STA, 30 January 2019 - The past year has been again excellent for business, so it's time for long-term measures to raise net wages, the Managers' Association of Slovenia (Združenja Manager) boss Aleksander Zalaznik said as he addressed the association's annual get-together in Ljubljana on Wednesday.
Taking a look at 2018, Zalaznik said exports reached 86% of Slovenia's GDP, and praised the fact that 75% of jobs were created by new and fast-growing companies, which was above EU average, as especially encouraging.
Still, signs of a slowdown in Slovenia's main trade partners could be noticed in recent months, and Brexit is another unknown, he said, adding competitiveness and productivity remained Slovenia's challenges, while demographics should also not be neglected.
Nevertheless, an important next step is raising net wages to contain brain drain and facilitate further economic development. So the association proposes a five-year agreement to gradually raise gross wages and reduce taxation.
"A social agreement that we all want a competitive business environment is crucial here," said Zalaznik, who is convinced Slovenia is able to make this leap. "The moment is right, let's take it."
His view about higher wages but also a higher added value was echoed by Zdravko Počivalšek, the minister of economic development and technology.
He said the Council for Competitive and Stable Business Environment, the ministry's advisory body, had proposed the government and businesses draft a long-term plan for wage growth.
"Higher wages and a higher added value must be the goal of all of us, and they are also our responsibility," the minister stressed.
The managers were also addressed by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who outlined via video conference government plans to improve the business environment in 2019.
He said the government would draft a proposal on tax restructuring and overhaul the regulatory framework.
The event was attended by President Borut Pahor, who thanked the association for its contribution to Slovenia becoming a better society since gaining independence.
The Managers' Association, which traditionally holds its get-together at the start of a new business year, also gave out its annual awards.
The lifetime achievement award for 2018 went to Bogomir Strašek, the founder, majority owner and director of automotive supplier KLS Ljubno.
Igor Verstovšek, the co-owner of hi-tech company Cosylab, became Young Manager of 2018.
The Artemide award for breaking the glass ceiling to assume top posts in companies was bestowed on GZS director general Sonja Šmuc and Agitavit Solutions director Anka Brus.
STA, 30 January 2019 - The Slovenian pharmaceutical company Lek, a subsidiary of the Swiss giant Novartis, has announced that it had a very successful 2018 compared to the set objectives, while failing to reveal concrete business results. It did say that it employed an additional 370 people last year to increase the workforce to 4,085.
Lek, which is headquartered in Ljubljana, said in a press release on Wednesday that it was expanding the range of production of healing agents for innovative pharmaceuticals.
Last year, the company launched at the Mengeš location the production of three healing agents for innovative pharmaceuticals, which will enter the market in the coming years.
At other locations in Slovenia, Lek launched the final phases of production of innovative biopharmaceuticals, the press release says.
In Mengeš, located some 10 km north of Ljubljana, the company is building a EUR 38m facility for the production of biological agents, which "will boost the role of the location as a key Novartis centre for biotechnology".
Since 2003, Novartis has invested more than EUR 2.3bn in Slovenia, with more than half intended for development, and the rest to modernisation and expansion of the production facilities.
Lek also announced that it employed an additional 370 people last year, with the number of employees standing at 4,085 at the end of 2018, while "continuing to optimise and adjust the production network in Slovenia."
"By increasing the market share to 30.1% in 2018, Lek has solidified its position as the second largest provider of generic drugs in Slovenia and strengthened its position of the market leader in the non-prescription drug segment," the release reads, the full text of which can be read here.
January 24, 2018
The Ministry of Justice (Ministrstvo za pravosodje) is considering opening the Slovenian penal system to private investors. This is evident from the Ministry's recent call for bids to carry out a preliminary procedure and legally test the public-private partnership in building one and renovating another of Slovenian prisons.
