Business

17 Jul 2019, 11:46 AM

STA, 16 July 2019 - Orpea, a French multinational that specialises in assisted living services, has entered the Slovenian market via its Austrian subsidiary Senecura by purchasing a retirement home in Radenci, eastern Slovenia, called Dosor.

Senecura purchased the facility earlier this year from Radenci municipality and the Austrian bad bank Heta and plans to use it as a springboard for Slovenia, having previously acquired the licence to build several small retirement homes around the country with a total of 310 beds.

The company, the biggest private operator of retirement homes in Austria, acquired Dosor because of the quality of care it provides, favourable location and its reputation in Slovenia, Senecura board member Anton Kellner told the press on Tuesday.

Radenci municipality sold its 50% stake for EUR 1.5 million, while the rest was acquired with the purchase of Heta's EUR 7.6 million in claims to Dosor.

Dosor has 178 beds and 100 employees. It was built as a public-private project in 2008.

Together with the planned network of small retirement homes, the acquisition puts Senecura on track to compete with the biggest Slovenian private provider of elderly care, Deos, which has eight facilities in Slovenia.

There are currently over 100 elderly care facilities in Slovenia offering just over 20,000 places, most of which are publicly owned and operated by municipalities.

All our stories on the elderly in Slovenia are here

17 Jul 2019, 10:34 AM

STA, 17 July 2019 - Ascent Resources, the UK developer of the Petišovci gas field in eastern Slovenia, has reportedly launched administrative dispute proceedings in Slovenia after it was ordered to get a separate permit for hydraulic fracturing.

The move, reported on Tuesday by the Stock Market Wire news portal, comes after the Environment Ministry upheld a decision of the Environment Agency (ARSO) on the controversial gas extraction project in Petišovci.

The ministry agreed that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit were necessary because the location of the gas wells was close to water sources and because underground waters and agricultural land in the area do not have very good ability to regenerate.

"The decision of ARSO and the Environment Ministry ignores the opinion of the six independent expert bodies whose advice ARSO sought," Ascent said.

The decision mistakenly concluded that the project fell within a conservation area and misapplied EU case law in relation to mitigation measures, Ascent also said as it announced multi-pronged legal action against Slovenia on 14 July, a day before the deadline for the Administrative Court appeal.

Aside from challenging the decision at the Administrative Court, Ascent plans to submit a claim for damages against the state for breach of EU law including for the unreasonably long time it took for the decision to be reached.

The company will seek damages for loss of future income from the project "which would have been expected to have been a multiple of the historic investment of some EUR 50 million."

It also plans to lodge an investment treaty arbitration claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

All our stories on Ascent Resources are here

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.

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