Business

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.

04 Jul 2019, 11:15 AM

STA, 3 July 2019 - The production of the fifth generation Renault Clio was officially launched at Revoz, the Novo Mesto-based assembly plant of the French car maker on Wednesday. The project to establish the assembly line for the latest Clio is worth EUR 90 million, with the Slovenian government chipping in a EUR 6 million incentive.

 

The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, with Šarec saying that Slovenia was proud to have had a factory such as Revoz for the last 60 years.

He said the EUR 90 million investment was a milestone in the development of the automotive industry in Slovenia and in industrial development in general.

Počivalšek noted that the Slovenian car industry boasted 284 companies, which generated 10% of the gross domestic product and more than 20% of exports while employing more than 16,000 people.

Slovenia recorded EUR 15.2 billion in foreign investments last year, which is EUR 1.2 billion more than in 2017.

Počivalšek said the Environment Agency was processing more than a hundred applications for environmental permits, "which means a lot of investments are planned in Slovenia".

Announcing the launch of the new generation of the B-segment supermini, Revoz CEO Kaan Ozkan said that it would bring new jobs, additional investments and a technological breakthrough as a major milestone for the plant and the local environment.

According to Ozkan, the predecessors of Clio V have been among the best selling car models in Slovenia, with the plant producing almost more than two million units since 1995.

As the government announced the project investment at the end of last year, it said that it expected the new investment in Novo Mesto to increase added value per employee at Revoz, which employs 3,400 people.

So far, more than 270 people have been hired because of the new investment.

The government said that Renault intended to invest EUR 4.2 million in buildings and EUR 85.8 million in new machines and equipment as part of the project.

According to the Economy Ministry, the investment will return multiple times as Revoz is expected to pay more than EUR 14 million in taxes and social security contributions in the first three years alone.

Revoz produced older Clio generations between 1993 and 2015, with the last Clio II car produced there at the end of April 2015.

The plant produced almost two million and a half of these vehicles before launching the production of Clio IV in June 2017. It also assembles the Renault Twingo and the Smart Forfour, including its electric version.

04 Jul 2019, 09:18 AM

STA, 3 July 2019 - The Serbian AIK Banka, a new sole owner of Gorenjska Banka since April, decided at Wednesday's annual general meeting that EUR 12 million, or almost two-thirds of last year's distributable profit of Gorenjska Banka of EUR 18.9 million, will be earmarked for dividends at EUR 33.75 per share.

 

The rest - EUR 6.9 million - will remain unallocated, with EUR 4.3 million being at the bank's disposal for unlimited and immediate use to cover risks or losses the moment they occur.

The assembly granted discharge of liability to the management and supervisory boards for last year as well as passed a number of amendments of the company's articles of association today.

The supervisory board, currently including six members, is as of now required to have a minimum of three members and a maximum of seven, while the management board, currently featuring two members, is required to have at least two members and at most five.

Gorenjska Banka generated EUR 20.68 million in profit before taxes last year, thus doubling the 2017 gross profit. The net profit in 2018 was EUR 17.1 million. The bank's total assets amounted to EUR 1.83 billion at the end of the last year.

03 Jul 2019, 11:51 AM

STA, 2 July - Speaking to the Slovenian press in Budapest in the wake of a takeover of SKB bank, the CEO of financial services provider OTP Sandor Csanyi announced organic growth on the Slovenian market, with detailed decisions still subject to an ongoing analysis.

Csanyi described the operations of SKB, which has been sold to Hungary's OTP by the French group Societe Generale, as above average.

He said the foray onto the Slovenian market was important for OTP because of its proximity and promise of good results. Csanyi simultaneously sees the Slovenian market as demanding, arguing banks will have to operate more efficiently.

Still, major changes are not planned for now at SKB, which includes staffing. If there are no mergers, mass layoffs do not make sense, he said, while arguing it was of course normal for some posts to be centralised and that the detailed plans still depended on an ongoing analysis.

