Business

15 May 2019, 14:23 PM

STA, 15 May 2019 - The group around the insurance company Zavarovalnica Triglav posted a pre-tax profit of EUR 29.9 million in the first quarter of 2019, up 8% year-on-year, while also recording the same growth rate in consolidated gross premiums, which amounted to EUR 317 million, shows the unaudited quarterly report released on Wednesday.

The report says that the group's premium growth on most of its markets exceeded the growth of the markets as a whole.

In Slovenia, where the group collects 76% of consolidated premiums, the average premium growth stood at 6% (compared to the market growth of 5%) and 10% in the markets outside Slovenia.

In terms of individual insurance segments, premium growth was recorded in all non-life insurance classes, the company said.

In the life and pension insurance segments, premium declined by 2% compared with the same period last year, while health insurance premium increased by 20%.

Gross claims paid by the group totalled EUR 166 million, down by 3% compared to the first quarter of 2018, while net claims incurred were at the expected level, up by 6% compared to last year.

At the end of the first quarter, the group's financial investments totalled EUR 3.2 billion.

Commenting on the results, chairman Andrej Slapar said the company was pleased with the performance, adding that it "pursues the set strategy to become a modern, innovative and dynamic insurance and financial group".

15 May 2019, 09:00 AM

STA, 13 May 2019 - Small and medium-sized companies in Slovenia as well as those providing for up to 3,000 full-time jobs will be able to apply for EUR 100 million in funds offered by the Slovenian Equity Growth Investment Programme (SEGIP). The new scheme is to help attract private investors from abroad.

The European Investment Fund (EIF), and Slovenia's SID export and development bank each contributed EUR 50 million to the programme.

According to SID CEO Sibil Svilan, the initiative for the SEGIP had come from SID after the crisis revealed a major deficiency in private equities in Slovenia.

In November 2017, a deal to set up the EUR 100-million programme was signed with the EIF, with the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) providing for guarantees.

The goal of the programme is to provide equity financing to the small, medium-sized and mid-cap companies as well as attract foreign private investors and strengthen local capabilities by supporting the up-and-coming managers of Slovenia-based entities whose investments are focussed on Slovenia.

Gabriele Todesca of the EIF said at today's presentation that alternative finance still represented a small share among all financial sources available to local small and medium-sized companies, which slowed down the economic growth.

"The EIF is happy to contribute to the tackling of this issue through the SEGIP," he said.

The EIF has chosen KF Finance and KD Skladi to manage the private capital funds.

Tone Pekolj of the KF Finance funds noted that the first generation of Slovenian entrepreneurs were now passing their companies on to the next generation, and were willing to open the door to other investors.

Meanwhile, KD Skladi CEO Luka Podlogar stressed that small and medium-sized companies were the engine of the Slovenian economy and that because of the lack of private capital funds many of them failed to realise their potential.

According to the SID bank, the SEGIP is not intended for start-ups or companies in trouble. It will support investments aimed at strengthening or expanding companies in Slovenia, which also entails hiring and job creation.

13 May 2019, 14:30 PM

STA, 13 May 2019 - Employers have been pointing to their difficulties in finding qualified new employees for quite some time, but the situation has only been worsening to the point when it looks more dire than it was in 2008, before the economic crisis. Employers' organisations thus urge the authorities to take action by promoting economic migrations.

 

Employers have been hiring foreigners to alleviate the shortage, but the manpower pool of the former Yugoslav republics is depleting as well.

The organisations thus expect the government to speed up measures to tackle the issue and come up with a strategy for promoting economic migrations.

According to the Employment Service's data, in the past six months, almost 50% of employers were faced with the shortage, with the share standing at 70% among large companies.

The deficiency is most pronounced in the restaurant business (69%), construction (62%), social and health care (62%) and manufacturing (56%).

"Employers often encounter problems when trying to recruit employees for jobs which are paid less, physically demanding and/or come with demanding working schedules. There's also the issue of finding candidates for technical jobs requiring specific skills which are difficult to be obtained quickly by not (yet) trained and inexperienced people," said the service.

Increasing systemic discrepancies are present in the labour market, according to the service, with the number of available jobs growing, and the number of jobless decreasing.

As a result, the share of the unemployed with primary education or without it is increasing, same as the share of jobless people who are limited in finding employment and require active support.

On the other hand, the share of the unemployed disabled people is decreasing more slowly than the share of all unemployed people.

Employers are thus trying to fill in the gaps by adopting measures such as overtime or temporary increased workload, recruiting through temping agencies, encouraging the young to find jobs more quickly, discussing post-retirement work with older employees and attracting foreign employees, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) Samo Hribar Milič has told the STA.

The Slovenian Employers' Association (ZDS) secretary general Jože Smole also said that recruiting foreign employees was one of the key ways to tackle this issue.

