05 Apr 2022, 12:36 PM

STA, 4 April 2022 - Croatian group Fortenova has become the sole shareholder of Slovenia's largest retailer Mercator after squeezing out all remaining small shareholders, leading to a suspension of trading on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange pending a decision on delisting.

The company, which owned roughly 90% of Mercator prior to the squeeze-out, said that it had paid EUR 22.4 million for the outstanding shares.

The transaction completes a process that began in 2014 with the purchase of Mercator by Croatian retailer Agrokor, said Fabris Peruško, the chief executive of Fortenova, a company that took over Agrokor's healthy assets when it went bankrupt.

"This was a long and demanding process with many legal and financial steps, all of which led to the final goal - the creation of a leading regional grocery retail chain," he was quoted as saying.

04 Apr 2022, 11:49 AM

STA, 2 April 2022 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has announced that the government will continue to intervene as long as necessary to contain high electricity prices. The main problem, in his view, is the European formula to calculate electricity prices that takes into account gas prices, but the formula is about to change.

"Until the formula is changed and this has not stabilised prices, we will continue to intervene," Janša said on Friday evening at a public debate in Vrhnika that wrapped up the government's visit to the southern communities of central Slovenia.

Under a legislative package passed in late January to mitigate high energy prices, electricity bills have been cut for the cost of network fees for three months until the end of April. Government data shows the measure reduced the bills by almost 40%.

Janša promised the government would continue to intervene. "We will take funds to finance the gap from the surpluses generated because Slovenian power producers are charging higher prices for electricity. Considering these are mainly state-owned companies, we will reallocate these funds," he said.

The main reason for high electricity prices on the European market is the formula, which Slovenia sought to change last year during its presidency of the Council of the EU. After several countries called for change in February this year, the European Commission decided to draw up a new formula, which is expected to come into force in May or June, he said.

"Prices will then be lower on the European market. They will not be what they were before the shock due to the war in Ukraine and the spike in energy consumption driven by the post-pandemic recovery and more money in circulation," Janša added.

The three-month freeze on electricity network charges is being challenged at the Constitutional Court by an association of small shareholders who hold stakes in electricity distribution companies.

02 Apr 2022, 10:24 AM

STA, 1 April 2022 - Slovenian meat processing companies large and small have raised prices of their product by up to 30%, or plan price hikes in the near future, as they attempt to offset the rising cost of inputs such as energy and transportation.

Celjske Mesnine has already raised prices of pork, beef and processed products by 30%, and the Maribor company Košaki raised theirs by 10-30%.

"Sharply rising prices of pigs and cattle have forced us to raise our prices," Marko Žerak, the owner of Košaki, told the STA.

Perutnina Ptuj, the country's largest producer of poultry, and Pivka Delamaris, a poultry and fish processing company, plan price hikes in the coming months.

The price rises are not fully spilling over into retail prices yet.

Urška Žolnir Jugovar, a spokeswoman for Celjske Mesnine, says companies are working with retailers to try to keep price rises to a minimum.

Similarly, Meso Kamnik said it was rising prices gradually to mitigate the impact on consumers.

"Producers are rising prices with a delay and at the minimum rate ... and retailers are adjusting their pricing policy with lower margins and discounts," the company said.

01 Apr 2022, 14:07 PM

STA, 31 March 2022 - Enter Štajerska, an information office organised by the regional chamber of commerce to support domestic as well as foreign companies interested in doing business in this north-eastern region, opened in Maribor today.

Štajerska Chamber of Commerce director Aleksandra Podgornik described the office as an entry point for the launch of a company, for legal assistance, networking and support.

She noted the region's long entrepreneurial tradition as well as the export-oriented nature and strong presence of many of it's companies in the European and global business arena.

There are over 16,000 firms in the region, employing almost 80,000 people, mostly in manufacturing.

While located at the crossroads of two European transport corridors, Štajerska also has the Maribor University and other educational institutions, which, combined with a long industrial tradition, provides for a diversity of knowledge, the Chamber of Commerce said.

Enter Štajerska will be the source of information on matters like company launch red tape, residence and work permits, real estate purchases and trademark registration. Advice will also be given to those wishing to establish companies abroad.

Visit the site, in English, here

01 Apr 2022, 10:10 AM

STA, 31 March 2022 - The Slovenian government has capped the wholesale price of regular petrol and diesel two and a half weeks after regulating retail prices. The wholesale price has been set two cents below the retail price.

Wholesalers will be allowed to charge EUR 1.483 per litre of petrol and EUR 1.521 per litre of diesel, a price the government said on Thursday provided a margin that would make it possible for small retailers to secure fuel supplies.