Csanyi did not wish to reveal how much OTP paid for SKB, the third largest Slovenian bank when it was acquired by Societe Generale in 2001.

He would also not say how much OTP had offered for Abanka, the current Slovenian no. 3 which ended up being sold by the state two weeks ago to the NKBM bank under its new owner, US fund Apollo. He said OTP just offered too little, while he described the sales procedure as entirely transparent.

According to Csanyi, OTP wants to grow in an organic fashion in Slovenia and reach at least a 10% market share.

The company is interested in helping finance the new Koper-Divača rail track, even if Hungary as a country would not participate, while Csanyi would also not mind participating in some other state projects.

Also highlighted was Ljubljana's Emonika, the stalled train and bus passenger terminal project, with Csanyi saying the situation was presently being examined.

02 Jul 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 1 July 219 - A bill to limit commission fees for renting real estate and other costs which real estate agencies can charge their clients, was endorsed at committee level on Monday, although MPs from left and right were reserved about limiting "business initiative". The cabinet supports the opposition-sponsored bill, but realtors are outraged.

The Left, which supports the minority government, filed the changes to the law on real estate agencies in June to improve the status of tenants but also landlords.

Under the changes, 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, which the Left deems fair, since they have to pay a down payment and the rent.

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 go lower than 150 euro.

The Left believes tenants in apartments rented out 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 introduce EU rules in acquiring qualifications for a real estate agent. As Left leader Luka Mesec told the Infrastructure, Environment and Spatial Planning Committee, Slovenia had already received a warning about a delay from the European Commission.

State Secretary at the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning Aleš Prijon said the bill was in line with the government's housing policy, especially in that it protected tenants.

A similar view was expressed by the Consumer Protection Association, whose Jana Turk said it improved consumer protection in the rental market.

On the other hand, representatives of real estate agents find it unimaginable that anyone would limit the price of a service available on the free market.

Boštjan Udovič from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) said there was enough competition on the market and citizens were obliged to use this service.

He said that less than 50% of the deals were made through real estate agents, which showed tenants were not forced to shoulder the commission fee for the service.

If the bill is passed, the GZS's chamber of real estate business will report Slovenia to the European Commission and probably ask the Constitutional Court to review it, he announced.

All our stories on real estate are here

27 Jun 2019, 16:38 PM

STA, 27 June 2019 - Addressing the press in the face of mounting criticism on Thursday, the management of Adria Airways said it was aware of the carrier's issues but was also working hard to resolve them. CEO Holger Kowarsch said talks with potential strategic partners were under way, but he added Adria could also survive on its own.

Adria, Slovenia's former flag carrier which is in German ownership since 2016 and has struggled with liquidity problems, will do all it can to reduce the number of cancellations and delays, Kowarsch said, but he added that these were normal for all airlines and could not be avoided entirely.

Chief operating officer Tadej Notersberg said the challenges had gotten tougher in May primarily because of an unexpected protraction of maintenance work on aircraft and staff issues.

Now, only one plane remains subject to maintenance work, while 50 pilots and 70 cabin staff members were employed in the past year, with training taking a while.

Adria rejected media reports of a high pilot turnover rate, saying staff turnover had not increased and was lower than at comparable companies in Europe.

Meanwhile, Kowarsch did not wish to talk about any names, but said Adria was in talks with several potential partners. While the company was allegedly seeking state aid recently, Kowarsch added it could also survive without a strategic partner.

Adria did not negotiate a new contract with aircraft maintenance firm Adria Tehnika after the old one expired, but it has already picked a new partner, whose name will be revealed next week. Media reports suggest a Scandinavian company will take over maintenance in September.

Notersberg said Adria parted ways with Adria Tehnika because it was not happy with it, while he said the change will definitely not affect safety.

All our stories about Adria Airways are here

24 Jun 2019, 16:43 PM

Along with Slovenia being discovered as a hidden gem another story that seems to swing by on an annual basis is the one about IKEA opening a store in Ljubljana. However, before you get your hopes up, and perhaps postpone the purchase of a bookcase from another retailer, we present a brief history of the long-delayed project, with the implication that you may still have to leave the country for a visit.

