Business

30 Mar 2019, 12:45 PM

This site’s Google Analytics show that marijuana and Slovenia are often searched for together, and while the country has a reputation as a place that grows good pot it remains illegal, with even the medicinal kind in limbo.

That’s for those varieties with high contents of THC, though, the most well-known cannabinoid and the one most responsible for the high that comes with smoking, vaping or ingesting the dried flowers of the plant. Those low in THC and high in CBD, the second most famous cannabinoid and the one most associated with the wellness industry, are legal to grow and sell, and many stores, including pharmacies and petrol stations, now offer products that claim to offer many of the benefits of marijuana without the *cough* “disorienting side effects”.

Earlier this year I wrote about Sena Flora, a retail store on Ljubljana’s Trubarjeva cesta that sells CBD buds, hash, crystals, chocolates and lotions, but today’s story moves a little further up the chain. It’s an interview with Oliver Muldoon, a British man who’s lived Slovenia for about 10 years, about his latest venture, Responsible Post, which sources and packages high CBD and low THC marijuana buds for further distribution and sale, albeit for use as “tea”.

I got in touch with Oliver and asked some questions about the business, and he was kind enough to both answer my questions and provide a few samples to help with the story, which did indeed have a pleasant, calming effect.

How long has Responsible Pot been running, and how did you get the idea?

The core mission of my company, Noodlum, which specialises in communications, is to help raise awareness of emerging industries and revolutionary technologies, and we are currently working on several projects in Slovenia, with this being the most recent.

My main work involves writing and editing, which is how I first came across this idea towards the middle of last year. Not long after helping professors at the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Medicine get their articles published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, I was hired to edit a series of CBD research papers. When reading through the results I realised that the received wisdom about cannabis was completely out of step with the facts. The positives associated with the plant were evident, and empirically verifiable, but their dissemination was being restricted by taboo, misinformation and a lack of knowledge — even fear. I decided to do something about it and found reliable partners to move ahead with the project.

Observing the trend for cannabis with THC values below 0.2% to be marketed in Slovenia as a tea, as demonstrated by Vutra, BeHempy and others, we set up Responsible Pot to help support their awareness-raising efforts. As many will confirm, the aroma of cannabis has been drifting around Ljubljana’s bars, parks and coffee places for several years. Wanting to acknowledge the elephant in the room, we decided to try making the business case for a legal cannabis culture in Slovenia.

We started by approaching bars where cannabis was being used to ask the owners if they wanted to start providing a legal alternative – legally compliant cannabis buds. So far, we’ve had a great response. There are now 12 Responsible sPots throughout Slovenia, most of which are in Ljubljana, and this number is rising every week. It works for our vendors because they can keep their businesses running lawfully and they now have a completely new product range to offer when the tourists arrive this summer. Legal cannabis has been widely available in other EU countries, such as Austria and Italy, for years – visitors from those countries will be relieved to find a legal supply while on vacation.

For those who are too far away from a sPot, orders can be made online at www.responsible-pot.com. I should also mention that Vutra’s cannabis buds are available in Petrol gas stations throughout Slovenia, and Martin Fon’s Sena Flora is a great place to visit on Trubarjeva cesta. We are delighted to see awareness steadily rising.

Is marijuana legal in Slovenia? No, not quite...

cannabis law slovenia.JPG

Article 9 of the law on the production and traffic of opium poppies and cannabis in Slovenia (source)

Where do you source your cannabis products?

We have a strong scouting network throughout Italy, Austria and the rest of the EU, which have access to the best quality buds for our customers. Since the market is relatively young and still developing, options are constantly increasing and so we are always keeping a watchful eye on up-and-coming growers in the market. The Slovenian growing sector is still too small for a reliable high-quality supply at present, but we have heard that legislative changes could help Slovenia position itself at the forefront of the regulated growing scene in the years ahead.

Which of your products, if any, do you use?

We have just launched two new strains, Responsible Pot Lemon and Responsible Pot Amnesia. As you would expect, we all use our products.

legal weed slovenia ljubljana cbd responsible.jpg

What do you find are the effects of using these products?

