The long-running story of Ascent Resources and its attempts to get permission to use a form of hydraulic stimulation in its gas fields in Petišovci has taken another turn, one that may have more success for the UK firm. The company announced on Friday that it will now use conventional drilling techniques to extract more gas, taking “advantage of the newly reprocessed Petišovci 3-D seismic survey to appraise new conventional targets", in the words of CEO John Buggenhagen, who took over management a few months ago. The company is also appealing the decision that prevents the use of hydraulic stimulation.
Ascent Resources’ non-executive chairman Louis Castro is also quoted as saying: "Over the next six weeks or so -- together with our partner Geoenergo -- we will be evaluating and prioritising potential shallow conventional oil and gas targets and associated well site locations.”
All our stories on Ascent Resources can be found here
STA, 21 September 2019 – The newspaper Večer accuses Adria Airway's German owners, 4K Invest, of making good money out of the former Slovenian flag carrier, saying the German "vultures" have squeezed every cent out of the company since they bought it in 2016.
The Miro Cerar government sold flag carrier Adria Airways in January 2016 after the Alenka Bratušek government put it on a list of 15 companies to be privatised in 2013.
For the German financial fund, which has absolutely no experience in aviation industry, to buy it, the state had injected Adria with EUR 3 million in taxpayer money.
Then the "experienced" German rescuers of troubled companies, skilled in creative accounting, squeezed from Adria a few million euros, and nobody knows where they have ended up.
In the same way, it took over Switzerland's Darwin Airline only to send it into receivership six months later, a case the Swiss law enforcement is still investigating.
But eventually the inevitable happened: passenger numbers started to fall, bank accounts have been blocked and part of its fleet grounded.
The last attempt by the German financial magicians to get a capital injection from the Slovenian state to keep Adria alive has fallen through, which is good news.
"If Adria's vital routes had to be temporarily kept alive, the German vultures should not be part of this story anymore," Večer says in the commentary Aviation Vultures.
Both pilots and Slovenian aviation experts have been warning the Adria owners do not know what they are doing, and it seems they are right.
4K Invest's business record shows the fund has sent into receivership at least four companies under the guise of restructuring. And when the rescuers left, several thousand workers have been left jobless.
"Adria is now in a similar position, a shell with negative capital, without assets and with an unmanageable debt," Večer says on Saturday.
Note: Updated 20:30, 20/09/19
STA, 20 September 2019 - The Civil Aviation Agency has grounded two Adria Airways Bombardier CRJ900 planes, after lessors have terminated lease contracts for the two planes due to payment default. Adria has already cancelled several flights scheduled for today and several were rescheduled.
According to Adria, the Civil Aviation Agency issued an oral ban for the two planes that Adria leased from Trident Aviation Leasing Service on Thursday afternoon.
A written decree is to be issued within the next five days.
Adria management met the agency's supervisors on Thursday evening to discuss the current situation. Adria asserted in a written statement that their flight operations with the remaining planes were safe, which the agency's head Rok Marolt confirmed for the STA today.
The agency is still deciding on Adria's operating licence. According to Adria, these are two separate procedures.
However, Marolt added that the procedure which is related to the financial situation of the company was "definitely related" to the licence procedure. "All this will definitely affect the final decision," he said.
Marolt said the agency was monitoring the situation at Adria by the hour. "If any deviations from flight security were detected, we will act immediately irrespective of the licence procedure."
So far, five morning flights have been cancelled, including the Skopje-Ljubljana, Ljubljana-Zürich, Munich-Ljubljana, Zürich-Ljubljana, and Vienna-Ljubljana flights.
According to Adria's web site, the flights scheduled for this afternoon will be carried out but most have been delayed by an hour and a half.
Delays were already reported on Thursday. Passengers going to Paris, Copenhagen and Amsterdam were stuck at the airport. Flights to Brussels, Tirana and Prague were also cancelled.
Adria has not commented on the matter yet. CEO Holger Kowarsch denied media reports that lessors have terminated lease contracts for the two planes in a comment for the STA last night, saying that talks with lessors were still under way.
News portal 24ur reported today that Adria employees had staged a spontaneous protest at noon. Pilots and cabin crew reportedly gathered to protest about the uncertainty and lack of information about the state of the company and their careers.
Trident Aviation Leasing Service is part of the Falko group, which owns the Irish low-budget carrier CityJet and is one of the biggest creditors of Adria, according to Siol.net.
