Business

11 Jan 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 10 January 2019 - More than 90% of Austrian companies doing business in Slovenia believe the country will continue to be an investment-friendly environment this year, follows from an annual survey conducted by the representation of the Austrian economy in Slovenia, Advantage Austria Ljubljana. The skills gap remains an issue.

Around 60% of surveyed Austrian business executives said that the economic situation in Slovenia had improved last year and would advance further this year. Accordingly, more than half of the respondents said that revenue and orders would go up this year.

"Austrian companies and investors are aware that they have an incredibly interesting, dynamic, stable, competitive and reliable market with plenty of opportunities right next to them," Peter Hasslacher, the head of Advantage Austria Ljubljana, said at the presentation of the survey.

Companies doing business in Slovenia are satisfied with the accessibility of public tenders and their transparency, and with the quality, education and the motivation of the workforce in Slovenia.

However, they find it increasingly hard to find suitable workers. Among those, 73% would require more workers with secondary education and almost 27% more workers with higher education.

According to Hubert Culik, the head of coatings maker Helios, which had been owned by Austria's Ring International before being sold to Japanese Kansai Paint, there is a lack of practical training of young people in Slovenia.

"Many of our new employees require lengthy practical training despite just having finished their studies," he said.

Other measures that would further improve the business environment in Slovenia include reducing taxes and red tape, improving the flexibility of labour market, and stabilising the political situation, according to the respondents.

10 Jan 2019, 16:20 PM

Delo recently published an article on Ljubljana’s real estate market with the headline “Housing in Ljubljana is becoming cheaper” (Stanovanja v Ljubljani so se pocenila). While the messages conveyed were rather mixed, overall they suggested a stagnating market due to the lack of new housing being built and potential buyers unable to afford a property.

In the first half of 2018, the Geodesic Administration (GURS) recorded only 190 sales of new apartments – the primary market – a fall of 54% compared to the second half of 2017 and 62% less than seen in the first half of 2017. The primary market thus accounted for just 4% of all sales in the capital, while in 2015 this figure was around 12%, due to the sale of new housing stock from projects hit by the financial crisis. Moreover, Q3 2018 saw just 41 new apartments sold in Ljubljana, the lowest number since 2007.

average price property slovenia gurs.JPG

This figure, from GURS' report, shows the average prices of properties around Ljubljana, in Ljubljana, Maribor, on the coast (not including Koper) and in Celje, from summer 2015 to summer 2018

Since many purchases of new apartments in the capital require the sale of two or more older properties, this fall in the number of new units being bought has the effect of reducing the amount of used real estate coming on to the market, as noted by Boštjan Udovič, the director of the Chamber of Commerce for Real Estate at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Delo also reports that in Q3 2018 1,385 properties classed as second homes were sold in Ljubljana, 26% less than the quarterly average in 2016.

The article, which can be read (albeit in Slovene and behind a paywall) here, concludes with an uncertain forecast for the year ahead, stating that while the demand for housing does outstrip supply in Ljubljana, indicating some upward pressure on prices, if people are unable to afford a purchase then prices will eventually fall.

All our stories on Slovenia's real estate market can be found here, while you can watch a recent episode of House Hunters International about a family looking for an apartment in Ljubljana here.

10 Jan 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 9 January 2019 - Plastika Skaza, a Velenje-based company specialised in plastics products, last year exceeded EUR 40m in total revenues for the first time in its 40-year history, while pre-tax profit was up seven-fold to EUR 1.4m, the company announced on Wednesday.

 

Speaking to the press in Ljubljana, the management noted that revenues were up by 4% last year, adding that in 2019, Plastika Skaza intended to enter the German market and continue with investments in research and development.

"The goal for this year is to generate EUR 50m in revenue, driven by growing sales of our own brand, which currently represents 8% of total sales," sales director Mirela Kurt told the STA.

In this segment, the company gained 18 new clients and recorded sales growth of 70% last year, she noted.

The company employs 368 people and sells around 90% of its products abroad, mostly in Scandinavian markets.

Last year, Plastika Skaza invested a total of EUR 1.1m, mostly to machines and equipment, automation and development of a smart plant. This year investments are planned to stand at EUR 1.2m.

The company has abandoned production for the automotive industry and now focuses on the furniture and electronics industry, while putting an emphasis on biomaterials and recycled materials for its products.

