dividend of EUR 5 gross per share, up almost 18% from 2020, as the AGM backed the management's proposal to distribute EUR 156 million from last year's distributable profit of EUR 337.52.

Krka plans to end 2021 with sales of EUR 1.5 billion and a net profit of around EUR 265 million. Investments should total EUR 114 million.

"Business results in 2021 will depend on the spread of Covid-19 and related measures in individual countries, on global post-pandemic recovery and on exchange rate fluctuations in Krka's key currencies," the release says.

At the end of June, the Krka group employed 11,607 workers, while together with agency workers, the count reached 12,524.

07 Jul 2021, 18:41 PM

STA, 7 July 2021 - The Finance Ministry has proposed a rise in excise duties on cigarettes that comes with an average 5% increase for a pack of cigarettes. The rise, which is expected to take effect in August, is reckoned to bring in an additional EUR 18 million a year.

Under the proposal, which will be coordinated among ministries and then discussed by the government at one of its forthcoming sessions, excise duty per 1,000 cigarettes will rise from EUR 120 to EUR 127. Taking into account the increase and VAT, the average price of a pack of cigarettes will stand at EUR 3.24 from 1 August.

The rise will also affect cigars, cigarillos, fine-cut tobacco and other types of smoking tobacco as well as heat-not-burn tobacco.

When it comes to electronic cigarettes, excise duty on nicotine-free e-cigarettes is to increase, whereas the duties for e-cigarettes that contain nicotine will not change, according to information about the proposal posted on the eAdministration website.

The last increase in excise duties for tobacco products was implemented in October 2020.

02 Jul 2021, 11:20 AM

STA, 29 June 2021 - Slovenian military pilots are to train on and test aircraft produced by the light aircraft maker Pipistrel under an agreement signed by the Defence Ministry and the Ajdovščina-based company. A special partnership has also been agreed on that includes efforts to obtain EU and NATO funds for development projects.

The agreement was signed in Ajdovščina on Tuesday by Defence Minister Matej Tonin and Pipistrel director Ivo Boscarol.

Tonin told the press on the occasion that the Slovenian Armed Forces would be testing Pipistrel aircraft to become "greener" and contribute to greater representation of the Slovenian defence industry in the national defence system.

He said the Slovenian army was modernising its fleet, which would include training aircraft for military pilots at the beginning of their careers. Currently, ten worn-out Zlin aircraft are being used for pilot training.

By using Pipistrel aircraft, the ministry also wants to send a clear message to the allies in NATO and elsewhere in the world that these aircraft are of a very good quality, and help the company be even more successful in global markets.

Tonin and Boscarol have also agreed on a special partnership under which Slovenia would attract as much EU and NATO funds as possible to develop various technologies for the defence forces.

Boscarol noted that Pipistrel aircraft were already being used by large armies, adding that the advantages of the ones that will be tested by the Slovenian army included energy economy, low noise level and safety.

He added that the company was also developing systems and aircraft for defence and surveillance from the air, and announced steps in the direction of unmanned aerial vehicles. He and Tonin today also touched on the possibility of drone defence.

The Slovenian army will test the two-seat, fully electric Valis Electro and the two-seat Virus SW 121. The plan is also that it tests the four-seat Panthera in the future.

Learn more about the aircraft at the Pipistrel website

30 Jun 2021, 10:58 AM

STA, 29 June 2021 - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has upgraded by 1.5 percentage points its GDP growth forecast for Slovenia in 2021 to 5%. The institution expects that Slovenia's economy will expand by a further 4% next year.

The updated forecast, published on Tuesday, comes after the autumn projection in which the EBRD said it expected the country's GDP to expand by 3.5% this year.

The bank noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had significantly affected the Slovenian economy last year, with GDP dropping by 5.5%. This is, however, 2.5 percentage points fewer than projected by the EBRD last autumn.

It said that the key factors of the contraction were private consumption and investments, which were down 9.7% and 4.1%, respectively.

Slovenia, as a small and open economy strongly integrated in global value chains, also felt shocks in international trade, although exports of goods started recovering by the end of last year, the report says.

While exports of goods continue to grow, exports of services remain well below the pre-pandemic level. On the other hand, investment activity had experienced a rapid recovery by the end of 2020.

The EBRD expects the general government deficit, which last year reached 8.4% of GDP, to increase this year to 8.6%, as the government has largely kept implementing an expansive fiscal policy.

The bank says that vaccination and gradual relaxation of measures to stem the pandemic will lead to gradual recovery of consumption and services, while exports of goods and investment will continue to support economic growth.

The EBRD also warns against short-term risk factors, as new waves of coronavirus infections could restrict the recovery of the tourism sector and other services, while disruptions in supply chains could affect production and exports of goods.