Falko was also mentioned as a possible saviour of Slovenia's former flag carrier which has been in German ownership since 2016.
Adria's potential receivership would cause problems to the state administration, given the upcoming Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of 2021. Kowarsch reportedly discussed this with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec in the spring.
The Infrastructure Ministry said today that it did not have means at its disposal to assist Adria; however it was sorry to hear about the airline's unfortunate situation.
"Our priority at the moment is that maximum safety of Adria's flight operations is ensured," reads the ministry's press release.
The state, which sold Adria in 2016, will be obliged to provide Slovenia's air connectivity with the world in case Adria's operating license is revoked.
The ministry has thus already prepared a proposal which would enable co-funding of certain flight routes in line with relevant regulations.
If Adria goes bankrupt and no other airlines step up to provide necessary services, then the state would have to set up a public airline enterprise - a long and complicated procedure which would have to be approved by the EU.
Meanwhile, Adria said today that the company was facing serious financial issues and was looking for solutions to tackle them.
Adria's fleet includes 16 planes at the moment, but the carrier is leasing many of them to other airlines together with flight crews.
All our stories on the troubled airline can be found here
STA, 19 September 2019 - Finance delves into Slovenian wages in a commentary on Thursday. It looks for reasons why wages are low compared to the west, before concluding that Slovenians in fact do not really want higher pay and everything it entails.
"For me one of Slovenia's big failures is in how low wages are compared to 'western' Europe. Wages reflect know-how, innovativeness, competitiveness, the value of products and services on the global market," the paper says.
In Slovenia political decisions "have always been geared towards low wages. Geared against profit, getting rich and money. Towards equality at low levels" the commentary argues as it berates past bailouts of old industrial companies and progressive taxes.
The second failure is that Slovenians do not even want higher pay. "They are smug in this comfortable space ... They do not need broader horizons, possibilities, challenges changes."
"This is why money is not an animating force for Slovenians ... This is why I roll my eyes whenever I hear that with higher wages, Slovenians - teachers, doctors, managers - would work better. In Slovenia it is exactly the opposite."
Slovenians are "happy at low revs," which is why money is "something for the weirdos, not a general incentive," the paper says in Why I'm Not Giving You Higher Pay (Zakaj vam ne dam višje plače?).
All our stories on pay in Slovenia can be found here
STA, 18 September 2019 - The Amber Rail Freight Corridor, which connects industrial centres and inter-modal terminals in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, was formally launched in a ceremony in Koper on Wednesday. It has been operational since January as the first rail freight corridor established on the initiative of member states.
The corridor connects the Adriatic Sea - with Koper being the only maritime port within the corridor - with the Poland-Belarus border, and its position represents an alternative to the transport routes between the north and south of Europe.
The name Amber Rail Freight Corridor refers to the name of an important ancient trade route, which broadly followed the same alignment.
Gerhard Troche, the managing director of the project, said at the ceremony that the corridor was a platform which enabled all stakeholders to address joint issues and challenges.
These include differences in work processes, technical differences or different transport rules in countries, which cause delays and problems in international rail freight transport, he added.
Its purpose is to improve cross-border rail freight transport, Troche said, adding that "we operate on several levels", including relevant ministries in individual countries, operators of rail networks and advisory groups for railway infrastructure users.
He believes that the Amber Rail Freight Corridor is a great advantage compared to practice in the past, when a certain rail operators needed to communicate separately with stakeholders in each individual country.
"Communication has thus become much easier," Troche said, adding that the project also offered a one-stop-shop service for regulating issues related to transport capacities and providing information to clients.
Andrea Mosoczi, the chair of the management board, added that a study would be carried out which would help recognise open administrative, infrastructural and operational issues and priorities.
You can learn more about the project here
STA, 17 September 2019 - Adria Airways has signed a new collective bargaining agreement with pilots, a move the airline says that "calms down the labour situation at the company".
The new agreement "allows management to remain focused on stability of operations and provision of services," the company said after signing the agreement on Tuesday.
The deal, valid through 2023, was signed a little over a week after a tentative deal was reached with pilots, helping the airline to avert a series of multi-day strikes that the pilots had announced for September and early October.
During that time the Trade Union of Pilots put the deal to a vote, which appears to have been successful.
Adria did not disclose the details of the deal, while Marko Kastelic, a member of the pilot union, told the STA the pilots were very satisfied with what had been achieved since work conditions would substantially improve.