08 Jan 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 8 January 2018 - The business newspaper Finance examines on Tuesday the remnants of the crypto craze that gripped Slovenia at end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, arguing that "not much is left": several companies that turned to ICOs for funding went bust, while others barely live on.

"Not a single token [released in Slovenian ICOs] has managed to stay above the price with which they entered the crypto market. This means that anybody who participated in any Slovenian ICO project and has not sold its tokens, has lost their money," the paper notes.

There were many ideas in various fields, including banking, auditing, payment services, supply chains and car rentals, and some still persist, but "it is becoming crystal clear that they did not join the hype to solve the problems but because it was easy to raise funds".

"I do believe that the intentions of most crypto entrepreneurs were not bad and that they really wanted to do something good.

But their wish was powered significantly by the fact that they could play without their own input, that is with the funds of others," the paper goes on under Without a Light at the End of Cryptotunnel.

"If they would have had to take out a loan to embark on their business path, nine out of ten companies likely would not have had emerged," says Finance.

"On the other hand, many who left the cryptoparty in time got rich and earned enough in a couple of years to be covered for the rest of their lives. Some even entered the ranking of the richest Slovenians.

All out Bitcoin and crypto stories can be found here

08 Jan 2019, 10:20 AM

STA, 7 January 2019 - Slovenia plans to issue a ten-year bond and has mandated Abanka, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole CIB, Commerzbank and HSBC to lead manage the new euro benchmark, the Finance Ministry said on Monday. Citing market data provider Bloomberg, the newspaper Finance reported the issue would amount to EUR 1.5bn.

"The deal is expected to be launched in the near future, subject to market conditions," the treasury said about the bond with a stated due date of 14 March 2029.

The issue would make Slovenia the first eurozone country to test the bond market this year, Finance reported citing Bloomberg.

Finance later reported that the order book, opened on Monday morning, contained offers worth EUR 3bn in the afternoon.

According to Bloomberg, Slovenia will borrow EUR 1.5bn at a price that is even somewhat lower than initially expected.

The yield on the current 10-year benchmarks is currently at 1.04%, 0.82 percentage points over the German benchmark, according to data from electronic exchange MTS.

The debt financing programme adopted by the government in December stipulates that Slovenia will issue fresh bonds worth a maximum of EUR 2.1bn this year.

Last year it issued fresh debt worth EUR 1.5bn and also refinanced dollar-denominated bonds to the tune of EUR 1.25bn.

05 Jan 2019, 10:06 AM

STA, 4 January 2019 - Joc Pečečnik, the driving force behind the project to revamp a rundown Ljubljana sports stadium designed by Slovenia's best known architect Jože Plečnik, has not given up on the project just yet. After withdrawing a request for an environmental consent, he has filed for an integral construction permit, which is to speed up the project.

Although opponents of the project declared it dead and buried yesterday when it transpired that the investor, Pečečnik's Bežigrad Sports Park (BŠP), had withdrawn the request for the environmental consent, it seems that Pečečnik has only taken a new path to implement his plan.

Rather than pushing for the environmental consent as a precondition for a building permit, he has decided to request the integral construction permit under new legislation.

The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning confirmed for the STA that the BŠP had filed the request on 20 December in line with the amended construction legislation that stepped into force last year.

The procedure for integral construction permit combines the procedures of the environmental impact assessment and the issuing of the construction permit. The new legislation gives the ministry full power to decide on projects, completely leaving out the Environment Agency.

The procedure must also not take more than five months, not counting the period of public debate.

Neither Pečečnik nor the Slovenian Olympic Committee, which is involved in the project along with the Ljubljana municipality, would comment on the issue today.

The news first broke as the civil initiative that has been campaigning for the preservation of Plečnik's stadium in its original form announced on Thursday that the investor had withdrawn its request for the environmental consent, a precondition for a building permit.

The initiative welcomed the decision, labelling the move a sign that the project is now dead and buried.

According to the initiative, the investor too must have realised that the project was unacceptable because it would have caused environmental damage as well as destroy Plečnik's heritage. Pečečnik, the main investor, was unavailable for comment today.

But the head of the Olympic Committee, Bogdan Gabrovec, told the newspaper Delo last December that the renovation of the Plečnik stadium was a priority for him.