2014

The first news under the headline “IKEA Coming to Ljubljana” seems to come in April, 2014, with a report in the Slovenia Times that:

Swedish furniture giant Ikea is interested in buying a 84,000 square metre plot in Ljubljana's shopping district BTC, the business daily Finance reported on Tuesday. According to unofficial information, Ikea is in talks to buy the plot, owned by insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav, for a sum between EUR 19.3m and EUR 22.7m.

The report quotes a spokesperson for BTC City as saying that it will be at least 18 months – until end last quarter of 2015 – before construction begins.

2015

All’s quiet on the IKEA front until about a year later, March 2015, when the Swedish furniture giant signed a preliminary agreement on the purchase of a plot of land in Ljubljana's BTC City.

2016

At around the time when construction was supposed to have been underway, the next news suggested that things were still at a preliminary stage. Ljubljana’s Mayor, Zoran Janković, no doubt as anxious as the citizens he presides over as to when he’ll be able to get a reliable supply of meatballs, easy-to-assemble furniture, free paper tape measures and pencils, announced in January 2016 that the board of the Swedish company had just confirmed plans to expand to Ljubljana. Reports in the Swedish media indicated that the store would now open in 2018.

Notably, the Mayor said in early 2016 that the negotiations with IKEA had already been going on for nine years.

2017

Eighteen months later, and in September 2017 IKEA issued a press release saying that it had chosen the companies who would build its store and the needed infrastructure in Ljubljana, with the project now waiting for an environmental permit before the building permit could go force.

2018

In February the Slovenian media reported that demolition work had already begun on the site of the proposed store, but that construction work, and indeed any further developments, remained in limbo due to the unresolved status of a planned access road.

On 7 June, 2018 the headline news was "IKEA gives Janković an ultimatum". The report states that the firm “has found a solution in a new spatial planning law that allows investors to request an emergency procedure for changing the relevant zoning plan. It filed the application on 4 June.” On June 19 it was reported that the company would need to conduct a traffic study to show that a new road between Kajuhova and Ameriška streets should be constructed to provide access to the planned store.

A further report in October 2018 said that the project was still on hold until Ljubljana Municipality agreed to build the road.

2019

In February of this year, some months after the store was original due to open, Ljubljana City Council unanimously endorsed a decision that allowed IKEA to finally start building its store in BTC City, even though the required access road south of the planned centre has not yet been built due to ownership complications. The report concludes that IKEA will soon start construction of the 30,000 sq-metre store, which could open in 2020 and provide around 300 jobs.

While we hope the story ends next year with a successful opening you can be sure we’ll continue monitoring the situation, so perhaps stay tuned part 2 of this series in 2024.

Related: BTC City as a Food Destination

24 Jun 2019, 10:27 AM

STA, 23 June 2019 - Slovenia-based industrial companies generated EUR 26 billion in revenue last year, 9.4% more than in 2017, data from the Statistics Office show. The office noted however that about 2-3 percentage points should be attributed to the inclusion of additional industries in the index, among them wood processing, metallurgy and machine repairs.

Industrial revenue has been increasing for years. In 2014, it was at 19.4 billion, the year later it climbed to EUR 20.1 billion, to EUR 21.3 billion in 2016 and to EUR 23.7 billion in 2017, the office said.

Companies making cars and trailers have been at the forefront in the recent years as well as in 2018, when they accounted for nearly 15% of total industrial revenue, followed by production of electric devices (11%) and metallurgy (10%).

Some 75% or EUR 19.8 billion in revenue was generated abroad. Companies making cars and trailers generated 93% of their revenue abroad, followed by companies making boats (86%).

On the other hand, beverage makers generated nearly 75% of their revenue on the domestic market, followed by food companies (71%) and publishing companies (64).