Pilots had been complaining about the bad working conditions before and after the sale of this state-owned company to the German fund 4K Invest was completed in early 2016.
Since months beset by delays, flight cancellations and unannounced mergers of flights, the airline has had financial trouble for a while and is currently looking for a strategic partner.
Adding to its woes, it risks losing its operating licence due to what media reports suggest is a dismal financial state.
The Slovenian Civil Aviation Agency is expected to take a decision by the end of October. It can either decide to let things stands as they are, it may permanently or temporarily revoke its licence, or it may issue a temporary licence.
Kastelic was hopeful the airline would be able to resolve its operational and financial problems.
All our stories about the ups and downs of Adria are here
STA, 11 September 2019 - The energy company Petrol signed cooperation contracts with Russia's T Plus Grupa and Schneider Electric at a Slovenian-Russian business meeting held in Moscow on Tuesday as part of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's visit to the country.
Petrol will cooperate with the two Russian companies in energy efficiency. According to Petrol CEO Tomaž Berločnik, the projects will focus on optimisation of district heating.
The project with T Plus Grupa will be carried out in Izhevsk, and the other in Yekaterinburg, where Petrol will set up specialised software and provide IT support.
"Thus we will reduce energy use and optimise operative costs," Berločnik explained. According to him, the two projects are worth "a few million euro" and potentially tens of million in the future.
The business meeting, hosted by Šarec, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, Labour Minister Ksenija Klampfer and Russian Digital Development Minister Konstantin Noskov, featured nine other Slovenian companies that already operate on the Russian market.
In his address, Šarec highlighted the two biggest Slovenian investors in Russia, the pharma company Krka and ICT company Iskratel.
According to Krka CEO Jože Colarič, Krka's sales in Russia will reach almost EUR 300 million this year, which is about 40% of Slovenia's total exports to the country.
Also represented at the meeting were the telecoms equipment maker Comita, air dome maker Duol, sports equipment manufacturer Elan Inventa, gas wholesaler Geoplin, industrial group Kolektor, engineering company Riko and steel group SIJ.
Šarec said that despite the EU's sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis Slovenia as en export-oriented economy was very much interested in the strengthening of economic cooperation with Russia.
He said there were many opportunities to enhance ties in high-tech and called for a joint foray into third markets.
Počivalšek echoed this call and pointed to potential for cooperation in energy, pharmaceuticals, automation and tourism, especially spas.
The economy minister noted that in 2018, bilateral trade in goods reached EUR 1.16 billion, of which EUR 790 million was Slovenia's exports and EUR 370 million imports.
In the first six months of this year, Slovenia's exports to Russia almost reached EUR 750 million. The exports are slowly approaching the 2013 level and the one billion euro milestone, Počivalšek assessed.
Currently, 38 Slovenian companies are present in Russia with total direct investments of EUR 357 million, which is 5% of Slovenia's total external investment, the minister said.
In turn, Russian companies mostly invest in the financial, metal and spa industries in Slovenia. Russian indirect investments in Slovenia top EUR 538 million.
Počivalšek called on Russian companies to increase their investment in Slovenia and take part in the final phase of privatisation of some 110 companies.
"We are striving to create a competitive environment for domestic and foreign investors and want to be green, creative and smart," the minister said.
Talking to the STA on the sidelines of the event, he rejected criticism that the strengthening of relations with Russia could have a negative impact on Slovenia's relations with its other alleys.
"Slovenia is an export-oriented economy. Out of last year's GDP, which reached EUR 46 billion, exports totalled 39 billion, which is 85%. And 80% of the exports was generated in EU markets. We're not neglecting any markets. And the Russian market is important to us," he stressed.
Slovenia's top market is the EU, the Western Balkans comes second, and China has already overtaken Russia, which is thus our fourth most important market, he added.
Cerar and Noskov, who head the intergovernmental economy commission, also addressed the participants of the business forum. Cerar stressed the importance of the "friendly atmosphere" between Slovenian and Russia, and Noskov assessed that the future of the bilateral economic relations was bright.
STA, 10 September 2019 - The employment prospects in Slovenia in the final quarter of the year remain favourable, according to the latest employment forecast by temping agency Manpower. Seasonally-adjusted net employment forecast stands at 17%, which is one of the most optimistic forecasts in the region.
"Compared to the previous quarter, the employment prospect is slightly down - for two percentage points - but compared to the same period last year, the forecast remains level," sales manager at Manpower Gašper Kleč told the STA.