Slovenia has already been punished at the European Court of Human Rights due to overcrowding and poor living conditions in its prisons, and is hence addressing the issue by solving two of its most pressing issues. The first is related to the male prison currently located at Povšetova street in Ljubljana, which is planned to be closed and the prisoners moved to Dobrunje, although this facility is yet to be built. The second is related to the female prison in Ig, which is in need of renovation and enlargement.
It seems that in order to address a lack of funding, the Ministry is now looking into the possibility of developing both projects to cooperation with private investors.
STA, 22 January 2019 - The Civil Aviation Agency has found that the Slovenian carrier Adria Airways is able to secure long-term solvency, which means that it will keep its operating licence.
The agency has found that the planned and implemented measures presented by Adria show that the carrier is able to settle all of its liabilities in the long term and meet all the legal requirement, demands and criteria for keeping the operative licence, according to a press release from Adria.
The agency reportedly also confirmed in several different procedures that Adria met the required technical demands for ensuring adequate air safety.
Adria CEO Holger Kowarsch said he had expected no other decision given that Adria had been meeting all the demands for the operating licence all along.
"I regret that so many false and misleading reports were published about the state and operations of our company in recent months, and at the same time I look forward to being able to continue to implement our strategic plan undisturbed ..." he said.
Adria plans to additionally optimise its network of flights and add new flights while preserving all of its key connections to the main European hubs, Kowarsch announced.
After a thorough inspection last summer, the Civil Aviation Agency established that Adria Airways was no longer capable of settling its liabilities, so it ordered the German turnaround fund 4K Invest, which acquired the former flag carrier three years ago, to recapitalise the company in order to secure long-term financial sustainability.
The German fund injected EUR 4m in Adria Airways at the end of 2018, while announcing that an additional EUR 10m capital hike was in the pipeline for the first quarter of 2019.
Adria had until the end of last year to submit documentation assuring that it can secure long-term solvency.
The carrier posted a net loss of EUR 5.4m in 2017 after finishing in the black the year before due to the sale of its brand. The negative result was attributed to rising fuel prices as well as to the termination of cooperation with two European carriers.
The company announced in October it would not manage to get out of the red in 2018 either, mostly due to high fuel prices.
STA, 22 January 2019 - Brewer Pivovarna Laško Union has won a damages suit against its former CEO Boško Šrot, with the latter being ordered to pay EUR 51m to its former employer, the news portal Siol reports.
The brewer's corporate affairs director, Tanja Subotić Levanič, could neither confirm nor deny the information when asked to comment by the STA.
According to Siol, the brewer has already applied for enforcement against Šrot and his family business Atka-Prima with the Celje District Court in a bid to seize his assets.
The beverage group, which was taken over by Heineken in 2015, brought a EUR 13.3m damages claim against Šrot in 2011 arguing damages incurred through the financing of his management buyout.
The Celje District Court found that Šrot was responsible for his actions early in 2016 after which Šrot unsuccessfully appealed with the Supreme Court.
He is currently serving a prison sentence of almost six years for abuse of power in the leveraged management buyout of the beverage group between 2008 and 2009.
Damages suits against Šrot have also been brought by the beverage group's subsidiaries that have since been sold, that is mineral water company Radenska, fruit drinks maker Fructal and newspaper publisher Delo.
Siol says that the companies would probably never get the damages awarded because the Šrot family has protected most of its assets from seizure, while seized assets would not even cover court costs.
STA, 21 January 2019 - Fraport Slovenija, the operator of the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, has decided to cancel talks with the selected bidders for the construction of a new terminal and repeat the tender. The decision comes after the National Review Commission introduced a new practice in the tender for the construction of the second Karavanke tunnel tube.
According to the decision, published on the e-Naročanje public procurement portal on Monday, it follows from the decision of the review commission in the Karavanke tunnel case that bids cannot be amended following the deadline for applications.
The new practice was introduced after the deadline for bids for the construction of the new terminal at the airport passed and could not be factored in in Fraport's call for applications.
The company has established that the call's documents were unclear in terms of the new practice, which is why it has decided to reject all bids and repeat the tender after the expiry of the eight-day period for potential requests for legal recourse.