More data on this can be found here

20 Jun 2019, 16:38 PM

STA, 20 June 2019 - As problems surrounding airline Adria Airways seem to be mounting, Fraport Slovenija, the operator of Ljubljana international airport, says it is ready for a potential worst-case scenario at its main client.

 

"Although we cannot provide specific answers, we can say Fraport Slovenija has a plan ready for replacement transport, should it lose its largest business partner," the company said on Thursday, describing its business relationship with Adria as fair.

Fraport noted there was demand for certain air routes, which bodes well for keeping the routes which are potentially profitable.

Slovenia's profile in foreign markets is growing and there is more interest in visiting Slovenia, so the need for launching new or additional air links also grows.

The Brnik-based company also stressed it believed in the potential of Slovenia's air transport market, which can be seen from its many infrastructure investments.

Fraport told news portal Siol.si that attracting (new) airlines is "a very demanding and time-consuming process which usually takes up to two years".

This is even more so if a small market such as the two-million Slovenian one is in question.

Slovenia's main airport offers scheduled flights to 27 cities in 20 countries on board 12 regular airlines, which translates into more than 260 scheduled flights a week.

In summer, Adria, which has recently cancelled several flights and had some liquidity problems in the past, connects Ljubljana with 16 cities on direct routes.

Adria, which the Slovenian government sold to German fund K4 in 2016, carries 52% of all passengers travelling via Ljubljana airport, according to Fraport.

A rise in customer complaints at Adria

STA, 20 June 2019 - With mounting flight cancellations and delays, Adria Airways has been in the spotlight in recent weeks as passengers left stranded aired their grievances on social media. The Civil Aviation Authority said it had already received 134 complaints against the carrier so far this year over violations of EU rules on passenger rights.

The complaints related to Adria account for the bulk of the 208 complaints received so far this year, the agency told the STA.

Adria was also the main target of complaints last year and accounted for nearly 90% of all fines issued, its fines totalling roughly EUR 35,500.

Overall, the number of complaints the agency has received has been rising, from 149 in 2017 to 337 last year and 208 so far this year.

Given the trend, the number is set to rise further this year, but the agency says Adria is not the only airline to blame.

The number of flights and passengers has surged in recent years, with the number of violations of passenger rights rising accordingly.

20 Jun 2019, 12:07 PM

STA, 17 June 2019 - The auditing firm which checked the financials of Slovenian carrier Adria Airways for last year is in the spotlight on suspicion that Adria's financial statements do not accurately reflect its financial state, news portal Siol reported on Monday.

 

The Slovenian Agency for Public Oversight of Auditing is looking into the work of the Slovenian branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which audited Adria, to determine whether it has done its job, according to Siol.

The credibility of Adria's balance sheet is one of the preconditions for its air operator certificate. If Adria were to lose it, it would have to ground its aircraft, Siol says.

"We've been informed about the audit and we do not see any problems. We're convinced our auditors have conducted a fair and professional audit of our financial statements," Adria said.

Siol speculates the check will look into several transactions involving the Adria brand, which was first sold to a mailbox company and later bought back as a capital injection to shore up the firm's capital base.

The company the brand was sold to is believed to be tightly connected with 4K Invest, the private equity fund which owns Adria.

The Agency for Public Oversight of Auditing has initiated proceedings at the request of the Civil Aviation Authority.

The news is the latest sign of problems at the beleaguered carrier, which has been in the media spotlight for months due to numerous cancellations and mergers of flights that have extended short-haul flights by hours.

Adria has claimed the ongoing disruptions are a result of technical and operational reasons and pledged to stabilise operations by the beginning of July.

Siol claims the cancellations are a result of technical issues with aircraft and lack of flight crews exacerbated by the airline's financial problems.

The airline had similar problems last summer and pledged to sort things out by this summer.

Adria's woes and the possibility of it going bust have raised concerns about Slovenia's air traffic connections and even given rise to calls that a renationalisation should be undertaken.

Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said today state aid was out of the question since the carrier had received aid less than ten years ago, but she indicated the government was working on a contingency plan.

