STA, 8 May 2019 - The Slovenian economy as a whole significantly improved its performance last year, with total net profit of companies increasing by 16% and total revenues by 9%, according to the Agency for Public Legal Records (AJPES).
The total net profit posted by Slovenian companies surpassed the total loss for the fifth year in a row in 2018, standing at EUR 4.2 billion, up 16% year-on-year.
The 66,749 companies which submitted their business results for last year to AJPES meanwhile increased their combined revenue by 9% to EUR 100.8 billion.
Revenues generated on the foreign markets amounted to EUR 40.7 billion, which is 10% more than in 2017.
Slovenian companies also hired new employees at a facilitated pace last year, with the number of employed persons measured by hours worked increasing by 29,517 compared to 2017 to 503,326.
Employees received an average wage of EUR 1,652 gross last year, or EUR 65 gross more than in 2017. Net added value per employee was up by 2% to EUR 44,415.
AJPES will present a more detailed analysis of annual reports of Slovenian companies at a press conference next week.
STA, 8 May 219 - Slovenia has remained the fifth most attractive destination for German investors among 15 countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), while 80% of German investors would reinvest in the country, which is 16 percentage points less than last year, the latest survey by the Slovenian-German Chamber of Commerce has shown.
Chamber president Gertrud Rantzen said at Wednesday's presentation of the survey that CEE was one of the most important economic regions for Germany, where the country's companies found a lot of partners and investment destinations.
Rantzen noted that Slovenia had kept its ranking in terms of attractiveness for German investments, but that it must not rest on laurels. Slovenia is trailing only the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Estonia in the region.
"The other countries are not sleeping, some of them have made strong progress and them overtaking Slovenia is only a matter of time," she added.
Slovenia's biggest shortcomings have remained the same - tax burden, tax system and authorities, high labour costs and rigid labour legislation. The situation on the labour market is also deteriorating, as the available labour force is shrinking.
The survey shows that despite the shortcomings of the Slovenian business environment, 80% of German investors would pick the country again as a location for their investments, which is however a drop compared to last year (96%).
Rantzen thus called for better training of employees, a migration policy which would attract foreign experts, and the promotion of apprenticeship. She again called on the government to introduce a cap on social security contributions.
The chamber has also noticed progress in Slovenia in certain fields, with the economic, political and social stability improving.
Investors have assessed the country's economic policy as more predictable, legal security has also improved, and Slovenia is also standing out in terms of infrastructure in the positive sense, Rentzen added.
Slovenia's score in transparency of public procurement and quality of academic education has also improved, and the country decisively leads the 15 countries as the top destination for research and development.
Slovenia has been the fastest growing economy in the region since 2016, with 68% of the surveyed German companies assessing the current economic situation in the country as good, and 28% as satisfactory.
Only 17% of the respondents expect that Slovenia's exports will increase next year, and 62% that they will stay level. "Certain sectors are stagnating, automotive suppliers in particular," said Rentzen.
One-fifth of the surveyed companies want to increase their investments in Slovenia, 52% will keep their investment plans for 2019 as they are. Total German investments in Slovenia are expected to stand at EUR 557 million by 2022.
A majority of the planned investments will go for digitalisation and expansion of production. There will also be more investments in education and training of workforce and the development of products, the survey shows.
STA, 5 May 2019 - Mlinotest, the Ajdovščina-based bread and pasta company, is looking back at a successful year, having posted a solid growth in revenue and profit in 2018, mainly thanks to a strong growth in exports.
Mlinotest saw its profit rise by 18% to EUR 2m last year as revenue increased by 9% to EUR 55.9m, driven by a 22% growth in exports.
Commenting on the results, the company's CEO Danilo Kobal pointed out in particular good sales in Germany and Latin America, where they expect to expand further.
The core company generated around 20% of the sales in foreign markets, while the percentage of exports in group sales is a little bit higher still.
Its biggest export markets are Italy, Croatia, Columbia, Panama, Poland, Austria, Germany and France. Dry pasta is the number one export product, followed by products such as frozen bread and pastry.
"The first lorries of frozen confectionery have just been supplied to the second largest German grocer. We won the deal this year amid fierce competition. We place great hopes in it," Kobal said.
Over the past four years, the company invested more than EUR 4m annually in upgrading and expanding its production facilities. A further EUR 3m will be invested this year, half of which in bakery packaging automation.
