13 May 2021, 15:38 PM

STA, 13 May 2021 - The specialised prosecution office has asked a court to formally open an investigation against former German owners and management of Adria Airways for financial misdeeds that allegedly led to the Slovenian flag carrier ending up in receivership in October 2019, according to a report by news portal Necenzurirano.

The portal names the suspects as former Adria Airways CEO Arno Schuster, his successor Holger Kowarsch, Klaus Platzer, who acted as financial advisor to the company from March 2016 to December 2017, and Eggo Laukamp, who from 2014 to 2018 served as director of purchasing at 4K Invest, the turnaround fund that bought Adria from the state in 2016.

The report says the prosecution has found evidence supporting the allegation that the quartet had siphoned EUR 3.5 million away from the carrier through consulting contracts. Once the court-led phase of the investigation is completed the prosecution will decide whether to file an indictment.

The portal reports that the law enforcement authorities have encountered major difficulties in trying to establish where the money from Adria has disappeared. It says the Germans had started covering their tracks when it had become clear the company's bankruptcy was inevitable.

They closed down companies in a intricate network leading from the UK to Germany and on to Luxembourg and Malta, a scheme that the portal says was designed not only to serve tax optimisation and to hide the real owners but also to make it harder to follow the money flows.

The alleged wrongdoing will have hurt some 2,900 creditors, who have reported more than EUR 150 million in claims in the receivership process. The official received admitted roughly EUR 88 million in claims, while the bankruptcy estate is much smaller, comprising EUR 2.6 million in cash and an estimated EUR 4.3 million in assets not yet converted into cash, according to the portal.

Since Adria went bankrupt, its operating licences have been auctioned off for EUR 45,000 to Air Adriatic, a firm incorporated by Slovenian produce importer Izt Rastoder, and the Adria Airways brand has been sold to Munif Otman Tarmum of the United Arab Emirates for EUR 33,400.

The carrier's flight school has been sold to an institute owned by Peter Jambrek, a jurist and chairman of the management board of New University.

An invitation to submit binding bids for Adria's office building and the appertaining land was published in April with the asking price set at EUR 4.1 million. The deadline for bids expires on 30 June.

13 May 2021, 14:08 PM

STA, 13 May 2021 - There were some 16,100 job vacancies available in Slovenia in the first quarter of the year, up around 3,500 from the last quarter of 2020. Employers were looking for new workers in 13 out of a total of 18 sectors monitored, but the strongest demand was in manufacturing and retail, the Statistics Office (SURS) said on Thursday.

Employers in manufacturing had some 1,200 vacancies more available in January-March than in October-December, while the figure for retail was 1,100.

Demand for new workers meanwhile dropped in healthcare, where there were almost 180 fewer vacancies available, and in water supply (-100).

However, the number of vacancies in the first quarter was still by 920 lower compared to the first quarter last year, when the Covid pandemic hit in mid-March.

"No recovery was detected in hospitality, where the drop was the sharpest, that of 41% in available jobs," SURS sad.

The bulk of vacancies available in January-March were advertised by employers with ten or more employees - around 10,200 or almost 64% of all vacancies in the country.

The number of occupied posts in the first three months remained at around 771,000 over the last three months last year.

The drop in the number of occupied posts at the annual level was sharpest in hospitality, by 18%, or around 5,700.

In comparison, the drop in manufacturing was around 4,900, or 2.5%.

07 May 2021, 16:42 PM

STA, 7 May 2021 - The Constitutional Court has ruled the legislative amendments that ban most shops from being open on Sundays is not in contravention of the constitution as claimed by several retail companies.

In a unanimous decision announced on Friday, the court holds the right to free enterprise invoked by the petitioners may be limited if a public interest such as protection of health is proven.

The court based its decision on the second paragraph of article 74 of the constitution, which provides that "commercial activities may not be pursued in a manner contrary to the public interest".

It says that based on that the legislature can limit the right to free economic initiative with measures in order to achieve that the second paragraph of the mention clause is complied with.

The court says that it follows from the legislative material that the legislature had been aiming to achieve several goals, including to allow shop staff free Sundays and public holidays.

The court holds that ensuring employees a weekly rest is in the public interest of the protection of employees in line with the principles of the European Social Charter.

The court also cited the general provisions of the employment relationship act under which work on Sundays and holidays is an exception rather than the rule.

The court threw out a petition to examine the section of the amendments that impose fines of between EUR 1,000 and 100,000 to companies and sole proprietors who violate work time rules.