According to the Employment Service, the number of work permits increased from 14,811 in 2015 to 18,049 in 2018. The numbers do not include single residence-work permits, with 1,180 of them being issued in 2015 and a significantly higher number of them in 2018 - 20,889.

In the first four months of this year, 9,693 foreigners obtained permits to reside and work in Slovenia. But getting such permits does not automatically denote receiving a work permit at the administrative unit in charge.

The majority of foreign recruits are from the former Yugoslav republics. Slovenia issued 16,596 work permits to citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina last year, 1,281 to citizens of Croatia, and 140 to citizens of Serbia.

The share of single residence-work permits was highest in case of migrant workers from Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Russia.

Employers criticise the length of procedures for hiring employees from third countries. Moreover, they have been waiting a year for the ratification of the treaty on employing Serbian citizens in Slovenia.

The protocol for implementing the treaty was signed in November last year, but the ratification has not taken place yet. However, employers caution that the manpower pool in the former Yugoslavia is being drained as well.

Hribar Milič thus called for ratification of treaties which would enable employing citizens of countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. He also urged the authorities to follow Germany's example and establish offices in charge of employing third-country nationals, for example in Sarajevo, Kiev or Skopje.

"The state already promised that, but has still not delivered on it," he pointed out.

The newspaper Delo recently reported that around a third of the foreigners getting work permits in Slovenia used that opportunity as a stepping stone for migrating to another EU country.

Commenting on this, Hribar Milič said that GZS member companies had been pointing that out, having invested in foreign recruitment only to be faced with recruits moving on to other EU countries.

He denied accusations of Slovenia importing workforce to the EU at dumping prices as Slovenian labour costs are lower, which makes workers from Slovenia cheaper. He said the accusations were based on individual cases, which should be sanctioned by law.

Smole said that given the amount of labour costs in Slovenia one could not speak about dumping.

He expects the government to step up action mitigating the manpower drain, reduce red tape and come up with an operational strategy for economic migrations.

On the other hand, the GZS is pleased about its collaboration with the Employment Service since the latter is developing personalised training and further courses for the unemployed in cooperation with the organisation. However, Hribar Milič concluded that there was room for improvement in that respect as well.

All our stories about employment in Slovenia are here

10 May 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 9 May 2019 - The number of job vacancies and occupied posts in Slovenia increased in the first quarter of 2019, which reflected in the highest job vacancy rate (2.6%) after 2008, the Statistics Office said on Thursday.

 

In the first three months of the year the job vacancy rate was the highest in construction (7.1%) and in administrative and support service activities (5.1%), and the lowest (0.3%) in electricity.

Slightly over 20,400 job vacancies were recorded, 1,200 more than in the previous quarter, when the job vacancy rate stood at 2.5%. Slovenia recorded the lowest job vacancy rate (0.6%) in the second half of 2009, just before the financial crisis.

Most of the job vacancies were recorded in manufacturing, construction and trade. In the first three months of the year employers with 10 or more persons in paid employment advertised slightly more than 12,600 job vacancies. This is almost 500 more than in the previous quarter and is a record high since 2008.

Seasonally adjusted data show that the number of occupied posts has been increasing since the second quarter of 2014. In the first quarter of 2019 around 766,500 posts were occupied, 4,700 more than in the previous quarter.

All our stories on employment in Slovenia are here

09 May 2019, 15:08 PM

STA, 8 May 2019 - Impol, Slovenia's largest maker of aluminium products, launched a new car industry production line in its subsidiary TLM in Croatia on Wednesday, consolidating its position in the car industry market.

The cost of Impol's investment amounted to EUR 6.5 million, with the new combination cutting line enabling the company to expand its cold rolling mill production as well as the production of a wider variety of new products intended for industrial customers and specialised car and aircraft industry markets.

The construction works started in August 2018, while the trial production period began in April this year. The regular production is expected to be launched soon.

The company's latest line, entitled Salico, will enable the processing of aluminium products, spanning in depth from 0.5 to 6 mm and with the maximum width of 1,600 mm.

The line's top speed is 200 m per minute, which is at least six times faster than before, according to the project's manager Damir Muhedinović.

Impol's CEO Andrej Kolmanič stressed the importance of the investment for attracting and serving final customers consuming the biggest amount of aluminium products and requiring the highest quality standards.

The Šibenik-based company TLM, which was acquired by the Slovenska Bistrica-based company in 2017, employs more than 400 people, manufacturing some 9,000 tonnes of aluminium products per month. Until 2025 the subsidiary would like to double its production to 200,000 tonnes per year.

Impol has invested more than EUR 100 million in TLM and plans to keep investing, expanding its production capacities.

Last year, the company produced the best results, generating more than EUR 36 million in net profit, while increasing its production volume by 4%, according to the newspaper Delo.