This year, sales are projected to increase by 9% and net profit by 10%. "Three months into the year, I can say we are well on track to meet or even trump the targets," said Kobal.
The core company employs around 550 people and the entire group 670. Despite intensive automation and robotisation of production, Mlinotest is planning to open a few new jobs in coming years.
STA, 3 May 2019 - The French group Societe Generale signed an agreement on Friday with OTP Bank Group on selling SKB Banka and its subsidiaries to the Hungarian financial service provider, which will thus enter the Slovenian market. OTP is also reportedly one of the three most serious bidders for the country's third largest bank Abanka.
The purchase price was not revealed in today's press release by Societe Generale, which had taken over SKB in 2001, when it was the third largest Slovenian bank.
According to the agreement, OTP will take over SKB Banka, which is still among the top five largest banks in the country, as well as its subsidiaries SKB Leasing and SKB Leasing Select.
The takeover will be completed pending approvals of both banking regulators, Banka Slovenije and the European Central Bank, as well as competition regulators in the upcoming months.
The French group has already sold a number of banks in SE Europe, striving to improve its solvency ratio and lower the risk exposure level.
On the other hand, OTP Bank Group has strengthened its foothold in Central, Eastern and SE Europe in recent years, mostly through taking over businesses from Societe Generale.
OTP, Hungary's largest commercial bank and one of the largest independent financial service providers in Central and Eastern Europe, already made an attempt to enter the Slovenian market in 2014, when it was one of the bidders for the bank NKBM, according to unofficial reports.
The Hungarian bank has also confirmed its interest for Abanka, with two other companies vying to take over the third largest Slovenian bank, the private equity fund Apollo and Serbian bank AIK Banka.
Besides agreeing on the takeover, Societe Generale and OTP have also come to an agreement on the cooperation in providing various financial services, including investment banking, capital markets, liquidity management, with Slovenia being part of this agreement.
The sale of SKB is coming despite the bank's positive business results in the last year. SKB Banka generated EUR 57.6m in net profit in 2018, a 32.7% increase year-on-year, marking the bank's second-best result since it became part of Societe Generale.
STA, 25 April 2019 - Household appliances maker Gorenje expects to lay off 270 people as the group undergoes reorganisation following a recent change in ownership. The newspaper Večer meanwhile learnt from the in-house trade union that 1,720 people would be sacked, of which 1,450 would be offered new contracts.
The company, which employs a total of just over 4,200 people, and has recently been taken over by Chinese Hisense, said in a statement following the report by Večer that reduction staff in support services would be achieved through attrition.
Nonetheless, layoffs will not be avoided if the company will determine that there is no more need for a certain position.
The trade union meanwhile said it was willing to use any measure to fight layoffs and has called a press conference for tomorrow. It also refused to take part in talks about redundancy criteria, scheduled for today.
Nevertheless, Gorenje expects a new organisation scheme to be adopted in the first half of May. The next step will be to finalise the redundancies list and adopt a plan of action.
The trade union strongly opposes any moves toward redundancies since it believes the employees are not responsible for the company's poor business results.
It wants the company's management to take responsibility for the poor performance by initiating a procedure investigating liability of individual top managers.
Gorenje generated almost EUR 1.2bn in sales revenue last year, a 1.7% decrease compared to 2017. In 2018 the company sustained some EUR 37m in net loss, while it brought in a profit the previous year.
STA, 25 April 2019 - Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek met Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhang in Beijing on Thursday. He moreover addressed the 2019 Belt and Road Forum, underlining that Slovenia was an open, high-tech partner economy.
A press release from the Economy Ministry quoted Počivalšek as saying that China appreciated the attendance of politicians at events such as the Belt and Road summit that started today.
Počivalšek noted at the sidelines of the event that a number of bilateral meetings of Slovenian and Chinese politicians had taken place over the past 26 years, which is reflected in traditionally good relations and strong business ties.
Meetings taking place as part of the 16+1 initiative of Central and Eastern European countries and China boost Slovenia's visibility and open doors for Slovenian companies, he added.
Počivalšek proposed to Wang that the countries sign a memorandum on cooperation in technology and innovation. He said that China considered Slovenia to be a credible partner in innovation. "We must seize this opportunity for our companies."
Počivalšek arrived in China on Tuesday, visiting the headquarters of Haisense and meeting representatives of the Liaoning Shenyang province yesterday.
