Business

16 Jul 2019, 16:00 PM

STA, 15 July 2019 - A bill to limit commission fees for leasing real estate and other costs which real estate agencies can charge their clients was vetoed by the National Council on Monday.

The veto comes as real estate agencies have vehemently protested the bill and have threatened to petition the Constitutional Court.

Under the changes to the act on real estate agency tabled by the Left, landlords would fully pay the commission fee charged by a real estate agency for a service commissioned by them.

This means tenants would no longer shoulder part of the fee, tackling one of the biggest complaints by individuals - the fact that tenants pay a fee for a service they have not commissioned.

A cap would also be imposed on the commission fee that can be charged by apartment rental agencies to landlords. The capped amount would correspond to one monthly rent but would not be lower than 150 euros.

The restrictions apply only to rental to individuals, business-to-business transactions are exempted.

Councillor Mitja Gorenšček, who led the veto initiative, argued today that the proponents of regulation should be targeting other fields on the market and not an area that the average persons encounters once or never in their life.

The Left's Luka Mesec begged to differ, arguing Slovenia had not developed a long-term flat renting market, with most tenants signing 12-month contracts and then being forced to pay for a service they did not commission every few years.

While the Left argued one of the goals of the bill was to enable people affordable housing, Gorenšček said the real problem was insufficient supply and that this was where the state should intervene with measures. He however also echoed the claims of businesses that the bill was an encroachment on the free market.

Environmental and Spatial Planning Ministry State Secretary Marko Maver however also came out in the defence of the bill, saying it followed housing policy guideline. He said it would increase accessibility and also encourage long-term contracts.

Meanwhile, the bill also introduces EU rules in acquiring qualifications for a real estate agent; Slovenia had already received a warning about a delay from the European Commission.

The Left is confident the bill receive the absolute majority needed in the National Assembly to override the veto.

All our stories on property in Slovenia are here

16 Jul 2019, 12:33 PM

STA, 15 July 2019 - In the next three years, some EUR 200 million will be invested in the building of broadband optical networks in rural parts of Slovenia as part of the RUNE project, co-funded by the EU and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The Rural Network Project will be launched this year and will bring internet speeds of up to 10Gb/s to rural households, according to RUNE Enia, the company in charge of the investment in Slovenia.

The project, which is also being launched in Croatia, is co-funded by the Connecting Europe Broadband Fund (CEBF) set up by the EU and the EIB in order to help fund commercial investments. RUNE investment in Croatia is somewhat lower than in Slovenia, at EUR 50 million.

According to the European Commission's web site, the goal is to generate between EUR 1 billion and EUR 1.7 billion investments by providing EUR 500 million in incentives.

15 Jul 2019, 14:54 PM

STA, 12 July 2019 - The opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) have joined the initiative of Slovenian workers who commute to Austria for a constitutional review of what they see as discriminatory income tax legislation.

While the union of Slovenian migrant workers asked the top court to review the income tax act in November 2018, Franc Breznik of the SDS told the press on Friday that the two parties urged the court to give the matter absolute priority treatment.

"This is a very burning issue in particularly in the east on the country, an issue that is perhaps not felt so much in Ljubljana," he said.

Slovenians working abroad but residing in Slovenia pay part of the taxes in Austria and additional income tax in Slovenia, which the NSi's Jožef Horvat said leaves them with less disposable income compared to workers with similar income in Slovenia.

"If both make EUR 18,700 gross a year, the worker in Slovenia has EUR 1,750 more disposable income than the one working in Austria," he said.

Horvat, who highlighted a different tax treatment of food and transport allowances as a key source of the discrepancy, said the situation was at odds with a Constitutional Court reasoning from 2013 that put commuting migrant workers on "essentially equal" footing with their compatriots in Slovenia as regards income tax, "which means our legal order should treat them equally".

He added the current arrangement was also at odds with the principle of the welfare sate, since the segment of commuting migrant workers with high income is subjected to a more favourable treatment when it comes to the mentioned allowance costs.

Responding to the original initiative for a constitutional review a while ago, the Finance Ministry said that exempting Slovenian workers commuting abroad from income tax would be systemically unacceptable and violate the constitutional principle of equal tax treatment.