Responsible Pot buds are cannabis buds with low levels of THC, which is the cannabinoid in the plant that gives that “stoned” feeling. With our buds, that sensation isn’t there because the level is below 0.2%. Although cannabis has been used by civilisations around the world for millennia, its general prohibition over the past century or so has not made it easy for the medical community to investigate the health benefits. Nevertheless, enough research has already been done for the World Health Organisation to recommend that CBD, one of the 113 known cannabinoids, be removed from the controlled substance list and that cannabis itself be rescheduled, in effect confirming that the plant does have some medical benefits after all.

As to what those benefits are, I would encourage anyone reading to do their own research, and to refer to their general practitioner. More information is coming out every week. Like Martin Fon, who is doing wonderful work in the centre of Ljubljana, I would recommend CBD – A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis. Healing without the High by Leonard Leinow et al., but I would also suggest contacting the ICANNA International Institute for Cannabinoids, which is doing great work to raise awareness.

Do you see your business as being part of a broader push to legalize the sale of products with a higher THC content in Slovenia?

Yes, we see business as being the driver behind acceptance of the cannabis plant generally. Full legalisation, with a sensible measured approach, is the goal because of the many advantages it brings – safety, regulation, standards, taxation, jobs, economic growth and so on. Apart from that, as we are now starting to understand, it’s the ratio of THC to the other cannabinoids that seems to be pivotal, rather than its strength in isolation. And this ratio is becoming increasingly important to people as more details on the 113 known cannabinoids come to light.

Currently the THC limit in Slovenia is 0.2%, but in Austria that figure is 0.3%. In Italy, depending on how you interpret the legislation, this figure is 0.5% or 0.6%. In Switzerland, the maximum level of THC permitted is currently 1%.

To put these figures in perspective, the cannabis typically available on the black market has THC levels of between 15 and 25%, sometimes as high as 30%. Therefore, even this 1% figure is still extremely low and still will not cause any “high” effect. Raising this very low level, even marginally, would help Slovenia’s fledgling industry to flourish.

Opportunities in the Slovenian marijuana business

Where do you see the biggest potential in the cannabis market in Slovenia – in growing, packaging / distributing, or sales to consumers, and do sales seem to be more common online or in brick & mortar stores?

Hopefully one day in all those areas. We see an industry in the making for Slovenian workers, and the foundations are being laid now. Recent months have been spent establishing a network of Responsible sPots in Ljubljana, but we have now switched to promoting wholesale and online sales too.

First and foremost, Responsible Pot is a movement to get people to start using cannabis responsibly. We’re promoting a common-sense solution to cannabis use through business. But this is a quest to get cannabis understood and accepted by mainstream society rather than an attempt to gain market share or profits, which is why we have decided to sacrifice some of the latter for exposure and awareness. At under €9 per gram, our buds are among the most competitively priced on the market.

There are several other cannabis companies joining us in Slovenia, and we all have a common goal – to increase mainstream acceptance of this wonderful plant. Its use is widespread and everyone either uses cannabis or knows someone else who does. After seeing what’s happened with legalisation in Canada and some US states, who lead the way with global trends, we think it’s time to make stronger efforts to help the largely decent and law-abiding cannabis community feel more part of society – and to feel comfortable doing so. We want to remove this ridiculous sense of “shame” a huge chunk of our population wrongly feels, generate some extra taxes, and start to build a new industry so that Slovenia can get new jobs and more options for its young people.

CBD in Ljubljana and Bled

Where can people buy your products, and learn more about your business?

We have several partners in Ljubljana, which is where we’re based, and then in Bled and Slovenj Gradec. These venues are called Responsible sPots and lead the way with providing cannabis to their consumers in a law abiding and regulated environment.

Currently, Responsible Pot is available at Daktari, Icelend on Copova, Etna Picerija, the Craft Room, Kavarna Eipper, Kavarna Zofa, Sunrise Bar, Bar 200, Kafetarna in Trzin, Castle Hostel 1004 in Bled and the Tea Room in Slovenj Gradec. Customers can also now order online.

Anything else you want to add?