The opening of the new line was attended by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, Slovenian Ambassador to Croatia Smiljana Knez and the Croatian Economy Ministry State Secretary Mario Antonić.

The latter said the investment demonstrated that business transcended state borders, while Počivalšek confirmed that the economic cooperation between Slovenia and Croatia was successful. Trade between the countries amounted to EUR 5.5 billion in 2018.

He also welcomed Impol's investment, saying it would contribute to the bilateral trade and to the countries' performance in the EU and global economic market, reported the Šibenik news portal.

Počivalšek also pointed out that Slovenia invests the most in Croatia, with Slovenian investments amounting to EUR 1.8 billion at the end of 2018, a 12% increase year-on-year.

Croatia invested in Slovenia EUR 923 million in 2018, a 3% increase year-on-year.

09 May 2019, 13:45 PM

STA, 8 May 2019 - The Slovenian economy as a whole significantly improved its performance last year, with total net profit of companies increasing by 16% and total revenues by 9%, according to the Agency for Public Legal Records (AJPES).

The total net profit posted by Slovenian companies surpassed the total loss for the fifth year in a row in 2018, standing at EUR 4.2 billion, up 16% year-on-year.

The 66,749 companies which submitted their business results for last year to AJPES meanwhile increased their combined revenue by 9% to EUR 100.8 billion.

Revenues generated on the foreign markets amounted to EUR 40.7 billion, which is 10% more than in 2017.

Slovenian companies also hired new employees at a facilitated pace last year, with the number of employed persons measured by hours worked increasing by 29,517 compared to 2017 to 503,326.

Employees received an average wage of EUR 1,652 gross last year, or EUR 65 gross more than in 2017. Net added value per employee was up by 2% to EUR 44,415.

AJPES will present a more detailed analysis of annual reports of Slovenian companies at a press conference next week.

09 May 2019, 12:07 PM

STA, 8 May 219 - Slovenia has remained the fifth most attractive destination for German investors among 15 countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), while 80% of German investors would reinvest in the country, which is 16 percentage points less than last year, the latest survey by the Slovenian-German Chamber of Commerce has shown.

Chamber president Gertrud Rantzen said at Wednesday's presentation of the survey that CEE was one of the most important economic regions for Germany, where the country's companies found a lot of partners and investment destinations.

Rantzen noted that Slovenia had kept its ranking in terms of attractiveness for German investments, but that it must not rest on laurels. Slovenia is trailing only the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Estonia in the region.

"The other countries are not sleeping, some of them have made strong progress and them overtaking Slovenia is only a matter of time," she added.

Slovenia's biggest shortcomings have remained the same - tax burden, tax system and authorities, high labour costs and rigid labour legislation. The situation on the labour market is also deteriorating, as the available labour force is shrinking.

The survey shows that despite the shortcomings of the Slovenian business environment, 80% of German investors would pick the country again as a location for their investments, which is however a drop compared to last year (96%).

Rantzen thus called for better training of employees, a migration policy which would attract foreign experts, and the promotion of apprenticeship. She again called on the government to introduce a cap on social security contributions.

The chamber has also noticed progress in Slovenia in certain fields, with the economic, political and social stability improving.

Investors have assessed the country's economic policy as more predictable, legal security has also improved, and Slovenia is also standing out in terms of infrastructure in the positive sense, Rentzen added.

Slovenia's score in transparency of public procurement and quality of academic education has also improved, and the country decisively leads the 15 countries as the top destination for research and development.

Slovenia has been the fastest growing economy in the region since 2016, with 68% of the surveyed German companies assessing the current economic situation in the country as good, and 28% as satisfactory.

Only 17% of the respondents expect that Slovenia's exports will increase next year, and 62% that they will stay level. "Certain sectors are stagnating, automotive suppliers in particular," said Rentzen.

One-fifth of the surveyed companies want to increase their investments in Slovenia, 52% will keep their investment plans for 2019 as they are. Total German investments in Slovenia are expected to stand at EUR 557 million by 2022.

A majority of the planned investments will go for digitalisation and expansion of production. There will also be more investments in education and training of workforce and the development of products, the survey shows.

06 May 2019, 10:06 AM

STA, 5 May 2019 - Mlinotest, the Ajdovščina-based bread and pasta company, is looking back at a successful year, having posted a solid growth in revenue and profit in 2018, mainly thanks to a strong growth in exports.

Mlinotest saw its profit rise by 18% to EUR 2m last year as revenue increased by 9% to EUR 55.9m, driven by a 22% growth in exports.

Commenting on the results, the company's CEO Danilo Kobal pointed out in particular good sales in Germany and Latin America, where they expect to expand further.

The core company generated around 20% of the sales in foreign markets, while the percentage of exports in group sales is a little bit higher still.

Its biggest export markets are Italy, Croatia, Columbia, Panama, Poland, Austria, Germany and France. Dry pasta is the number one export product, followed by products such as frozen bread and pastry.