All of our stories on tax in Slovenia are here

15 Jul 2019, 12:59 PM

STA, 15 July 2019 - The average gross salary in Slovenia was at EUR 1,728.12 gross in May and EUR 1,113.88 net. Compared to May 2018, average gross salary was 3.9% higher in nominal terms and 2.5% higher in real terms. Net salary was 3.4% higher in nominal terms and 2% higher in real terms compared to the May of last year, according to the Statistics Office.

The highest net wages were paid out in the financial and insurance sector, EUR 1,556.92 net. Compared to April, average gross and net pay was 0.1% lower in nominal terms and 1% lower in real terms.

In the public sector, net salaries went up by 0.7% on average in May over April, while in the private sector, the average net pay went down by 0.6% compared to April.

More details on these statistics can be found here, while all our stories on pay in Slovenia are here

12 Jul 2019, 16:19 PM

STA, 12 July 2019 - A bill to limit commission fees for leasing real estate and other costs which real estate agencies can charge their clients was endorsed by the National Assembly on Friday amidst protests by real estate agencies, which have threatened to petition the Constitutional Court.

Under the changes to the act on real estate agency tabled by the Left, landlords would fully pay the commission fee charged by a real estate agency for a service commissioned by them.

This means tenants would no longer shoulder part of the fee, tackling one of the biggest complaints by individuals - the fact that tenants pay a fee for a service they have not commissioned.

A cap would also be imposed on the commission fee that can be charged by apartment rental agencies to landlords. The capped amount would correspond to one monthly rent but would not be lower than 150 euros.

The restrictions apply only to rental to individuals, business-to-business transactions are exempted.

The Left believes tenants in apartments leased at market prices should benefit the most since they will no longer have to pay commission fees for the services they have not commissioned and since landlords would be encouraged to rent out their apartments for longer periods.

The bill also introduces EU rules in acquiring qualifications for a real estate agent; Slovenia had already received a warning about a delay from the European Commission.

While the motion received wholehearted support from the government and the Consumer Protection Association, businesses have been up in arms over what they say is encroachment on the free market.

Representatives of real estate agents, who even took out whole-page ads in newspapers to protest the bill, said it was inadmissible for anyone to limit the price of a service available on the free market.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) has said there is enough competition on the market and citizens are not obliged to use this service.

Fewer than 50% of real estate transactions are made through real estate agents, which GZS sees as proof that tenants are not forced to shoulder the commission fee for the service.

The GZS's section of real estate agents has said it will report Slovenia to the European Commission and probably ask the Constitutional Court to review the bill.

10 Jul 2019, 09:25 AM

STA, 9 July 2019 - Pivovarna Laško Union, a Slovenian brewery owned by the Dutch company Heineken, ended 2018 with a net profit of EUR 20.3 million, up roughly a third form 2017, on net sales revenues of EUR 153.1 million, a rise of 6.5%.

Net sales revenues rose mostly on account of heftier sales in foreign markets, which accounted for 26% of all sales revenue, up 4 percentage points, the Ljubljana-based company said in Tuesday's press release.

Its operating profit (EBIT) rose by 29% to EUR 27.6 million, whereas normalised EBIT - the operating profit adjusted to remove one-off events - reached EUR 28.6 million.

Director general Zooullis Mina, who has been at the helm of the Slovenian brewer since the spring 2018, labelled the last business year successful.

He noted that 45 investments had been made in the brewery's two production facilities - Pivovarna Union and Pivovarna Laško - and in the logistics segment.

Sustainable development being an integral part of the group's business strategy, Pivovarna Laško Union used 5% less drinking water and 10% less energy to produce a litre of beer in 2018 compared to 2016. What is more, Laško uses only Slovenian-grown hops.

At the end of 2018, Pivovarna Laško Union had a workforce of 596, roughly on a par with 2017.

The group was established in 2016 with the merger of Pivovarna Laško and Pivovarna Union after the two were acquired by Heineken a year earlier.

09 Jul 2019, 11:45 AM

STA, 9 July 2019 - Telecoms operator Telemach, which holds about a fifth of the country's mobile telephony market, is on track to losing a portion of wireless spectrum that had been awarded free of charge in 2008 to a company it acquired almost five years ago.

The Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS) has decided to take back two 5 MHz slices of spectrum in the 2100 MHz band, which amounts to less than a tenth of total spectrum that Telemach has at its disposal.

The decision will be effective on 30 September, until which time a public call for bids for the spectrum will be issued. Telemach will be allowed to bid, AKOS said on Tuesday.

Telemach told the STA the move would not affect its users since they have enough spectrum, and it said it would mount a challenge at the Administrative Court.

As for participating in the announced tender, the company said this would "depend on the tender conditions and the company's assessment as to whether the acquisition of additional frequency under the tender conditions is technically and economically justified."

The decision is based on an ruling by the Administrative Court, which examined the awarding of the spectrum to Tušmobil free of charge in 2008 and decided the agency needed to make a new decision.

The awarding of the spectrum is also the subject of a criminal trial, with former AKOS director Tomaž Simonič charged with abuse of office for giving the spectrum to Tušmobil in exchange for an apartment provided by Mirko Tuš, at the time the owner of Tušmobil.

Telemach acquired Tušmobil in 2014 in a move that bolstered its mobile offerings and made it the number 3 wireless operator in Slovenia.

08 Jul 2019, 09:32 AM

STA, 5 July 2019 - Biser Bidco, the sole owner of Slovenia's second largest bank NKBM, decided on Friday to pay out EUR 5 million in dividends, leaving EUR 126,66 million in profit undistributed.

The EUR 5 million payout is significantly lower than the year before, when Bidco Biser decided to pay out EUR 45.8 million in dividends. The AGM also granted a discharge of liability to the bank's management and supervisory boards.

The Luxembourg-based company is owned by US fund Apollo, which holds 80% of the company, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The two companies signed a contract to buy the Maribor-based state-owned bank for EUR 250m in mid-2015, meeting all the requirements in April 2016.

The AGM comes only a few weeks after NKBM was selected as the best bidder in the privatisation of Abanka. A EUR 444 million sales contract has already been signed, with the transaction pending regulatory approval.

The sale is expected to go through by the end of the year. The NKBM-Abanka merger, which is expected to be wrapped up in the first quarter of 2020, will create the second largest bank group in Slovenia.

07 Jul 2019, 11:24 AM

STA, 7 July 2019 - Slovenia's organic farming sector continues to grow slowly but steadily. There were 3,320 agricultural holdings registered as organic farms last year, a 4% increase over 2017. The farms produced more organic vegetable and fruit in 2018 than the previous year, which was a bad year for farmers due to extreme weather conditions.

Farms holding the status of organic producers represented 4.8% of all farms in Slovenia.

The country's total organic produce grew by 27% last year compared to 2017, amounting to over 29,000 tonnes, while the amount of produced vegetables (over 1,800 tonnes) increased by 21% compared to 2017, shows the Statistics Office data released on Friday.

The production of grapes (over 1,500 tonnes) and olives (over 550 tonnes) increased as well, by 15% and 31%, respectively.

The 2018 organic production of fruit was almost six times bigger than in 2017, weighing more than 5,000 tonnes.

The number of animals in organic farming was mostly lower in 2018 than in the previous year - on average by 9% - with the exception of honey bee colonies (up by 31% to 2,863), other animals, such as game reared in pens (up by almost 9%) and cattle (up by almost 2%).

The total amount of organically produced meat grew by 26% in 2018 compared to 2017.

The production of organic milk in 2018 mostly increased compared to 2017 - organic cow's milk was up 20% to 6,900 tonnes, sheep milk was up by almost 2% to 181 tonnes, while goat milk was down 13% to 139 tonnes.

The organic production of honey and eggs grew in 2018 as well - by 41% and 26%, respectively.

Agricultural areas intended for organic farming increased in 2018 - by 1,320 hectares or 7% compared to 2017. The organic vineyard area grew by 37%, organic orchards by 14% and olive grooves by 13%, while the area for organic production of vegetables increased by 11%.

The share of permanent pastures and meadows in organic farming is decreasing though, but at a slow pace - the share was at 82.8% in 2017 and 81.7% in 2018.