When researching the idea, and devising an implementation strategy, we looked at the Netherlands’ coffee shop culture and took some pointers. The quickly realized that friendly coexistence required tact and diplomacy, and so closed their doors during school lunchtimes. We decided to make a similar recommendation that some of our Responsible sPots sell our buds only after 8 pm, so that they can cater to families with young children during the day who might not want to be in an environment where cannabis is consumed. We think that’s important in helping more venues to come forward with a legal cannabis alternative, while still catering to their entire customer base. Long term, working together to find a way forward is the best option.

You can learn more about Responsible Pot at the website, and if you'd like to start selling their poducts in your cafe, bar, wellness centre or elsewhere then you can contact them here. All our stories about cannabis and Slovenia can be found here

29 Mar 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 28 March 2019 - Leading Slovenian media companies, except the public broadcaster and national press agency, are in the hands of many different owners, domestic and foreign. But their ownership is often blurred, which a media expert believes contributes to the crisis of legitimacy they are in.

The leading TV channels are TV Slovenija, POP TV, which is the most popular TV channel in the country, A Kanal and Planet TV.

The list of Slovenian quality newspapers includes Delo, Dnevnik and Večer, but the largest market share of 42% in 2017 has tabloid Slovenske Novice.

The sale of Pop TV and Kanal A has recently been aborted, while Dnevnik and Večer are about to merge, and national telco Telekom Slovenije is said to be planning to sell Planet TV and news portal Siol.

But Jernej Amon Prodnik, head of the journalism department at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, says Slovenia urgently needs a strategic reflection on its media to provide for quality journalism.

Although formally the country has many media outlets, in reality the media market is controlled by a handful which shapes the media landscape and public opinion, he says.

While calling for state subsidies to boost media plurality, Amon Prodnik believes it is an illusion to think deregulation and media concentration would facilitate quality journalism and quality media.

This could only aggravate the situation in a country as small as Slovenia. "It could easily happen that a few people would literally control topical and political daily news."

Unlike the privately-owed media, the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and national press agency STA are not under so much market pressure, which Amon Prodnik deems good for journalists and editorial policy.

"Studies from abroad have shown that public media usually report about more different views, are more critical and their reporting is deeper," he has told the STA.

Amon Prodnik also opposes "a full merger of Dnevnik and Večer", which he says "could prove to be the final blow to both newspapers".

This would be a major problem in the long run because Slovenia has "relatively few general newspapers, which despite all the technological changes still largely dictate the daily media routine and represent quality journalism".

According to publisher Dnevnik's annual report for 2017, Dnevnik and Večer were the third and fourth newspapers in terms of market share, boasting 16.6% and 15.6%, respectively. Delo was in second place with a 21% share.

The merger of Dnevnik and Večer has already been approved by the Culture Ministry and is now awaiting clearance from the Competition Protection Agency.

The media company Dnevnik is owned by the publisher DZS (35.11%) and DZS Investicije (15.94%), with almost 26% owned by Austria's Styria Media International.

Večer is published by Slovenian media group Večer Skupina, which is owned by Uroš Hakl and Saša Todorović (each holding some 40% stakes).

The only newspaper in full foreign ownership is business daily Finance, which has been owned by Sweden's Bonnier Business Press since 2006 and had a 4.7% market share in 2017.

On the other hand, TV stations POP TV and Kanal A, that is their producer Pro Plus, have not been sold to United Group as planned.

The sale was estimated at EUR 230m and would be the biggest deal of its kind in Slovenia to date, with many fearing it for distorting competition.

It was in early 2019 that Pro Plus's owners - CME Media Enterprises, which is part of the Bermuda-based Central European Media Enterprises (CME) - changed its mind.

Amon Prodnik says this is good news for the Slovenian media environment. "Pro Plus has a relatively excessive influence, and in case of the takeover, it would further increase it and expand it to other communication levels."

Meanwhile, news portal Siol and TV station Planet TV, both indirectly owned by national telco Telekom Slovenije, are rumoured to get new owners.

Some information indicates that Telekom's supervisors could decide to sell TS Media, under whose wing is Siol.net, in the coming days.

Telekom also owns 66% of Antenna TV SL, which produces Planet TV, with the rest owned by Antenna Slovenia from the Greek group Antenna Group.

News portal Požareport has reported Planet TV could be bought by Serbian businessman Dragan Šolak, the founder of United Group, which also owns teleco company Telemach.