Petitions against the amendments to the trade act that imposed the ban on Sunday shopping had been filed by Magistrat International, Fama Trend, VM5 and Intersport ISI.

The amendments, which came into effect in late October last year, allow some exceptions to the ban on Sunday opening hours, including shops under 200 m2 at service stations, border crossings, ports, airports, train and bus stations, and hospitals.

Outside these facilities, shops with a surface area of under 200 m2 may be open, but only shop owners, students and pensioners may work Sundays, regular employees may not.

Based on an initiative from the trade union of retail workers, the legislation was tabled by the opposition Left, which welcomed the decision, saying that the court had unanimously sided with retail workers.

"It is an important decision that puts public interest before economic initiative and, consequently, the quality of life before profits of retailers," the party said in a press release.

The Left noted the many letters of support for the ban by retail workers in which they talked about the negative impact of Sunday work on their family and social lives, and about physical exhaustion, burnout and social exclusion.

"Retail shops are actually 7,000 workers short and the existing employees are frequently forced to work more than 40 hours a week," the party said, adding that the fight for higher wages and better working conditions was only just beginning.

Mariča Lah, the head of the Chamber of Commerce (TZS), told the STA that the decision of the Constitutional Court would be respected. The chamber will examine it thoroughly and then decide on what future steps to take.

06 May 2021, 12:06 PM

STA, 6 May 2021 - The government has issued a decree on measures to remedy the market disruptions in the wine sector caused by the coronavirus pandemic, worth EUR 5.1 million. Like last year, the decree provides for temporary exceptional measures of crisis wine distillation and crisis wine storage for this year.

Around EUR 5.1 million will be allocated for the two measures - EUR 4.8 million for crisis distillation and EUR 300,000 for crisis wine storage. The two measures will be financed by the sector-specific national financial envelope for wine, while additional funding will also be provided by the national budget.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, an estimated 10 million litres of wine need to be withdrawn in order to rebalance the wine market in Slovenia, based on the level of wine stocks in 2020 and an inquiry into the stagnation in wine sales.

Last year, measures were already taken to withdraw certain quantities of wine that are not marketable, due to significant disruptions on the wholesale wine market, retail and beverage service sectors.

These measures include crisis distillation of wine into industrial alcohol or alcohol for medicinal purposes and crisis storage of wine, whereby a certain quantity is temporarily withdrawn from the market, the Government Communication Office said.

06 May 2021, 10:42 AM

STA, 5 May 2021 - The government has adopted amendments to three tax laws in a bid to reduce labour taxation and help businesses and individuals in the post-Covid recovery, including by increasing the general personal income allowance, reducing tax on capital and reducing red tape. The amendments are to be implemented on 1 January 2022.

Amendments to the company income tax act will allow more favourable than existing tax measures and provide a friendlier administrative framework of taxation through simplification and in pursuit of tax certainty, the Finance Ministry said in a release issued after the government session on Wednesday.

The measures include an upgrade of tax breaks for employment, for practical work in vocational training, for donations and investment in digital transformation and green transition. Recognition of certain expenditure in determining the tax base is being simplified and made more favourable.

Under amendments to the personal income tax act the general allowance will be gradually raised by 2025 from EUR 3,500 to EUR 7,500 and the rate of tax in the top income bracket will be cut from 50% to 45%, while credits and net annual tax bases are to be adjusted to inflation again.

The conditions for more favourable treatment of bonuses paid based on company performance are being made less harsh.

The rate of personal income tax on income from interest, dividend and capital gains is being reduced from 27.5% to 25%, with taxed waived on divestment as early as after 15 years of ownership. Rental income tax is being reduced to 15%.

A similar upgrade on tax breaks as in the case of company income tax would also apply to taxation of income from activities.

When using a plug-in company car for private purposes, the user will no longer pay the credit and the tax break for over 70-year-olds is being reintroduced, with changes applying to assessment and payment of ow tax on pensions and income from education funds.

Amendments to the VAT act transpose relevant EU directives and some simplifications and administrative easing on taxpayers and the Financial Administration. A paper receipt, for example, would be issued only on the customer's demand.

The amendments are planned to be implemented on 1 January 2022, except for those transposing EU directives on e-trading and administrative simplifications in the VAT act that would be implemented on 1 July this year.

05 May 2021, 17:41 PM

STA, 5 May 2021 - Marina Portorož finally has a new owner, as the spa operator Terme Čatež announced on Wednesday the sale had been finalised, while not disclosing the buyer. The consultancy firm participating in the procedure meanwhile said it is Luka Lucija, a company owned by the Slovenian investment fund Cirus 1.