"The first lorries of frozen confectionery have just been supplied to the second largest German grocer. We won the deal this year amid fierce competition. We place great hopes in it," Kobal said.

Over the past four years, the company invested more than EUR 4m annually in upgrading and expanding its production facilities. A further EUR 3m will be invested this year, half of which in bakery packaging automation.

This year, sales are projected to increase by 9% and net profit by 10%. "Three months into the year, I can say we are well on track to meet or even trump the targets," said Kobal.

The core company employs around 550 people and the entire group 670. Despite intensive automation and robotisation of production, Mlinotest is planning to open a few new jobs in coming years.

05 May 2019, 11:10 AM

STA, 3 May 2019 - The French group Societe Generale signed an agreement on Friday with OTP Bank Group on selling SKB Banka and its subsidiaries to the Hungarian financial service provider, which will thus enter the Slovenian market. OTP is also reportedly one of the three most serious bidders for the country's third largest bank Abanka.

 

The purchase price was not revealed in today's press release by Societe Generale, which had taken over SKB in 2001, when it was the third largest Slovenian bank.

According to the agreement, OTP will take over SKB Banka, which is still among the top five largest banks in the country, as well as its subsidiaries SKB Leasing and SKB Leasing Select.

The takeover will be completed pending approvals of both banking regulators, Banka Slovenije and the European Central Bank, as well as competition regulators in the upcoming months.

The French group has already sold a number of banks in SE Europe, striving to improve its solvency ratio and lower the risk exposure level.

On the other hand, OTP Bank Group has strengthened its foothold in Central, Eastern and SE Europe in recent years, mostly through taking over businesses from Societe Generale.

OTP, Hungary's largest commercial bank and one of the largest independent financial service providers in Central and Eastern Europe, already made an attempt to enter the Slovenian market in 2014, when it was one of the bidders for the bank NKBM, according to unofficial reports.

The Hungarian bank has also confirmed its interest for Abanka, with two other companies vying to take over the third largest Slovenian bank, the private equity fund Apollo and Serbian bank AIK Banka.

Besides agreeing on the takeover, Societe Generale and OTP have also come to an agreement on the cooperation in providing various financial services, including investment banking, capital markets, liquidity management, with Slovenia being part of this agreement.

The sale of SKB is coming despite the bank's positive business results in the last year. SKB Banka generated EUR 57.6m in net profit in 2018, a 32.7% increase year-on-year, marking the bank's second-best result since it became part of Societe Generale.

26 Apr 2019, 12:49 PM

STA, 25 April 2019 - Household appliances maker Gorenje expects to lay off 270 people as the group undergoes reorganisation following a recent change in ownership. The newspaper Večer meanwhile learnt from the in-house trade union that 1,720 people would be sacked, of which 1,450 would be offered new contracts.

The company, which employs a total of just over 4,200 people, and has recently been taken over by Chinese Hisense, said in a statement following the report by Večer that reduction staff in support services would be achieved through attrition.

Nonetheless, layoffs will not be avoided if the company will determine that there is no more need for a certain position.

The trade union meanwhile said it was willing to use any measure to fight layoffs and has called a press conference for tomorrow. It also refused to take part in talks about redundancy criteria, scheduled for today.

Nevertheless, Gorenje expects a new organisation scheme to be adopted in the first half of May. The next step will be to finalise the redundancies list and adopt a plan of action.

The trade union strongly opposes any moves toward redundancies since it believes the employees are not responsible for the company's poor business results.

It wants the company's management to take responsibility for the poor performance by initiating a procedure investigating liability of individual top managers.

Gorenje generated almost EUR 1.2bn in sales revenue last year, a 1.7% decrease compared to 2017. In 2018 the company sustained some EUR 37m in net loss, while it brought in a profit the previous year.

26 Apr 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 25 April 2019 - Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek met Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhang in Beijing on Thursday. He moreover addressed the 2019 Belt and Road Forum, underlining that Slovenia was an open, high-tech partner economy.

A press release from the Economy Ministry quoted Počivalšek as saying that China appreciated the attendance of politicians at events such as the Belt and Road summit that started today.

Počivalšek noted at the sidelines of the event that a number of bilateral meetings of Slovenian and Chinese politicians had taken place over the past 26 years, which is reflected in traditionally good relations and strong business ties.

Meetings taking place as part of the 16+1 initiative of Central and Eastern European countries and China boost Slovenia's visibility and open doors for Slovenian companies, he added.

Počivalšek proposed to Wang that the countries sign a memorandum on cooperation in technology and innovation. He said that China considered Slovenia to be a credible partner in innovation. "We must seize this opportunity for our companies."

Počivalšek arrived in China on Tuesday, visiting the headquarters of Haisense and meeting representatives of the Liaoning Shenyang province yesterday.

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