Foreign ownership is also expanding among news portals, with Styria Media International buying in February a 35% stake in Feniks Media, the company publishing news portal zurnal24.si.

Apart from partly owing newspaper Dnevnik, Styria is also the owner of second-hand goods portal bolha.com and job portal mojedelo.com.

Just recently, Novatv24.si, the company which is behind TV station Nova24TV - a TV broadcaster founded by senior opposition SDS members - saw a change in ownership.

Some 15% held by Hungary's Ripost Media was bought by Hungarian Agnes Adamik, with around 30% remaining split equally between another two Hungarian firms.

The media company Salomon, which is part of the company Media24 and indirectly in the hands of businessman Martin Odlazek, was recently reported to be buying a 19% in Infonet Media.

Infonet, owned by radio mogul Leo Oblak, operates a network of commercial radio stations around the country, including the most popular one, Radio 1.

Statistics Office data shows that at the end of 2018, there were over 2,320 journalists in Slovenia, 61% of whom were women. Over 75% have higher education.

29 Mar 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 28 March, 2019 - The government adopted on Thursday legislative changes raising the threshold for exemption of annual holiday allowance from income tax and social security contributions. The measure will be applied this year, but only for holiday allowance up to the average national monthly wage.

"We've kept the promise and adopted the changes to the laws on pension and disability insurance and on income tax to exempt the holiday allowance of taxes as early as in 2019," the government wrote on Twitter.

"Every euro that employers spend on holiday allowance will be transferred to the employees, the state has given up income tax and contributions," Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj said.

Income tax and social security contributions will still have to be paid on the amount of holiday allowance exceeding the average monthly wage. At the moment, holiday allowance in the amount of 70% of the average monthly wages is exempt.

Slovenian employers are required by law to pay holiday allowance, while taxation in practice puts a soft ceiling on the amounts since taxes eat away at a large share of any allowance beyond what is tax exempt.

The benchmark will be data by Slovenia's Statistics Office, which publishes wage statistics on a monthly basis.

The latest available data is for January, when the average monthly gross wage stood at 1,729 euro and the average net wage at 1,116 euro.

The measure is designed to cut labour taxes and raise the disposable income of the workers who receive higher annual holiday allowance than the minimum wage - which is the lowest amount of holiday allowance the employer can pay out.

The government says this should improve Slovenia's competitive advantage, stimulate consumption and encourage companies to pay out more generous holiday allowances.

This is the first in a series of tax measures the government announced recently.

Last week, the Economic and Social Council, the country's main social dialogue forum, agreed this measure should be implemented as soon as possible, whereas the other measures will be subject to negotiations.

Bertoncelj said the government had kept its promise to sort this out as soon as possible. He expects the National Assembly will rush the bill as well since the government has proposed it be fast-tracked.

The Finance Ministry expects that the bill will reduce tax revenue by roughly EUR 90m annually, while the contributions shortfall is expected to amount to no more than EUR 2.4m.

All our stories on taxes in Slovenia are here

29 Mar 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 28 March 219 - The retailer Spar Slovenija increased its sales revenue last year by 3.6% to a record EUR 804m, director general Igor Mervič announced to the press on Thursday.

Net profit was not disclosed, with Mervič only saying that due to extensive investments, it was lower than in 2017, when it stood at EUR 13.1m, according to the publicly available annual report.

Owned by the Salzburg-based SES Spar European Shopping Centers, Spar Slovenija managed to increase its market share in Slovenia last year despite opening only one new shop.

Mervič attributed the record sales to improvements in logistics and "great independence, which allows us to operate like a local company, so to say."

While he did not want to provide concrete numbers on the market share, the business newspaper Finance has reported that it was above 23%.

At the end of last year, Spar Slovenija had a total of 101 shops, 21 franchise shops and nine restaurants in the country.

The retailer plans to open six new shops this year and invest in refurbishing the existing shops. "I can say that we are launching a major investment cycle," Mervič said.

Spar Slovenija intends to extend its range, in particular in organic food, products of its own brand and products for persons on special diets.

The construction of a large shopping centre in the Ljubljana borough of Šiška by SES, where Spar Slovenija will be the anchor tenant, is on schedule, but the opening has been postponed from this autumn to the summer of 2020.