Under the new tender, Fraport will negotiate with all applicants whose bids will meet the tender criteria and not only the best three, to increase competition. The company will only negotiate the price and not the substance of the contract, because this will ensure the best possible transparency.
The company received six applications in the first tender. A solo bid was submitted by Austrian Strabag, while joint bids were filed by Slovenia's GIC Gradnje and Elcom, Croatian GP Krk and Slovenian CBE, Slovenian Kolektor Koling and CGP, Slovenia's Pomgrad and Gorenjska Gradbena Družba, and Slovenia's VG5 and Remont.
It is unclear for how long the repeated tender will delay the construction, which, according to Zmago Skobir, the head of Fraport Slovenija, was set to begin this year.
He said at the end of last year, when Fraport decided to enter talks with three bidders, that he expected talks to be concluded by the end of spring and the construction to be completed by the end of 2020.
Fraport later said that the decision to repeat the tender would likely delay the start of the construction by two to three months, whereas insisting with the cancelled tender could cause significantly longer delays.
The terminal, valued at around EUR 20m, was scheduled to open before the summer season in 2021, just before Slovenia is to take over the EU presidency. This is still the goal, said Fraport.
At 10,000 m2, the terminal will house departures and security check facilities, which are currently cramped in a space that cannot be expanded. Additional retail and restaurant facilities are planned as well.
STA, 17 January 2019 - Slovenia will promote its growing brewery industry at the International Green Week (IGW) in Berlin, one of the biggest agricultural and food exhibitions in the world. Kicking off on Thursday, the 84th IGW will feature more than 1,700 exhibitors and will be accompanied by an agriculture ministerial attended by Slovenia's Aleksandra Pivec.
Aleksandra Pivec. Wikimedia: STA, CC-by-4.0
Slovenia's stall will feature micro breweries Vizir, Tektonik, Hopsbrew, Adam Ravbar, Maister, Ressel, Green Gold, Reservoir Gogs, Barut Brewing, Frizi Beer, Castra and Človeška Ribica, as well as the country's biggest brewery, the Heineken-owned Pivovarna Laško Union.
The stall will also feature hop-growing companies and associations from Slovenia, as well as three start-up companies: plant pot maker Urban Planty, aromatic salt maker Barba Sol and chili pepper grower Gorki Chili.
Photo: JL Flanner
Read our story on Gorki Chili here
Pivec will attend the opening on Thursday and will stay in Berlin until Sunday. On Friday, she will hold bilateral meetings, among others with Jose Graziano da Silva, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
On Saturday, she will attend the agriculture ministerial hosted by German Food and Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner. The high-level meeting will focus on digitalisation in agriculture. The ministerial will also discuss young farmers, small farms and family farms, which are priorities of the FAO.
Pivec will wrap up her trip by meeting Slovenians living in Berlin on Sunday.
Watch three men try too many Slovenian craft beers here
STA, 16 January 2019 - Migration flows are becoming increasingly important for the Slovenian economy, the central bank says in its monthly bulletin. Banka Slovenije notes a workforce shortage for occupations requiring intermediate qualifications, meaning that employers have started to hire foreign citizens.
"With Slovenians moving away, the hiring of foreigners has preserved a positive net migration since 2015."
"However, on average the structure of the foreign worker population in terms of education and vocation is poorer than that of domestic workers."
Unless Slovenia starts producing higher value added and introduces direct measures to prevent brain drain, the country's productivity growth could become too low to keep up with the most developed countries, and the effects of an ageing population all the more pronounced, Banka Slovenije said.
Brain drain is lost potential for the state that has invested into the education of highly-trained work force now leaving the country, it added.
The central bank believes brain drain happens for a number of reasons, among them a relatively low value added of a large part of the economy.
Also touching on exports, the bulletin says that the international environment is becoming less advantageous for Slovenia's exporters, as growth in the EU as well as globally has been slowing down.