"It's a disgrace for all, for cultural heritage, the state and the city. The ten-year agony over construction plans, which are now in line with all environmental standards, has become harmful. This story must be solved one way or another in this term," he said in an interview.

If the project fell through, the Olympic Committee would lose some EUR 2.5m, which would plunge it into the red and that would be a big obstacle when applying to calls for applications, he said.

Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković told the press today he was convinced that Pečečnik was sticking with the project and that the civil initiative opposing the project had jumped to conclusions yesterday.

04 Jan 2019, 14:32 PM

STA, 4 January -2019  A company controlled by a joint venture of the insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav and the German asset management firm KGAL has published a takeover intent for the Nama department store in the centre of Ljubljana, one of the capital's landmarks.

The financial services company Ljubljanica, which is owned by Trigav, has informed the securities market and competition watchdogs about the takeover intent, which was published in the newspaper Delo on Friday.

A takeover bid for the department store, which has been unsuccessfully on sale for years, is expected to be published 10 to 30 days after the intent.

The largest owners of Nama - Zavarovalnica Triglav, its asset management arm Triglav Skladi and the fellow insurer Adriatic Slovenica - tried to sell it already in 2016 and 2017, but did not receive any binding bids.

Nama, which was opened in 1946 as the first department store in Slovenia, generated EUR 10.8m in net sales revenue in the first nine months of 2018, which is 2.6% less than in the same period in 2017 and 1.5% below plans.

It posted a net loss of EUR 147,000 in the first nine months of last year after finishing the same period in 2017 with a net profit of EUR 210,000.

04 Jan 2019, 13:56 PM

STA, 3 January 2019 - A project to revamp a rundown sports stadium in Ljubljana (Centralni stadion Bežigrad) that was designed by Slovenia's best known architect Jože Plečnik appears to be dead after the investor pulled out following more than a decade of tug-of-war with the opponents of the project.

The Bežigrad Sports Park (BŠP) company, the special purpose vehicle established by one of the wealthiest Slovenians, Joc Pečečnik, in cooperation with the Ljubljana city authorities and the Slovenian Olympic Committee, has withdrawn its request for the environmental consent for the renovation, the Environment Agency has confirmed for the STA.

According to the Environment Agency, the investor requested to be removed from procedure on 21 December. The procedure was stopped on 28 December giving all the parties 15 days to appeal the decision, the agency added.

The news first broke as the civil initiative that has been campaigning for the preservation of Plečnik's stadium in its original form announced on Thursday that the investor had withdrawn its request for the environmental consent, a precondition for a building permit.

The initiative welcomed the decision, labelling the move a sign that the project is now dead and buried.

According to the initiative, the investor too must have realised that the project was unacceptable because it would have caused environmental damage as well as destroy Plečnik's heritage. Pečečnik, the main investor, was unavailable for comment today.

The group hopes this will pave the way for a new solution that would restore the stadium to its original form, so it could be used for recreational sports and various events.

The stadium in the Ljubljana Bežigrad borough was designed by Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) in 1923. Built in several phases, its covered landmark VIP box was not added until 1935.

It was closed down for renovation in 2008, about the same time when the Stožice sports complex, also featuring a new stadium, was built on the outskirts of Ljubljana.

The investors had to fight off opposition from the get go, with the latest blow coming in late 2017, when the Environment Ministry again retracted the environmental consent, previously granted by the Environment Agency, upon an appeal by the civil initiative.

04 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 3 January 2019 - Serbian businessman Miodrag Kostić is well on his way to become a key player in the tourism industry on the Slovenian coast. The owner of two major hotels now also owns more than 53% of the local airport operator, Aerodrom Portorož, according to the website of the Agency for Public Legal Records (AJPES).

Kostić controls Aerodrom Portorož through Hotel Palace Portorož, which recently acquired a 15.2% stake in the airport operator from port operator Luka Koper.

Hotel Palace Portorož bought a 30.5% in Aerodrom Portorož in 2017 and increased its stake to 38.2% in February 2018.

Kostić has also attempted to take over Marina Portorož, the operator of the only marina on the Slovenian coast, and late last year managed to undermine the state's plan to bring under one roof the key tourism infrastructure and consolidate it in order to sell at a higher price later on.