At the end of 2018, the company employed 4,696 workers, or 95 more than a year earlier. Mervič noted that the Slovenian subsidiary had one of the lowest churn rates among all Spar subsidiaries.

In January 2018, Spar Slovenija launched an online shop for the Ljubljana area, and the plan is to expand it to other regions in Slovenia.

Its logistics centre in Ljubljana's BTC shopping district, which was damaged in a massive fire last December, is still being repaired. Its capacity will be at 90% in a month and the work is expected to be concluded by mid-June.

28 Mar 2019, 16:18 PM

STA, 28 March 2019 - Telekom Slovenije, the state-owned telecoms incumbent, posted a group net profit of EUR 33.3m for 2018, an increase of 269% over the year before, even as revenue stagnated to stand at EUR 715m, three percent below plans, show results released on Thursday.

Earnings before income tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) totalled 185.5m, up 10% over the year before, and pre-tax profit (EBIT) rose almost three-fold to EUR 18m.

Both EBITDA and net profit were affected by the settlement of a large claim by rival telecoms provider T-2.

The settlement amount has never been disclosed, but the business newspaper Finance says figures from the annual report suggest it amounted to roughly EUR 50m and in effect reduced profit by EUR 25m since the company did not have sufficient provisions to cover the entire amount.

The company said it had increased revenue from fixed-line and IT services by 8%, with revenue from the sale of energy and insurance services also rising.

These new revenue streams have helped offset declining revenue from mobile users and users of fixed-line telephony, the report shows.

The Slovenian parent company accounted for the bulk of the sales, which at EUR 637.7m, were down a percent over 2017. Net profit stood at EUR 34m compared to EUR 1.7m in the year before.

Chairman Rudolf Skobe said the company has entered the second phase of transformation in 2018 and, having previously focused on innovation in its core business, would now strive to create value with digitalisation.

Telekom earmarked EUR 134m for investments last year, the bulk of the money spent on expansion of the fibre optic and mobile networks.

For 2019 the company projects worse results, as operating revenue is slated to top out at EUR 712m and profit is projected to decline by a tenth to just over EUR 30m.

Investments, meanwhile, are planned at EUR 212m.

The management and supervisory boards have proposed that dividends for last year be set at EUR 4.5 gross per share, which would mean shareholders would get just shy of EUR 30m.

However, the final payout may be completely different: last year the management proposed dividends of EUR 6.30 per share, but shareholders ended up endorsing a proposal by Slovenian Sovereign Holding for a payout of EUR 14.3 gross per share.

The Telekom share lost 0.3% in early trading on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange today, to trade at roughly EUR 65.

26 Mar 2019, 16:30 PM

STA, 26 March 2019 - Labour Minister Ksenija Klampfer announced the government was not considering relaxing dismissal rules as she attended an employer conference in Ljubljana on Tuesday.

While the employers have been urging more flexibility in hiring and firing, the minister said she was aware of their proposals to enable termination without cause.

"However, some international documents prevent it, so no changes in this direction are in the making, there being no expert basis for it."

But despite an upturn on the labour market and the economic trends, which are currently still positive, legislation should be changed to facilitate faster activation of workers and keep older workers on the labour market longer, she told the employers.

The employers presented their demands to Klampfer at the conference, primarily calling for less red tape and no additional labour costs.

They also complained about the education system, saying it did not provide the trained staff that Slovenian companies needed.

Sharing their view, Klampfer said there were "many challenges" in this respect, assuring them the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities was pushing for a change in the mindset so that workers realise life-long learning was a must.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Jernej Pikalo urged employers to help promote apprenticeship. Apprentices are initially a cost for the company but the investment pays off in the long-term, he stressed.

"That's why I'm urging you to cooperate with us, to present us your needs," he said, noting that the apprenticeship system was not functioning too well in Slovenia.

The system is working because apprenticeship is backed by EU funds, but once these funds are cut, there will be big problems, he said.

The president of the Association of Employers in Craft and Small Business, Drago Delalut, urged the employers to close ranks and state clearly they needed a stable business environment comparable with competitive countries.

He expressed concern over the supplementary budget for 2019, saying it had set expenditure much too high and had been passed with much horse trading.