Although the estimate of economic growth for Slovenia's trade partners is somewhat lower than in 2018, the outlook still indicates "solid conditions" for the exporting companies.
STA, 12 January 2019 - The economic and financial crisis in Slovenia, which started in 2009, brought a significant growth of unemployment, with the number of the unemployed more than doubling to almost 130,000 at the beginning of 2014. The situation on the labour market has been improving lately, with shortage of certain staff actually becoming a problem.
The number of registered unemployed persons was up steeply in 2009 and peaked at the beginning of 2014 at almost 130,000, which was around double of that before the crisis.
It was in 2014 when the number finally started to decline, with the improvement on the labour market accelerating in 2016 and 2017 and continuing in 2018, with the number standing at 78,534 at the end of the year.
Projections for the coming years speak about an additional improvement, with the number of registered unemployed expected to drop to the pre-crisis level by 2021 barring major negative shocks.
There is a large number of structurally and long-term unemployed people in Slovenia and hard-to-employ people, whose activation requires additional active employment policy measures.
Given the circumstances, a large number of companies have already started reporting shortages of adequately trained staff, which is becoming a limiting factor in the implementation of their strategies.
The number of the active working population is also growing again, and the employment rate exceeded the pre-crisis level in 2017. The total number continued to increase in 2018 to reach 1.022 million in the third quarter, a 23-year record.
Although the total employment rate is somewhat higher than the EU average, Slovenia fares much worse when it comes to the employment rate in the 55-64 age category despite an improvement in recent years.
In 2017, it stood at 43% or 14 percentage points below the EU average. Slovenia is meanwhile recording better progress in the under-25 category, but its rate is still at roughly half of the EU average.
Employment Registered Survey
rate (%) unemployment (%) unemployment (%)
2008 73.0 6.7 4.4
2009 71.9 9.1 5.9
2010 70.3 10.7 7.2
2011 68.4 11.8 8.2
2012 68.3 12.0 8.9
2013 67.2 13.1 10.1
2014 67.7 13.1 9.7
2015 69.1 12.3 9.0
2016 70.1 11.2 8.0
2017 73.4 9.5 6.6
* The figures are annual averages
Source: Statistics Office, Employment Service
Growth of wages slowed down in the crisis years and came to a stop in 2012 and 2013. Wages started to grow again noticeably only in 2017 and 2018, when the growth of gross wages exceeded 3%, with the trend expected to continue and grow even stronger in the coming years. Domestic and foreign macroeconomic analysts are stressing that the growth of wages will not significantly exceed the growth of productivity and undermine the competitiveness of the economy.
Data for the period as of 2008 also show that the growth of wages was higher in the private than in the public sector. While in the public sector the crisis was fought with lay-offs, there were no dismissals in the public sector, with the number of employees even increasing in certain activities. Civil servants did contribute their share by accepting austerity measures, which are only now being gradually abolished.
In the years after 2013, contributing significantly to the real purchasing power was a low inflation, which was noticeable again only in 2017 and last year, when it reached 1.4% according to preliminary estimates.
What also marked the crisis years was a raise of the minimum wage of more than 20% in 2010, which enraged the employers, who blamed the rise in the unemployment rate in the coming years on this measure. Trade unions were meanwhile noting that the minimum wage was still below the minimum costs of living and that all bonuses were calculated into it.
In the recent years, the minimum wage has been increasing more gradually, standing at EUR 843 gross last year. This year it will increase to EUR 886 and in 2020 to EUR 940 gross under the latest legislative changes, which also regulate the elimination of bonuses from the minimum wage as of 1 January 2020.