GDP forecast/time of projection     2021      2022     2023
Banka Slovenije/June 2021           5.2%      4.8%     3.1%
OECD/May 2021                       3.5%      4.6%
IMF/May 2021                        3.9%      4.5%     3.6%
European Commission/May 2021        4.9%      5.1%
IMAD/March 2021                     4.6%      4.4%     3.3%
EBRD/June 2021                      5.0%      4.0%
Source: Individual forecasts
24 Jun 2021, 16:35 PM

STA, 24 June 2021 - Residential property prices in the first quarter were on average 3.1% higher than in the previous quarter and 7.3% higher compared to the same period in 2020. The total value of residential property sold was EUR 297 million, which is EUR 33 million less than in the fourth quarter of last year and about the same as in the first quarter of 2020.

Prices of new residential property (new houses and flats combined) were on average 7.5% higher in Q1 than in the previous quarter.

That means that prices for new houses and flats have gone up for the second quarter in a row, this time up by 8.6% and 7% respectively, the Statistics Office said on Thursday.

Prices of second-hand residential property in Slovenia (second-hand houses and flats combined) increased by 2.9% on average on a quarterly level.

The prices of second-hand houses increased by 1.4%, while second-hand flats were 3.8% more expensive. The prices of second-hand flats increased the most in Maribor (4.6%) and Ljubljana (3.7%), while the average increase in the rest of Slovenia was 3.6%.

At an annual level, the prices of new flats saw the biggest increase (+13.1%), followed by new houses (+9.2%), second-hand flats (+7.5%) and second-hand houses (+6%).

The total value of all residential property sold in Slovenia in the first quarter of 2021 was EUR 297 million, compared to EUR 330 million in the fourth quarter of last year and EUR 289 million in the first quarter of last year.

The total number of residential property sales fell for the second consecutive quarter as 2,538 were sold in Q1, down by around 18% compared to the fourth quarter of last year.

Fewer second-hand residential properties were sold, 2416 with a total value of EUR 271 million, and there were also fewer sales of new residential properties.

Despite the decline in the total number of new residential property sale transactions, the trading volumes were 14% higher quarter-on-quarter, driven by higher sales prices for new residential properties.

More on this data

17 Jun 2021, 11:35 AM

STA, 16 June 2021 - Slovenia's central bank has markedly upgraded its economic growth forecast for the country since December and is now projecting the economy to expand by 5.2% this year, up 2.1 percentage points, followed by a 4.8% growth in 2022, up from the 4.5% forecast in December.

Banka Slovenije thus expects GDP to return to pre-crisis level at the beginning of next year. Further afield, the central bank has kept its projections unchanged, which means it still expects GDP growth to ease to 3.1% in 2023.

Presenting the latest outlook at a press conference in Ljubljana on Wednesday, Vice-Governor Jožef Bradeško noted the persistently demanding environment and great uncertainties.

"[The uncertainties] have been reduced in terms of the pandemic but remain high. They are also high with respect to geopolitical developments," he said.

While the recovery will depend on the health situation, and uncertainties due to disruptions in supply chains, growth will be driven by domestic and foreign demand.

"We expect a recovery in household spending as well as increased investment activity by the private sector and the state," said Arjana Brezigar Masten, the head of the central bank's analytics and research centre.

Inflation will rise but is expected to remain below the central bank's mid-term target of 2%. It is expected to run at 1.3% this year, mainly due to the effect of last year's dip in prices of energy products, and then rise to 1.6% in 2022 and 1.7% in 2023.

The investment drive is expected to be reinforced with investment co-funded by the EU's Next Generation fund. State investment is expected to contribute a good two percentage points to GDP growth in three years, most of which this year.

Against such a backdrop, companies are expected to kick-start investment in equipment and machinery with a further boost to investment expected to come from private investment in housing.

The central bank also expects an "encouraging" growth in exports driven by a recovery of economic activity in Slovenia's trading partners, but Brezigar Masten said the effect of net foreign trade on GDP would be rather small as imports are expected to grow as well.

The most important engine of growth will be private spending, which is expected to grow at an average rate of 4.7% between 2021 and 2023 as monetary policy measures are keeping financing terms favourable.

The rate of saving is expected to gradually decrease in the coming years, but is to stay slightly above the pre-crisis levels.

"We expect robust growth in spending on non-essential durable goods and semi-durable goods such as cars, and substantial demand for accommodation and hospitality services, also owing to redemption of tourism vouchers. We expect consumers will redeem about half of the vouchers that they haven't used already," said Brezigar Masten.