The UK’s Ascent Resources PLC, often in the news in Slovenia for its attempts to increase production at its Petišovci gas field, issued 214.3 million shares earlier this week at £0.0035 (0.35 pence) per share, with the offer bought by a small number of institutional investors. A fell by over 20% after the share issue from the company says the funds raised are intended to reprocess 3D seismic data in relation to the Slovenian project, as well was as to pay for compression equipment, evaluate other regional opportunities and provide additional working capital.
While the company’s shares started the month at 0.20 pence, and jumped to 0.70 pence on April 8, with news that it had received a new permit from ARSOS, the Slovenian Environment Agency, they fell by over 20% after the share issue, and – at the time of writing – stand at 0.40 pence. The shares reached an all-time high of £5.85 in August 2007.
The Petišovci project has been the subject of some controversy and heated online debate, with some investors in the company alleging in correspondence with TSN that corruption at the highest levels of the Slovenian government has prevented the firm from developing its holdings there.
STA, 24 April 2019 - The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) hosted a meeting of businessmen from Slovenia and the Russian Samara region on Wednesday as part of a visit by a delegation led by Samara Governor Dmitry Azarov. On the occasion the GZS signed a cooperation agreement with its Samara counterpart.
A press release from the GZS quoted the chamber's executive director Sonja Šmuc in saying that the agreement would boost trade and business links between Slovenia and the Samara region.
Šmuc believes that Slovenia and Russia could match the record volume of trade seen in 2013, at EUR 1.5bn, in a year and a half.
Last year, bilateral trade amounted to EUR 1.15bn, around 45% of which was generated by the pharmaceutical industry, followed by telecommunications, engineering, household appliances and paints.
"We also want to set up cooperation in other areas, such as the agricultural and food industry, IT, cooling technology," Šmuc told the meeting, featuring more than 50 businessmen.
Governor Azarov noted huge potential for cooperation in particular in science and education, industry and tourism. He believes the agreement signed today would give a new impetus to business links.
According to him, the Samara region has a well diversified industry, excellent higher education and science, a suitable geographical position, and has taken fiscal and legislative solutions designed to attract capital and know-how.
The meeting was also attended by Russian Ambassador Doku Zavgayev, who said he believed in expanding ties between Slovenia and several Russian regions, with great potential in modern technology.
Victor Kudryashov, the first deputy of the chairman of the government of the Samara region, said that the region was open to new development partnerships and investment.
He said that the Samara Oblast as Russia's centre of the automotive and space industries welcomed Slovenian know-how, which could be implemented in the industry there.
All our stories about Slovenia and Russia are here
April 25, 2019
On Tuesday the Noordung Centre in Vitanje hosted an event titled Noordung Forum: Building European Blockchain Infrastructure. The forum was organised by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, the Noordung Hub and Tolar Hashnet, a blockchain developer.
Names worth mentioning from the crowd of representatives of business and states that attended the event are certainly Tadej Slapnik, a member of the former Prime Minister Cerar’s cabinet and the cabinet of MEP Ivo Vajgl, and currently the director of Tolar Hashnet; Minister of Culture Zoran Poznič; European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc; and Member of European Parliament Ivo Vajgl. The event was announced by Nena Dokuzov, Head of the Project Group for New Economy and Blockchain Technology of the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia. Nena Dokuzov is also a member of the European Blockchain Partnership and a former director of the Noordung Centre, a post she took following the controversial takeover of this originally privately owned establishment by the government.
The debate focused on various hypothetical uses of blockchain, with an underlying consensus on the “ground-breaking” and “world changing” characteristics of the technology. The event then climaxed with the launch of the Tolar Hashnet TestNet, which is basically yet another coin.
This one, however, is based on “advanced” blockchain technology which is “scalable” and “100% secure”. Meaning, the system of Tolar has abandoned a classical blockchain mining component and moved towards a more efficient and therefore centralised system with just a few global nodes calculating the code chain. This allows for faster code processing and hence more daily transactions. Its capability however is still nowhere close to the functional level any means of exchange must meet in order to support the velocity of money.
Therefore, crypto currencies for now remain “digital currency schemes”, exhibiting key features such as being “assets, the value of which is determined by supply and demand, similar in concept to commodities such as gold, yet with zero intrinsic value” (BIS definition according to source, p. 21). Meaning that any returns on investment rely mostly on bringing more investors into the scheme. Of course this wouldn’t have worked, if it didn’t come with a good story, which provides its members with a sense of superiority (as the “technologically advanced” ones) and moralising tools of recruitment: saying “no” to blockchain (i.e. refusing to invest in crypto) means to be technologically uneducated and socially irresponsible, since blockchain is here to somehow bring back democracy and is also – according to Tadej Slapnik from Tolar Hashnet – environmentally friendly.