Inflation (%) Average net wage* Average gross wage*
in EUR growth in % in EUR growth in %
2008 2.1 899.8 7.8 1,391.4 8.2
2009 1.8 930.0 3.3 1,439.0 3.4
2010 1.9 966.6 3.9 1,494.9 3.9
2011 2.0 987.4 2.1 1,524.6 2.0
2012 2.7 991.4 0.4 1,525.5 0.0
2013 0.7 997.0 0.6 1,523.2 0.0
2014 0.2 1,005.4 0.8 1,540.2 1.1
2015 -0.5 1,013.2 0.8 1,555.9 1.0
2016 0.5 1,030.2 1.7 1,584.7 1.8
2017 1.7 1,062.0 3.1 1,627.0 2.7
* Annual average
Source: Statistics Office
In addition to the demographic trends, one of the key challenges for long-term development and economic competitiveness of Slovenia are growth in productivity and added value in the economy, to which growth of wages and well-being are tied. In this segment, the economic crisis brought stagnation and even a slight decline, while in comparison with the EU average, productivity in the Slovenian economy in 2018 was still lower than in the pre-crisis 2008.
Gross added value per employee was up in the 2008-2017 period, but is still well below the EU and eurozone averages, at 63% of the EU average and 57% of the eurozone average.
Increasing productivity and added value is a challenge both for the economy and economic policy. Businesses have set an ambitious goal of reaching EUR 60,000 in added value per employee, EUR 50bn in exports and an EUR 2,300 average wage by 2025, which is why they except measures from the state ranging from the tax police to the immigration policy.
Among the necessary measures both in the economy and institutions, they have pointed to measures for growth of investments in new production capacities and new technologies and digitalisation, a growth in investments in research and development, which as a share of GDP dropped from 2.6% in 2013 to 1.93% in 2017.
Labour productivity, % of EU average
Per employee Per hour worked
2008 83.5 83.8
2009 79.9 79.0
2010 79.4 78.2
2011 80.6 80.3
2012 80.0 79.8
2013 80.3 78.9
2014 81.2 78.9
2015 80.5 77.9
2016 80.5 79.7
2017 81.0 81.5
Source: Statistics Office
Gross value added, in EUR
Per employee EU average Eurozone average
2008 34,759 55,079 61,492
2009 33,694 52,917 60,581
2010 34,107 55,506 62,638
2011 35,594 56,951 64,164
2012 34,854 58,247 64,834
2013 35,643 58,850 65,863
2014 36,893 60,247 66,991
2015 37,758 62,818 68,678
2016 39,091 62,418 69,398
2017 40,136 63,276 70,861
All out stories on the Slovenian economy can be found here
Ascent Resources, the UK-based firm engaged in a long-running attempt to begin fracking at Petišovci, a plan that has been delayed due to a lack of permits, said on Monday that it’s now looking to develop other projects outside Slovenia.
A report published on the London South East website, sets out how the company is still waiting on permits to re-stimulate it’s existing wells to produce more gas from the field, and install a processing facility to enable the natural gas it produces to enter the Slovenian national grid.
The story became more heated in late 2018, with accusations that Ascent Resources shareholders, or other interested parties, had been sending threatening messages to the Slovenian Environment Agency, as reported here, as well as threats by the company to sue the Slovene government for damages.
While Ascent Resources claims to be hopeful that that it will receive the permits needed to continue the Petišovci project, it is now looking beyond Slovenia and to other locations in the region with a more developed oil and gas infrastructure, working petroleum system and an established regulatory and legal framework.
The firm’s Chief Executive, Colin Hutchinson, is quoted as saying "While the Petišovci project remains a potentially very valuable asset, I am pleased that we now have a way forward that is not entirely based on Slovenia and the award of permits.”
At the time of writing the shares of Ascent Resources (AST) were trading at 0.32 pence in London, down from 1.40 pence a year ago.
STA, 12 January 2019 - The global financial crisis, which erupted in 2008 with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, hit Slovenia with a delay, but it exposed huge weaknesses that had built up in the majority state-owned banking system. By 2012 Slovenia was locked out of financial market, and it took until the bank bailout in late 2013 before the sector recovered.
In the run-up to the crisis, credit growth was buoyant, driven by cheap money after interest rates collapsed following the changeover to the euro in 2007.
Loans to the non-banking sector surged by almost two-thirds between 2006 and 2008. Banks financed the expansion mostly by securing financing from foreign banks.