The employment prospect for the final quarter is two percentage points lower in quarterly comparison and remains level year-on-year.
The upbeat hiring prospects are a result of the strongest demand for labour in mining and quarrying, and the public sector and social services since the survey started nine years ago. They stand at +20% and +19%, respectively.
Among all ten industries included in the survey, the most notable hiring is expected in manufacturing (+22%) and construction (+21%).
The lowest chances of employment are expected in agriculture, forestry and fishing and the hospitality sector (at +13% each).
Geographically speaking, the strongest demand for workers is expected in the north-western region (+18%). "This is the second consecutive quarter with the employment forecast there since the survey started in 2011," Kleč said.
The hiring prospects are the strongest in middle-sized companies (+27%), while those for small companies are the highest on record (+21%).
But a gap between the demands of employers and expectations of job seekers remain. "This gap is usually created by the deviation from the desired skills or desired pay but also by the demographic changes," said regional head of Manpower Slovenija Aleksandar Hangimana.
The Manpower survey was conducted among 59,000 employers in 44 countries, 43 of whom report a positive hiring outlook for the fourth quarter.
Slovenia's employment prospects are preceded only by Greece's in this region, while globally, Japan, Taiwan, the US and India have the best net employment outlook. Spain, the Czech Republic, Argentina, Costa Rica and Switzerland are at the bottom of the list.
All our stories on employment in Slovenia are here
STA, 9 September 2019 - Pharmaceutical company Lek inaugurated new development laboratories in Ljubljana on Monday in an investment valued at EUR 7.5 million. Among other drugs, they plan to develop sterile solid dosage forms to treat cancer patients.
Matjaž Tršek, the director of Lek's development centre, said that work on oncology medications had been somewhat limited, while the new investment would allow them to develop the whole portfolio of these medications.
As part of the centre's expansion "existing capacities for development of solid dosage pharmaceutical forms have been expanded, including with new analysis laboratories and expansion of in vitro/in vivo correlation study laboratories," said Luka Peternel, the head of pharmaceutical development at the centre.
Tršek added that "certain new technologies have been brought ... The number of staff has increased and there has been a substantial increase in funds for research". The number of employees at the development centre has increased by about 20% since 2015 to more than 330.
According to him, the centre will also get the first fully automated analysis laboratory. "It'll be the first such laboratory in Sandoz and even Novartis," he said, referring to Lek's parent company and division. The new lab is to be completed by the end of the year.
With the launch of the new labs, Lek is wrapping up a cycle of investment in new capacities, which enhances the Ljubljana development centre's position within the global development network: "We are the largest development centre within Sandoz even now, and this only enhances our position," said Tršek.
According to Lek, the Slovenia development centre is Sandoz's leading centre for the development of technologically advanced products for key markets of Europe, United States, Canada, Japan and emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, Mexico and China.
The Slovenia development centre, responsible for a quarter of all global development projects of Sandoz, Novartis's generic arm, has developed and launched more than 100 new products over the past four years.
The investment launch today comes after Lek decided to discontinue its EUR 150 million investment in expanding antibiotics production at its Prevalje location in the north of the country.
Slovenia has an export-led economy, and the latest figures show that July 2019 was a record year for the nation, reaching € 3,961.9 million, up 46.3% on the July 2018. Imports rose 16.4% in the same period, up to €3,024.8 million, giving a trade surplus of €937 million, the largest in 20 years, with most of this surplus due t trade with non-EU nations.
Looking at the figures in more detail, Switzerland was Slovenia’s most important trading partner in July for both imports and exports, with the most important products being medical and pharmaceutical products.
July ended a good first seven months of the year, with Slovenia seeing a trade surplus of €945.6 million, and an export/import ratio of 104.8%.
More details on this data can be found here
Ex-Yu Aviation reports that Alenka Bratušek, Slovenia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, stated on Friday that a proposed new law on aviation “would allow some forms of subsidies on certain routes. But it would be four or five destinations, not all of Adria’s flights”.
Adria Airways has had a difficult year, with cancellations, dropped flights, and suspicions over its financial health, and the carrier currently in breach of EU regulations as it has not yet submitted its 2018 financial report to the Slovenian Civil Aviation Agency. Moreover, the Slovenian government cannot offer direct aid to Adria until 2021, as the carried received state funds in 2011 and EU rules only permit this once every ten years.
All our stories on Adria Airways are here