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
STA, 20 April 2019 -Impol, Slovenia's largest maker of aluminium products, has obtained a certificate proving its compliance with the international quality standard for the aerospace industry. This will allow the company to make forays into new markets.
As part of the process, the Zagreb subsidiary of the certification body DQS checked Impol's compliance with all points of the EN 9100 standard, except product development, which is conducted in cooperation with the client.
Special attention was dedicated to the management of measuring equipment used for the products designated for the aircraft industry.
The Slovenska Bistrica-based company said the certificate created new opportunities for its foray into the demanding market of top-quality products, and upgraded the company's profile.
As a certificate holder the company is now recognised in the Oasis information system, where potential clients have access to all the information about Impol's certified production programme.
All aerospace industry manufacturers and their suppliers need to comply with the EN 9100 quality management standard, and testify compliance by means of a certificate issued by authorised certifier.
Some of Impol's products had been intended for the aerospace industry before, but the clients had not yet set such high demands.
With its newly incorporated company Impol FinAl, Impol Group said that it had sufficient potential and capacities to launch new high value added products in the aerospace industry market.
One of the biggest Slovenian exporters, Impol increased its exports by 16% last year to EUR 728m. It generated 94% of its sales revenue abroad.
Exports to EU markets amounted to EUR 614m, and exports to other European markets to EUR 50m, with the EUR 64m worth of products sold to other continents. Germany accounts for almost a third of the sales.
Impol expects sales abroad to increase by a further 9% to EUR 795m.
STA, 23 April 2019 - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek will start a multi-day visit to China on Tuesday designed to strengthen economic relations between the two countries as well as Slovenia's role in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Počivalšek will present the government's action plans for potential investors and the situation in Slovenian business. Tourism cooperation will also be on the agenda.
The minister will visit the headquarters of the Chinese appliance and electronics manufacturer Hisense, the owner of the Slovenian white goods maker Gorenje.
He will meet with representatives of the local authorities in the province Liaoning Shenyang, where the Slovenian automotive supplier TPV would like to launch a production facility.
Počivalšek will attend the second Belt and Road Initiative Forum, addressing participants at the silk road innovation conference.
China is Slovenia's leading trading partner in Asia, listed as 13th among the country's top trading partners, ahead of Russia and the US, said the Economy Ministry, adding that Slovenia is particularly supportive of hi-tech projects.
More than 12,500 Chinese companies exported to Slovenia last year, while almost 500 Slovenian companies traded with China. Bilateral trade in goods increased by almost 12% year-on-year, amounting to EUR 1.3bn.
The scope of Slovenia's investment in China is on the rise as well, currently estimated at EUR 45m, as over 30 Slovenian companies have affiliates in China.
In Slovenia, there are roughly 110 companies in 100% Chinese ownership and 23 companies with mixed Chinese ownership, according to Economy Ministry data.
All our stories on Slovenia and China are here
April 21, 2019
Večer reports that last Wednesday the UK’s Ambassador to Slovenia, HMA Sophie Honey, joined a discussion at the British-Slovenian Chamber of Commerce in Maribor, where the possibilities of economic cooperation between the two countries during the Brexit uncertainty and after were discussed.
Iztok Kračun, the director of the Institute for Strategic Solutions said that it is a very difficult task for many small and medium-sized enterprises to get to the volume of business which is required to be profitable in the UK, however, he sees the opportunity for niche market products with high added value, which is thus what Slovenian economy should be based in the future.
Panvita CEO Toni Balažič agreed that niche products were the right answer to the export question, and added that companies should remember the a large immigrant community from the former Yugoslavia in the UK, who are already familiar with Slovenian products. He then mentioned how Panvita’s čevapčiči are popular among the Brits. Ambassador Sophie Honey seconded him by saying that her children also love čevapčiči, and are already worried about where they’ll get them on their return back home.