The guidelines of a tax reform are also a cause for concern as they indicate measures will be taken to further burden the corporate sector, he said.

"Political decision-makers like to decide on expanding rights without calculating their consequences," he said.

Sharing some of the employers' views, the president of the upper chamber of parliament, Alojz Kovšca, criticised the government for not taking the pressure off the corporate sector.

On the contrary, the government is putting more burdens on businesses, while not talking about any measures to increase productivity, Kovšča said.

He also urged the employers to close ranks to revive social dialogue in the country, regretting it had come at a standstill.

All of our stories on employment in Slovenia are here

26 Mar 2019, 14:20 PM

STA, 25 March 2019 - Advertisers in Slovenia will increase investment into digital advertising by 25% this year, spending an average of EUR 290,000 on it, suggests a survey carried out by the digital agency Iprom and pollster Valicon.

 

Iprom said on Monday that 68% of the 214 surveyed decision-makers on the Slovenian advertising and marketing scene said they would increase the budget for digital advertising this year. 29% said they would leave it on par with last year's.

Data obtained in the AdEx international survey suggests companies and organisations in Slovenia invested EUR 47.2m in digital advertising in 2017. Simon Cetin of Iprom assessed that the figure will easily exceed EUR 60m this year.

The Slovenian survey meanwhile showed social media will be used this year as a platform by 82% of those investing in digital advertising. Search engine marketing will be used by 77%, and display advertising by 73%.

Display advertising is expected to account for the largest share of the investments, 29%, followed by search engine marketing, at 24%.

The service sector will spend the most on digital advertising, EUR 352,000 on average, followed by the retail (EUR 291,000) and tourism sectors (EUR 233,000).

26 Mar 2019, 12:47 PM

STA, 25 March 2019 - Household appliance maker Gorenje, which was taken over by China's Hisense last year, reported EUR 1.184bn in group sales revenue for 2018, a 1.7% decrease. After ending 2017 in the black, Gorenje recorded a EUR 37.3m net loss in 2018, or EUR 111.2m when factoring in one-off and extraordinary events.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fell by 53.5% to EUR 29.6m. Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) were EUR 28.2m in the negative after a EUR 12.1m plus had still been recorded in 2017.

"In the first half of the year, performance was consistent with the budgeted dynamics; in the second half, however, it was adversely affected by uncertainty among our partners with regard to the outcome of the strategic process, and it worsened as a result," Gorenje wrote, referring to the sale to Hisense.

The largest decline was seen in industrial (OEM) deals, "as customers trod very warily when doing business with Gorenje, for reasons referred to above".

Without the decline of OEM deals, revenue in Gorenje's core activity would have grown relative to the year before, said the company which employs slightly over 11,000 people.

As to the different net loss figures, Gorenje pointed out that assumptions and methodologies of accounting estimates changed considerably, with the "adjustment upon integration into Hisense having had many one-off and extraordinary effects on Gorenje results".

Gorenje generated 91% of its revenue in its core activity of domestic appliances. It primarily grew in eastern Europe, in particular in Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic where it is marketing products under the Asko brand.

Revenue on the other hand decreased in western Europe, where the company felt the effect of strong competition and labour cost pressures.

"As sales decreased, results from operations were negatively impacted by the unchanged amount of fixed costs that were impossible to adjust to the lower-than-planned sales in such a short period of time," Gorenje wrote.

The company said it continued to invest in development, earmarking 2.5% of total revenue or EUR 30m for this purpose. The same amount was invested last year into marketing.

The core company increased sales revenue by 2.2% to EUR 819.3m but recorded a EUR 126.8m net loss after being EUR 470,000 in the black in 2017.

All our stories on Gorenje can be found here

25 Mar 2019, 14:20 PM

STA, 22 March 2019 - Slovenia's sole seaport in Koper is not concerned about the prospect of Chinese investments in the port of Trieste, its biggest rival among north Adriatic ports. It says there is plenty of scope for growth of all ports in the region.

"We've always emphasised our support for development projects of all ports in the region," port operator Luka Koper told the STA, noting that investments were the only way north Adriatic ports can compete with ports in North Europe.

The company quoted a study commissioned by the North Adriatic Port Association showing that ports from Ravenna to Rijeka have a combined potential to transship six million container units per year; in 2018 they handled 2.8 million units.