17 Jun 2021, 10:46 AM

STA, 17 June 2021 - Bird Buddy, a startup company that has developed a smart bird feeder, has won this year's Slovenian Startup of the Year Award, selected by an international judging panel.

Bird Buddy features a modern-design bird house equipped with a feed container, a video camera, microphone and a movement sensor that allows the user to monitor the birds via a mobile app.

The app uses artificial intelligence to recognise the species, lets the user know when the feed container is empty and offers advice about the best feed for a particular bird species. The user can also take pictures of birds remotely and edit and share them.

"We are delighted to see our project gain recognition not only in the US but also in Slovenia as this means we will be able to invite the most qualified people to join our team," Žiga Vrtarič, who founded Bird Buddy along with Franci Zidar, said on accepting the award at an event at Ljubljana Castle yesterday.

Start:up Slovenija, the organisation that gives out the award in cooperation with the Slovenian Enterprise Fund and the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, praised the founders for adding great value to Slovenian entrepreneurship.

The Bird Buddy has raised EUR 4.2 million on the the Kickstarter global crowdfunding platform in just over a month.

CEO of the Slovenian Enterprise Fund Maja Tomanič Vidovič noted the many opportunities for startups in the new era of entrepreneurship as the post-pandemic market gravitates towards sustainable development.

She believes sustainable development will be the driving force of the future and takes pride in the fact that the Slovenian Startup of the Year competition helps bring together newly-established startups trying to reach sustainability goals.

Lean more about Bird Buddy

15 Jun 2021, 12:19 PM

STA, 15 June 2021 - The telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije upgraded its 5G network, launched in 2020, on Tuesday with an additional spectrum band. It currently covers 33% of mobile users nationwide. System upgrades at Bled and Brdo Pri Kranju are to follow next to make the cutting-edge communication service available during the Slovenian EU presidency.

This marks the next step in the development of mobile communications, upgrading Slovenia's first 5G network so that users can take advantage of additional capacities and a faster and more stable mobile data transfer. The milestone is taking place exactly 30 years after the first mobile network was set up by the company, Telekom Slovenije notes.

"5G is an important foundation of today's digital society and Telekom Slovenije actively participates in creating it," said Telekom Slovenije chairman Cvetko Sršen, highlighting that the company developed smart city and community solutions, stayed at the forefront of industry 4.0 development and focused on public safety, health and cyber security.

Additional frequency bands and upgrade of the 5G network will enable speeds up to 2Gbit/s, significantly decrease response times and make new services available to users. In light of video services expansion, increased user-to-network transmission speed is also a key factor.

Telekom Slovenije set up the first commercial 5G network in Slovenia last July and made it available to subscribers in October. With today's activation of the network's upgrade, frequency bands the provider acquired at the national auction held by Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS) in April have been activated.

Free-of-charge 5G access has been available to Telekom Slovenije's subscribers from 1 June. They gain access to the 5G network by sending an SMS with the key word 5G to the number 1918 or by activating the feature in their Moj Telekom account.

10 Jun 2021, 12:16 PM

STA, 10 June 2021 - Chinese company Huawei plans to set up a regional  logistics hub in Slovenia for some 19 markets of central and south-eastern Europe. Thus, the flow of its goods through the port of Koper will increase and new storage facilities will need to be built near Ljubljana airport. The multiplicative value of the decision is dozens of millions of euros.

The expansion of the storage facilities near the airport will be conducted in two steps. First, the existing warehouse will be expanded to 4,000 square metres and then to 6,000, Huawei announced on Thursday.

The company said this meant that the transport flows of its goods for 13 EU and six non-EU countries would be redirected to the port of Koper and the airport in Brnik near Ljubljana. The value of the investment decision is estimated at some EUR 9 million with potential for further growth.

According to Beata Bogadi, Huawei's customs compliance manager for Europe, the decision to set up a transit warehouse for Europe in Slovenia shows "how attractive Slovenia is in the  logistics sense".

"Huawei recognises the strategic position of the Koper port, the qualified staff and services in Slovenia. We put Slovenia on our list of strategic  logistics hubs," she said.

Huawei Slovenia director general Histro Zhang said this reaffirmed Huawei's long-term commitment to the Slovenian market and strengthened Slovenia's position on Huawei's strategic map of more than 170 markets where the company is present.

He said the Slovenian subsidiary of Huawei was particularly happy about the decision, "because this means about 40 new jobs in Slovenia", which will bring the total number of staff working for Huawei directly and indirectly at over 160.

Huawei already transports about 185,000 cubic metres of cargo from China to Hungary and to other European markets through Luka Koper. The new  logistics hub in Slovenia is to cut the delivery time of goods for customers in the EU.

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