Many small service station operators have complained that they were simply not getting fuel from wholesalers since prices were capped. Either that, or they were forced to buy fuel at a price above the maximum retail price.

Indeed, the government decree explicitly stipulates now that companies selling fuel may not stop deliveries. In the event they incur losses, they will be compensated under a scheme that will be put in place after this temporary measure expires.

Price administration was initially put in place for a month, but today's decree extends it until 30 April.

29 Mar 2022, 16:06 PM

STA, 28 March 2022 - Hourly labour costs averaged EUR 21.1 in Slovenia last year, well below the EU and eurozone averages of EUR 29.1 and EUR 32.8, respectively, despite growing at a brisk pace, show the latest Eurostat data.

At 6%, Slovenia had the third-fastest rate of increase last year behind Lithuania (11.9%) and Estonia (6.6%).

Hourly labour costs ranged from almost EUR 47 in Denmark and EUR 43 in Luxembourg to EUR 7 in Bulgaria and EUR 8.5 in Romania.

Slovenia's labour costs place it in the company of Mediterranean member states, between Spain (EUR 22.9) and Portugal (EUR 16).

Other Central and Eastern European member states had significantly lower costs.

The figures cover all major economic sectors except agriculture and the public administration.

More on this data

28 Mar 2022, 15:45 PM

STA, 28 March 2022 - Finance criticises in Monday's commentary the administrative units for being slow in processing applications for work permits filed by foreigners, saying that these applicants will not sit idle while waiting for a response. This is also important in light of Ukrainian refugees coming to Slovenia.

This is a long-standing problem - there are no workers in Slovenia, foreigners from third countries would like to work, but they have to wait an average of six months for a permit.

On the other hand, the state apparatus says that the matter cannot be speeded up because there is not enough employees, the newspaper says under the headline An F for Administrative Units.

The most surprising data is that 15,000 applications are pending in the Ljubljana administrative unit alone, Finance says, noting that production or construction workers, as well as highly qualified staff, are waiting for a permit.

A new task force has been appointed to deal with the issue, which has assessed that the backlog could be reduced or eliminated in six months, under the assumption that there will be unannounced sick leaves or termination of job contracts.

"Today, when user experience is important, it seems that public administration has gotten stuck in the previous century," Finance says, adding that it is processing mountains of documents and complaining that it does not have enough employees.

A foreign worker cannot sit idle while waiting, and if they are not hired in Slovenia, they will try to get a job in Austria, as he is only tens of kilometres away and where wages are higher.

Noting that Ukrainian refugees are coming, Finance says that the state is all about promises and wonders whether it will now wake up and make sure that refugees sort out the paperwork faster so that they can start to work.

28 Mar 2022, 11:32 AM

STA, 25 March 2022 - EuroJackpot is celebrating ten years of being present in Slovenia. Over the past ten years of the game, lottery players have won more than 5.2 million different prizes worth EUR 116.8 million in total, and four Slovenians have become EuroJackpot millionaires, said state lottery operator Loterija Slovenija.

EuroJackpot in Slovenia has raised a total of just under EUR 62.8 million in funds for Slovenian disability, humanitarian and sports organisations.

The state budget received EUR 31.9 million from taxes on the winnings paid out, and Slovenian municipalities got EUR 11.2 million, Loterija Slovenija said, adding that the funds had been used, among other things, to build an extension to the Grosuplje community health centre and the beer fountain in Žalec.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary, an additional lottery draw will be introduced, so the game will now be held twice a week. The jackpot can now roll over up to EUR 120 million.

EuroJackpot, a transnational European lottery, was launched in March 2012.

25 Mar 2022, 12:26 PM

STA, 25 March 2022 - The government has issued a regulation on electricity self-supply from renewables that will abolish the net metering concept for solar systems that will be put in place from 2024 in line with an EU directive. The regulation also guarantees new ways to get incentives for electricity self-sufficiency, a move that comes after several NGOs urged this.

The regulation, adopted at Thursday's government session, also introduces a new regime for self-supply generators with a connection capacity of less than 50 kilowatts. The connection procedure has been streamlined for the owners of such installations, the Government Communications Office said.

The energy crisis relief law allows households, household communities and small businesses to install an electricity generator connected to the building's grid.

The main advantage of this self-supply system is that the amount of electricity taken from the grid and the amount put into the grid are balanced out, so the consumer pays only the difference if they have taken more than they have put into the grid. If they have taken less, they pay nothing except some charges.

Although the EU renewable energy directive promotes self-supply, the concept of net metering under the energy crisis relief law is not in line with the EU directive on the electricity market, which stipulates that in the future a grid charge will have to be levied for all electricity taken from the distribution grid.

As a result, those who enter the self-supply system after 31 December 2023 will no longer be eligible for net metering under the new regulation.