In the event Adria can no longer connect Ljubljana with European capitals, the government is exploring incentives for certain routes that are key for the state. "This is all the state can currently do," according to Bratušek.

20 Jun 2019, 11:28 AM

STA, 19 June 2019 - Abanka, Slovenia's third largest bank, will be sold to NKBM bank, owned by US fund Apollo, with the value of the deal to be disclosed on Thursday as the sales agreement is to be signed.

The decision was announced by Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) after the supervisory board endorsed the management board's proposal on Wednesday to sell Abanka to NKBM as the best bidder.

SSH will provide more information about the sales procedure, including the value of the transaction, after the contract is signed. The signing is scheduled for tomorrow.

A merger between Abanka and NKBM would create a bank with combined total assets of EUR 8.71 billion or a 22.5% market share. Slovenia's largest bank, NLB, has total assets of EUR 8.81 billion.

Speaking to reporters, SSH chief supervisor Karmen Dietner said that the selected bidder had not been given any guarantees for potential negative consequences of lawsuits pertaining to the 2013 bailout.

SSH management board chairman Igor Kržan said that the sales process was rather long, but also transparent and competitive. "These are two key factors, if we want a successful sales procedure."

Asked whether the proceeds from the sale would make up for the state's capital injection in the bank, at EUR 781 million, Dietner said: "If we add to the purchase money all the debts that are being sold by the Bank Assets Management Company, I hope we'll reach or exceed the state aid."

Unofficial information available to the STA indicates that NKBM as well as the Hungarian bank OTP offered between EUR 450 million and 500 million for the bank in the final stage of bidding.

The newspaper Finance cited unofficial information suggesting the purchase money was just below 90% of the share's book value or just over EUR 500 million. The purchase money includes the takeover premium.

Neither NKBM nor OTP bank would comment on SHH's decision as yet, with the NKBM management saying it would "wait for the seller's written confirmation".

Dietner would not comment on Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's tweet on 7 June that SSH should "seriously reconsider continuing the sale of Abanka. In particular to questionable funds."

However, she said: "We have thought over the decision thoroughly, we have taken a little bit of extra time, having deferred the session from Monday. The decision is well grounded."

Responding to SSH's decision today, Šarec's office issued a statement saying that with the sale of Abanka and conclusion of NLB's privatisation certain commitments to the European Commission would cease.

"This means the lifting of major restrictions on operations of the two banks, which is vital for their competitiveness and further development," the PM's office said.

Slovenia pledged to fully privatise Abanka by the end of June 2019, and to sell 75% minus one share in NLB bank by the end of 2019 in exchange for the European Commission clearing state aid to both banks in 2013.

SSH today sold the remaining 10% of NLB shares to institutional investors for EUR 109.5 million after a 65% state stake in the bank was sold for EUR 669.5m in an initial public offering last year.

Šarec's office underscored that SSH had taken the decisions on the two banks independently in accordance with its powers and based on the strategy of state asset management, passed by parliament in 2015.

A similar reaction came from the Finance Ministry, which said that 10% of the purchase money for Abanka would be earmarked for the demographic reserve fund and 90% to reduce government debt.

Abanka is the last major bank still in state ownership after NKBM was sold to Apollo (80%) and the EBRD (20%) in 2015, and following the partial privatisation of NLB last year.

To finalise the acquisition of Abanka, NKBM will need to get clearance from the competition watchdog and the European Central Bank, which needs between four and five months on average to issue its decision.

Since NKBM is owned by Apollo, which acquired the Maribor-based bank in a privatisation required as a condition for the approval of state aid to the bank, regulatory approval procedures are not expected to take long.

NKBM and Abanka have 2,300 employees and around 100 branches between them, plus 330 NKBM counters at post offices around the country.

Abanka saw its net profit decline by 27% in the first quarter of the year to EUR 18.6 million. Total assets increased by just over 2% to EUR 3.8 billion at the end of March.

NKBM posted a group net profit of EUR 72.5 million for 2018. Its total assets as of the end of 2018 amounted to close to EUR 5 billion.

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