Terme Čatež said in a press release that "all contractual suspensive conditions in the procedure of sale of the outright stake in the company Marina Portorož have been fulfilled and the transfer of shares on the buyer was made on 4 May."

While the seller did not disclose the buyer, the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, which participated in the sale, said it was Luka Lucija, a holding company based in Ljubljana.

It has taken over the entire business of the operator of the Portorož marina which includes the operation of around 1,000 berths, infrastructure for maintenance of vessels, as well as accommodation, hospitality, sport and commercial facilities.

"The new owner plans to overhaul and modernise Marina Portorož, revive its business and place it again among the most important and most renowned marinas in the region," PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a press release.

Meanwhile, Marina Portorož announced "ambitious plans" for the marina: "By the end of 2022 we have a commitment of a million euro investment in infrastructure".

The release, announcing that Luka Prebil had been appointed director of what is the largest marina in Slovenia, said the goal was to make Marina Portorož an attractive nautical destination year-round.

"The marina's long-term development plan aims mainly to upgrade the existing infrastructure, improve customer satisfaction and expand the offerings in the marina, and the coastal towns and the hinterland."

In the first stage, plans involve urgent renovation work, the greening of the surroundings and a comprehensive digital transformation of the marina. Also planned are culinary offerings.

"Apart from investments in basic infrastructure, a programme is afoot to improve client satisfaction that is closely linked to employee training," reads the release.

The blue flag concept will also be pursued with the long-term goal being to create a sustainable, environmentally-friendly business environment.

While the value of the deal remains confidential, the public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported on Tuesday that JoanthanMars (sic), the alternative investment fund management firm that owns Cirus 1, had paid EUR 15-20 million for the marina.

JonathanMars is owned by the company UR Invest, whose owner is Uroš Raspet, a co-owner and a senior official at the Vzajemci group.

The sale had been announced earlier this year by the head of Terme Čatež and its owner, the publisher DZS, Bojan Petan, who said the move was coordinated with the York fund, the DZS's main creditor, according to the newspaper Primorske Novice.

The sale of Marina Portorož was a part of the DZS's agreement with creditors on financial restructuring. York had purchased claims to the company from the Gorenjska Banka bank and the state-owned bad bank BAMC.

Terme Čatež had been selling the marina operator for a while, and a fresh sale procedure started last August and bids were accepted until the second half of September.

A while ago the marina was to be sold to Adventura Holding and the company Glen, but the deal went sour over disagreements on the price.

05 May 2021, 14:35 PM

STA, 5 May 2021 - The state-owner power utility Holding Slovenske Elektrarne (HSE) will soon launch construction of what will be the largest solar power plant in the country. The 3.04 MW plant will be built atop a landfill near Hrastnik.

The project was announced on Wednesday as the HSE said it had obtained the building permit. The foundation stone will be laid on 3 July.

"Prapretno is the first megawatt-plus solar power plant in Slovenia. It will cover the annual demand for electricity of around 800 average Slovenian households," the company said in a press release.

The location has a symbolic meaning for the HSE and local community. "In the past, this area was heavily burdened by the electricity production in the Trbovlje thermal power plant and extraction of coal in the nearby mines."

Nenad Trkulja, the head of the project, added that the HSE would revive electricity production in the area, although in a environmentally-friendly way, without greenhouse gas emissions.

The press release adds that the company plans to expand the location for additional power production, as existing infrastructure enabled this.

"In a few months, when Prapretno starts sending electricity to the grid, we will become the largest producer of electricity from that renewable source," the HSE added.

05 May 2021, 11:56 AM

STA, 5 May 2021 - The parliamentary Infrastructure Committee has endorsed amendments to the act on road transport that create the legal basis for transportation platforms such as Uber or Lyft, changes that the government argues will facilitate the digitalisation of the transport sector.

The proposal sets down that drivers using digital platforms would need to get a licence, just like regular taxi drivers, whereas taximeters would no longer be mandatory for taxi drivers, who would be allowed to use software solutions.

Municipalities would have a say in setting the rules since they would be able to determine the quality standard, including the type of vehicle.

The amendments also include certain provisions making public transport more attractive to users and simplifying procedures for obtaining transit cards for professional athletes.

The committee debate late on Tuesday saw the opposition criticising the legislation, arguing that it is a result of lobbying that will pave the way for increased precarisation of drivers without addressing persistent violations of labour standards in the sector.