Things seem to have changed drastically since the Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies (KSEVT) was launched in Vitanje in 2012. The main emphasis of the project was not on technological advancement of space travel per se, as such a purely utilitarian stance quickly brings military-oriented goals while the function of human in space is to survive and follow protocols, hence reduced to the dilemma of Is it really a human or is it a robot?.
KSEVT’s project of space culturalization was inspired by the father of astronautics, Herman Potočnik Noordung, who spent most of his childhood in either Maribor or Vitanje, his mother’s birthplace. In 1929 Potočnik published his single but ground-breaking work The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket Motor, in which he applied his engineering ingenuity to explore life in space from a humanistic perspective. His wheel-shaped space station inspired many to come, notably the design of the “Space Station V” in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
KSEVT was well accepted not just by proud local descendants of the space travel pioneer, but also by the international space agencies and astronauts, such as Sunita Williams, who visited and participated in several of events in Vitanje.
In 2014, KSEVT was transformed from a private institute into a public municipal institute, to become eligible to apply for public funding at the national and not just municipal level and in the same year also received some funding from the Ministry of Culture. However, the Ministry was not happy with KSEVT’s report on how the money was spent, which eventually led to the government takeover. The original founders were removed, and Nena Dokuzov from the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology was named acting director.
In 2017 Nena Dokuzov established Noordung Blockchain Hub cooperative which attempted to register and operate from the Noordung Space Center in Vitanje. In early 2018 members of municipality council in Vitanje unanimously rejected Noordung Blockchain Hub’s request on the grounds that Cryptocurrencies do not have much in common with culturalization of space, the main activity of the Noordung Centre.
In 2018 Dominik Kobolt replaced Nena Dokuzov as the acting director of Noordung Space Centre. As evident from the latest events, attempts at the colonisation of cultural space by cryptocurrency salesmen continue with full support of Slovenian government officials and their representatives in the European Union.
STA, 24 April 2019 - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek visited the headquarters of Hisense, the owner of household appliances maker Gorenje, on Wednesday, the second day of his visit to China. He said Hisense would get the government's support in simplifying procedures and having its investments approved in Slovenia.
Počivalšek was received by Hisense group vice president Tang Yeguo and the delegation visited the manufacturing plant for cooling devices and the showroom, the company said in a press release.
Počivalšek's five day trip to China aims at boosting business ties. He is scheduled to meet the representatives of Liaoning Shenyang, where automotive maker TPV is to launch a new facility.
Slovenia has improved its visibility in China over the past five years, which is reflected in the continuous growth of trade between the countries, the Economy Ministry said in a press release.
China is Slovenia's most important trade partner in Asia and 13th overall, ranking before Russia and the US.
Nearly 12,600 Slovenian companies imported from China last year, while 475 exported to China, generating EUR 1.3bn, 11.8% more than the year before.
All our stories on Slovenia and China are here
STA, 23 April 2019 - Blockchain experts from around the globe came together in the town of Vitanje on Tuesday to discuss the future of blockchain infrastructure at the Herman Potočnik Noordung Centre of Space Technologies. Attending the forum, European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc underlined that the technology should be a tool of democracy.
Organised by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, the Noordung Hub and Tolar HashNet, a blockchain developer, the event featured representatives of businesses and states from the EU, as well as Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.
Bulc believes that this technology represents one of the key steps in introduction of TCP/IP protocols as the foundation of the internet as we know it today.
"I wish that the developers of this global trend would not forget that this is a tool that should serve the democracy and a positive development of the human race and improve cooperation among people, because it helps improve the efficiency of all systems in which we operate," the commissioner said.
The European Commission is concerned above all about the role of regulators and what standards needed to be introduced to ensure that these systems remained open, said Bulc.
She believes the technology could be the most useful in finance, but also in healthcare and state administration. Among other things, Bulc hopes that online elections could become reality across the EU.
At the forum, Tolar HashNet presented its new generation blockchain technology, which makes it a global leader in the field. CEP Tadej Slapnik said that companies across the world would be able to develop applications for the private and public sectors using the company's technology.
All our stories on blockchain in Slovenia are here