The crisis thoroughly razed the banking landscape.
Banks' total assets peaked at over EUR 50bn in 2010 before reaching a low of just 37bn six years later.
Similarly, lending contracted by more than a third between 2010 and 2016, as banks deleveraged to pay back their foreign loans rather than extend new loans to Slovenian businesses.
On the other hand, deposits remained robust as households responded to the crisis by tightening spending, which deepened the economic crisis but gave banks a lifeline when foreign financing dried up.
The total volume of loans slipped slightly during the crisis as households drew down their savings, going from EUR 23.9 bn in 2010 to EUR 22.4bn in 2013, but the contraction was never as severe as the tightening of lending.
Total assets Loans to non-banking sector
(in EUR m) (in EUR m)
2006 34.1 20.6
2007 42.6 28.5
2008 47.9 33.7
2010 50.8 34.7
2013 40.3 24.3
2014 38.7 21.5
2016 37.1 20.5
2018* 38.3 22.2
* As of 31 October
Source: Slovenian central bank
The credit explosion leading up to the crisis inflated a property bubble, which burst post-2010 as large construction companies that also financed their own projects collapsed one after the other, as did over-leveraged financial holdings.
The share of non-performing loans started to soar, forcing banks to set aside increasing provisions and writing down assets, leading to a negative spiral.
Whereas foreign-owned banks received capital injections from their shareholders, the three biggest banks in the country were all in state ownership, requiring growing amounts of public funds to keep them afloat.
The story came to a head in December 2013, when the treasury spent EUR 3.5bn recapitalising NLB, NKBM and Abanka, wiping out shareholders and junior bondholders in the process. Two smaller banks, Probanka and Factor Banka, were wound down.
At the same time, about four billion euros in non-performing loans were transferred onto the newly-established Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC), which also absorbed the assets of Probanka and Factor Banka.
After the banking system was bailed out banks were flush with cash and largely freed of non-performing loans, but it took several years before lending recovered.
Net profit Net provisions, write-downs
(in EUR m) (in EUR m)
2008 208 -120
2009 162 -279
2010 -99 -811
2013 -3439 -3809
2014 -106 -650
2016 364 -96
2017 443 43
2018* 452 45
* As of 31 October
Source: Slovenian central bank
Echoes of this period continue to reverberate five years later, as lawsuits by subordinated bondholders and shareholders wiped out in the bailout make their way through courts.
These investors have targeted in particular the valuations that determined the size of the bailout, alleging that Slovenia had been the target of speculators and a guinea pig for new EU bank resolution rules.
The commotion over the bailout resulted in criminal investigations at the central bank, the resignation of governor Boštjan Jazbec and, recently, criminal charges against the board of governors serving at the time of the bailout.
The costs of the bailout accounted for a significant chunk of the increase in general government debt during the crisis, which ballooned from 22% of GDP in 2008 to almost 84% of GDP by 2015.
The surging debt was accompanied by growing debt servicing costs, as the precarious state of the economy during the crisis led to higher borrowing costs; for a while, Slovenia was practically locked out of the eurobond market and had to borrow in US dollars.
Public debt did not start to decline until 2016, when the economic recovery was already in full swing. In the past two years the treasury has been busy replacing dollar debt with euro bonds and debt has started to decline at a more rapid pace towards the eurozone ceiling of 60% of GDP.
General government finances
Deficit Debt Debt servicing costs
(% of GDP) (% of GDP) (EUR m)
2008 -1.4 21.8 326.1
2009 -5.8 34.6 326.4
2010 -5.6 38.4 476.7
2011 -6.7 46.6 510.6
2012 -4.0 53.8 632.5
2013 -14.7 70.4 827.0
2014 -5.5 80.4 1082.6
2015 -2.8 82.6 1028.8
2016 -1.9 78.7 1064.0
2017 +0.1 74.1 977.3
Source: Eurostat, Statistics Office, Ministry of Finance