Coalition MPs argued the legislation did not interfere with existing labour relations but would modernise the sector, improve the quality of service for users, and break up the quasi-monopoly position of certain taxi companies on the market.

Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec stressed that all drivers will be licenced. The goal is to improve mobility facilitate the development of modern, digital services.

The legislation has been strongly criticised by taxi drivers, who have staged protests against opening the doors wide to a business model that they say is based on social dumping. They delivered the same message to MPs yesterday.

But some coalition MPs, including New Slovenia (NSi) deputy Tadeja Šuštar, who worked as a taxi driver for a year, noted that it was in fact the current system that facilitated labour abuses and dumping.

Slovenian tech companies have come out in support of the legislation as well.

The Slovenian Automotive Cluster and six digital mobility companies said in a public letter in support of the legislation that the solutions will drive progress.

Mobility is increasingly intertwined with digital technology and the amendments will make it possible to create new, user-centric business models, they said.

Similarly, Slovenia's Digital Champion Marko Grobelnik told MPs a green breakthrough could only be achieved with the changes given the limits of the existing legislation.

04 May 2021, 15:07 PM

STA, 4 May 2021 - Household deposits at banks rose by over EUR 2 billion to a record EUR 23 billion in the epidemic year of 2020 from 2019, the Slovenian central bank said on Tuesday. It attributed the rise to the labour market measures taken during the epidemic, which enabled income growth. But since many shops were closed, much of the income was not spent.

Last year, the gross disposable income of households increased by 3.8% or EUR 1.1 billion over 2019.

"Although households had more funds available, private consumption in Slovenia strongly decreased, with similar trends witnessed in all the other eurozone members.

"The reasons are mostly related to restrictive measures needed to contain the spread of the virus, and partly also to precautionary behaviour of residents."

Since many services and non-essential shops were at least partly limited or closed during the lockdowns, households spent around EUR 2.6 billion less than in 2019.

"Banka Slovenija has established that households largely transformed their income to savings", which increased the savings rate by almost 11.7 points to 25%.

This was fuelled by the so called "forced savings" drive stemming from the inability to spend, while uncertainty largely fuelled "precautionary savings" drive at the start of the epidemic in spring.

Another trend from last year was slightly lower demand for consumer loans, which was also witnessed in many other eurozone member states.

The volume of consumer loans given out by banks and savings banks in Slovenia dropped by EUR 218 million.

The central bank estimates that once the epidemiological situation improves, the disposable income will start being spent on private consumption.

"This will again become an important driving force of economic activity in both Slovenia and other eurozone countries."

03 May 2021, 12:08 PM

STA, 3 May 2021 - A new index will be introduced on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange (LJSE) on Monday. The Slovenian Total Return Blue Chip Index, SBITOPT, will include share prices as well as confirmed dividends and just like the SBI TOP, it will measure the profitability of the most liquid Slovenian shares.

The new index is a next step in the stock exchange's efforts to offer more valuable data to investors and to make their investment decisions easier, the LJSE says on its web site.

It is aimed at providing an underlying for derivatives and structured financial instruments on the Slovenian capital market.

The SBI TOP is the benchmark index of blue chips traded on the LJSE. In June 2019, it was joined by the Adria Prime (ADRPR) index.

Website of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange

23 Apr 2021, 12:38 PM

STA, 22 April 2021 - The government will shortly unveil a new stimulus package tailored specifically to the tourism, hospitality and events industries. The legislation will involve an extension of some existing measures as well as new measures, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said on Thursday.

The furlough subsidies, compensation of fixed costs and income support will be extended until the end of the year and "corrected to benefit those who have been shut down", he told the management board of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS).

New measures include compensation for loss of income for tourism operators that have been shut down longest, compensation for the annual holiday allowance, and waiver of fees for the use of thermal water.

Počivalšek also expressed the hope that the deferral of loan payments, a measure that has ended but which many business organisations have said should be extended, would be put in place again.

He said there were problems with the European Bank Agency, which is involved in talks on the scheme along with the Ministry of Finance and the central bank.

The minister is also optimistic that the coming easing of restrictions - outdoor hospitality will open on Saturday and accommodation next week - will help "revitalise the hospitality industry".

The statement comes amidst warnings by businesses that the tourism industry is on the verge of collapse after being shut down since autumn, with cash support from the state insufficient to keep it afloat.

GZS president Boštjan Gorjup said that the tourism industry was "on the edge of the precipice", which is why fast action is needed to prop up the sector.

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