05 Jul 2019, 09:30 AM

STA, 4 July 2019 - The Ministry of Labour has come up with a calculation of the effect of the planned rise in the minimum wage in 2020 on the entire economy, establishing that, coupled with the elimination of bonuses from the minimum wage, it would cost the private sector EUR 197.1 million or 1.77% of the wage bill.

The calculation comes as a response from the government to the criticism from employer representatives about it having failed to make proper projections before adopting legislative changes raising the minimum wage.

In a recently published document, the ministry says that the effect of the raise of the gross minimum wage could be estimated relatively precisely based on data from previous years, while it is much harder to estimate the effect of the elimination of bonuses, as there are no relevant databases.

The ministry has established that the financial effect of the expected raise of the minimum wage in 2020 would be EUR 63.6 million or 0.57% of the wage bill, and the elimination of bonuses an additional EUR 133.5 million or 1.2% of the wage bill.

In commerce, where the number of employees on minimum wage is the highest, the added cost is expected to be EUR 37.3 million or 1.81% of the wage bill.

The ministry has assessed that the cumulative financial effects at the level of the entire economy will not be significant, while it is aware that they could be higher in industries with lower wages and a higher number of permanent bonuses.

It does not expect that a large number of companies will get into trouble considering that the total net profit posted by Slovenian companies last year increased by 16% and that the economic situation and the situation on the labour market are favourable.

Employer representatives are disappointed with the calculation, with Jože Smole, the secretary general of the Employers' Association, telling the STA that the analysis was very modest, featuring only three pages of text.

Smole is convinced that it does not take into account the complexity of the matter and is critical of the ministry for relying too much on the general data about profit and disregarding the possibility that companies which do not make profit would get into further trouble.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) reiterated in its response that it was against the changes to the minimum wage act, which it believes will hurt vulnerable individuals and companies the most.

The changes, which were passed last year without the approval of all social partners, raised the minimum wage this year from EUR 638 net to EUR 667 net, and next year it is expected to increase to EUR 700 net.

All our stories on pay in Slovenia are here

https://www.total-slovenia-news.com/tag/salary

04 Jul 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 2 July 2019 - The share of electricity from renewable sources in gross end use in Slovenia in 2018 rose by 3.4 percentage points to 21.8% from 2005, the Energy Agency, the national regulator, says in its 2018 report.

This was facilitated by a support scheme which has since 2009 involved more than 2,500 producers with almost 3,860 production facilities running on renewables.

But in line with national goals stemming from the EU's climate and energy package, the share of renewables in gross end use will have to be raised to 25% by 2020.

To achieve this goal, progress will have to be made in transport and in power production, the agency says in the report, which has been sent to the National Assembly.

In transport, Slovenia was by 4.7 percentage points behind the target 10.5% share in 2018, while the gap for electricity output to the 39.3% goal was over 7 points.

Renewables-based power was generated mostly by hydro plants and other plants running on renewables, reaching 34.5% of the country's total power output in 2018, up almost 5 points annually.

The rest of Slovenia's power output came from coal-fired power stations (29%) and the Krško Nuclear Power Plant, the country's only nuclear power station (36.5%).

Domestic electricity production covered almost 85% of domestic electricity consumption, up 1.7 points from 2017.

However, the agency said the output did not reflect the actual potential of the country's electricity production facilities.

It was rather a result of the structure of production facilities, their competitiveness and the emerging electricity market target model, says the report.

For instance, hydro power stations' output depends on water levels, while coal-fired power stations and plants running on liquid and gas fuels strongly depend on daily power consumption as well as on market variables such as the prices of emission coupons, fuel or wholesale.

The agency also says market concentration in the retail market somewhat decreased last year, which shows there is more competition among electricity suppliers.

However, the end price of electricity for an average household edged up 0.3%, while it rose by more than 8% for other users.

While there is still much room to save on electricity bills by changing suppliers, the number of those did so in 2018 dropped by one point to 5.7% over 2017, a second consecutive annual drop.

The Energy Agency is the country's national regulatory authority which directs and supervises electricity and gas energy operators.

Its mission is to act in the interest of all market stakeholders, so it is not financed from the state budget but from network charges.

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