It is precisely in container transshipments that Trieste poses the biggest threat to Koper with the help of state-sponsored Chinese investors.

Koper handled 988,000 container units last year to Trieste's 725,000, but Trieste's volume was up almost a fifth over the year before while Koper registered only 8% growth in container shipments.

Overall, Trieste and the adjacent Monfalcone handled 67 million tonnes of cargo while Koper handled 24 million tonnes, both figures records for the respective ports.

Not only is it unfazed by the prospect of even stronger competition from Trieste, Luka Koper notes that all ports in the region have the same problem: poor rail connections inland.

Koper has a single track connecting it to the national rail network, Trieste faces bottlenecks within the port itself, and in Croatia's Rijeka the tracks still cut through the city.

"Rather than being concerned about what neighbouring ports are doing, it is important that Koper and Slovenia realize plans that we have adopted," the company said about the coming construction of a new track connecting the port with the inland hub Divača.

Construction of the EUR 1bn-plus track covering a distance of 27 kilometres has already started - contractors are currently building 20 kilometres of access roads - but the project is expected to take many years due to the difficult karst terrain.

Concern about Chinese plans have been raised in Slovenian media after it was announced that during Chinese President Xi Jinping's ongoing visit to Italy a memorandum of understanding on Chinese infrastructure investments would be signed.

According to plans, one of the pillar of the investment plan would be to strengthen Trieste's rail connections inland, which some see as a serious threat to Koper's competitive position.

Elen Tvrdy, the dean of the Koper Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transport, told the STA Trieste's plans required not only that the new Koper-Divača was built, but also that the port itself Koper continued investing.

"We must always be concerned about loss of market or partners. Koper must continue with investments, this is the only way it will remain competitive, regardless of whether or not the Chinese come to Trieste.

She noted that the Chinese were looking for a foothold in north Adriatic because of short transport routes to Central Europe. North Adriatic has geographic advantages, but good rail connections are critical, she said.

All our stories on logistics in Slovenia are here

25 Mar 2019, 11:44 AM

STA, 22 March 2017 – NKBM (Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor), Slovenia's second largest bank, posted a group net profit of EUR 72.5m for 2018, a year-on-year increase of 50%, shows the audited annual report released on Friday.

 

The bank recorded a substantial increase in net interest revenue, which was up 32% to EUR 109.6m, whereas non-interest revenue declined marginally to EUR 59.3m.

NKBM also booked substantial revenue, EUR 16.5m, from the cancellation of write-downs and provisions, an indication of an improving credit portfolio.

The share of non-performing loans declined by over four percentage points at group level, the bank said in a press release.

The bank remains well capitalised, with the common equity tier 1 capital ratio, a key benchmark of capital adequacy, remaining roughly level at 20.13%.

Total assets rose marginally to just under EUR 5bn.

Keep up with all the business news in Slovenia here

25 Mar 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 22 March 2019 - The government macroeconomic think-thank has estimated that the direct impact of a no-deal Brexit on Slovenia would be small, while the indirect impact through the countries with which Slovenia does most of its trade would be greater but also harder to measure.

The Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (IMAD – Urad RS za makroekonomske analize in razvoj) has found based on various studies that the long-term effect of a no-deal Brexit on Slovenia would be between -0.2% and 1% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Meanwhile, the impact of an orderly exit of the UK from the EU would be smaller, estimated at between -0.1% and -0.25% of the country's GDP.

This would hold true in the case of the confirmation of the current Brexit agreement, which envisages the UK remaining part of the customs union, IMAD said in its latest publication on macroeconomic trends.

"Introduction of customs duties would decrease the volume of bilateral trade between Slovenia and the United Kingdom, with the electrical, automotive, pharmaceutical and metal industries suffering the largest negative effect."

According to the think-tank, also to be somewhat affected would be exports of services, in particular tourism and transport.

Since the direct connection of the Slovenian and British economies is relatively small (Slovenia generates 1.9% of its exports in the UK), the direct negative effect on exports and GDP would be small.

An indirect effect would be somewhat bigger due to Slovenia's trade connections with Germany and France, which are major trade partners of the UK.

All our stories about Brexit are here

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