After taking control of Gorenjska Banka last year, he reportedly persuaded the bank's supervisory board to back out of an agreement to sell to the state-owned Sava, the largest tourism player in Slovenia, a 9.17% stake in Hoteli Bernardin.

Not only that, Kostić increased his stake in the hotel chain to over 10%, making it impossible for the state (which owns more than 84% in the chain) to squeeze him out under Slovenian law.

04 Jan 2019, 10:23 AM

Tomos, Koper-based Motorcycle Maker, Enters Receivership

STA, 3 January 2019 - The Koper District Court sent famed motorcycle maker Tomos into receivership on Thursday after the Koper-based company failed to find a strategic partner to help it cope with liquidity issues.

The proposal for receivership was filed last November by Tomos employees after the company failed to pay their wages, contributions and the annual holiday allowance.

Since Tomos had neither contested being insolvent nor asked for a deferral, it is considered insolvent under the insolvency law.

"The court decided to send the debtor into receivership," says the court's decision, posted on the website of the Agency for Public Legal Records (AJPES).

The court appointed Štefan Veren the official receiver, giving creditors until 3 April to report their claims and secured debt.

When the workers filed for receivership, Tomos director and owner Iztok Pikl said the company could still be saved. However, he admitted it owed its employees two monthly salaries and the holiday allowance.

Pikl or his company MPO Kabel bought the manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters in 2015 from industrial conglomerate Hidria, which sold it as a non-strategic asset.

Hidria acquired Tomos in 1998, it briefly liquidated it in 2012 only to revive production later on.

Related: Koper-Based Moped Maker Seeking New Strategic Partner

03 Jan 2019, 11:59 AM

STA, 3 January 2019 - The construction sector in Slovenia expanded for the second year in succession in 2018 and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) expects the growth to continue in 2019 although at a slightly slower pace.

Construction up by fifth in 2018

The value of construction work rose by 18% year-on-year in 2017, while it grew by 21.5% in the first ten months of 2018, data from the Statistics Office show.

"The growth was expected because the scope of construction at the end of 2017 was low despite the high growth of the sector," the head of the Chamber of Construction and Construction Material Industries at the GZS, Jože Renar, told the STA.

The value of work on civil engineering in the first ten months of 2018 rose by 21.7% from the same period a year ago. Work is under way both on road and railway infrastructure.

"Intensive road maintenance work is under way to make up for the backlog of recent years when the state reduced road maintenance to far below minimum ... Extensive renovation work is also under way on railways," Renar said.

The construction company Pomgrad, which built the Magna Steyr paint shop near Maribor and is currently working on three major infrastructural projects with partners, recorded good results in 2018. Its consolidated revenue for the year is expected to reach some EUR 160m.

The company is focussing on exports, having built a hotel in the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia and a housing complex in Sweden in the past year.

"We made a big step primarily in internationalisation and have several important deals under way abroad. We also finished several major construction projects in the domestic market, among them the new Magna factory in Hoče, which we successfully built in an extremely short period of time," CEO Iztok Polanič told the STA.

Construction of buildings expanded by 20.8% in the first ten months of 2018. "Construction of buildings is on the rise, both for private and business buildings, where unlike in the civil engineering projects private investors prevail," Renar said.

GZS expects single digit growth in 2019; staff shortage among biggest challenges

The GZS expects growth to continue in 2019 but it is not expected to be double digit as in the last couple of years. "We're counting on growth in civil engineering section and in buildings to be comparable," said Renar.

Although Slovenia's economy has been expanding rapidly and all construction companies in the country are very busy, the construction sector faces many challenges and problems, Polanič said.

"A key challenge is definitely the lack of engineering staff, a problem virtually all construction companies in Slovenia are struggling with.

"Another challenge is the unpredictability of projects and investments, which makes long-term planning in construction extremely difficult," the Pomgrad CEO said.

According to Polanič, the company will this year focus on infrastructural and industrial projects, it also counts on several new calls for applications in roads and railway infrastructure.

"We are starting the new year quite busy and will start working on a few new projects ... It's important for our company to win projects that occupy the entire Pomgrad system," he said.

According to Renar, the GZS expects the state to adhere to the international rules on tenders in the future and avoid "risky non-transparent contracts."

The state should prevent unfair competition by companies that are not bound to respect the collective bargaining agreement of the constructions sector, he said.

Related: All our stories tagged "property" can be found here

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