However, the basic concept of individual and community self-supply remains unchanged or has been upgraded by the act on the promotion of renewable energy sources and the regulation, as it provides exemptions and partial exemptions from certain levies, the possibility for all end-users connected to the grid to enter the self-supply system, and the possibility to receive investment aid in the form of grants.

The new Energy Agency regulations governing the grid charge are also expected to bring benefits for self-supplying homeowners and businesses, which will be essential as sufficient incentives will need to be provided to boost investment in electricity self-supply as much as possible, the government said.

On Monday, two environmental NGOs urged the government to provide at least EUR 100 million in incentives for electricity self-sufficiency and an upgrade of distribution systems to enable households to generate power from renewables, notably solar. They noted the government was not thinking long-term in its efforts to mitigate the energy crisis and was hindering the energy transition.

22 Mar 2022, 11:35 AM

STA, 22 March - As the Slovenian tourism industry has not yet bounced back from the Covid pandemic while it expects to be also hit by the war in Ukraine, its representatives propose a set of 15 measures the government should immediately take to help the most severely affected companies. They argue the situation is "very serious".

The Tourism and Hospitality Chamber and 15 tourism associations argue in a statement on Tuesday that despite Slovenia having relaxed coronavirus restrictions, the epidemiological situation in the country is not good, which makes its tourism industry less competitive on the global market.

The situation will be further aggravated as a result of the war in Ukraine, which the chamber would like to end as soon as possible.

In 2021, Ukrainian and Russian tourists generated 101,300 nights in Slovenia, while tourism firms expect a 30% drop in March-May and up to a 25% drop in June-August.

"In some destinations which have been focussed on these two markets in recent years, the loss will be 50%," the chamber quoted results of a survey among tourism firms.

Recovery on the two markers is expected to take several years, the war has made tourists in other countries more cautious about travel plans, and the industry is further affected by rising prices of energy, goods and services across Europe.

The chamber thus proposes a one-off bonus for tourism, noting the measure was included in a draft emergency coronavirus bill in March 2021.

The government should also immediately reintroduce the short-time work scheme; the chamber says the Labour Ministry is working on a systemic measure to be ready by the end of the year, which is much too late for the industry.

The chamber also proposes extending the period in which companies which performed better than initially estimated during the coronavirus must return state aid.

The proposal also features several measures regarding staff recruitment, while the chamber welcomes a tender to subsidise air carriers to fly to Ljubljana airport.

"Further delays in adopting these urgent measures will result in countries with more business-friendly practices (Austria, Czech Republic, Italy) to further outperform us and push us to the margin of tourist Europe," the statement reads.

18 Mar 2022, 13:50 PM

STA, 18 March 2022 - A Cuban woman living and working in Slovenia has been discriminated against by a bank, which without warning closed her account because of her nationality, the equality ombudsman has found. It appears that more than one Cuban citizen has been subjected to such treatment.

The Cuban national has been living and working in Slovenia for at least a decade. She has a permanent residence in Slovenia and has no contact with Cuba. As for her Cuban citizenship, she explained that under Cuban law it cannot be easily renounced, Advocate of the Principle of Equality Miha Lobnik said.

She submitted a discrimination complaint with the ombudsman's office after her personal bank account was closed by the bank without explanation or notice, saying this happened on the grounds of her ethnic origin and citizenship.

When she asked the bank for an explanation, it replied that it had unilaterally terminated the bank account agreement in order to adapt its operations to US standards to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.

The ombudsman assessed that the bank had pursued a legitimate objective in seeking to manage money laundering and terrorism financing risks. However, he also found that the closure of the client's bank account was only partly appropriate and not the only possible or even proportionate measure.

Lobnik confirmed that the bank had indeed discriminated against the Cuban citizen in access to services on the basis of her personal circumstances of nationality.

"The anti-discrimination authority also learned that US regulations do indeed restrict financial institutions from doing business with Cuban citizens, but only if they live in Cuba or have business ties with Cuba," the press release by the ombudsman's office says, adding that notwithstanding the US and potential other restrictions, banks in Slovenia must comply with the Slovenian constitution and other regulations banning discrimination.

The newspaper Delo reported on Friday this was a wider problem since at least seven Cuban citizens living in Slovenia have been reportedly subjected to such treatment by the banks.

Musician and teacher Lazaro Hierrezuelo, who has been living and working in Slovenia since 2010, told the paper that both his personal and business accounts had been closed due to what his bank phrased as a new policy demanded by the new owner and under which they were not allowed to do business with Cuban citizens. At least three other banks subsequently refused his and his compatriots' requests to open accounts, he added.

The ombudsman recently found that a Syrian man living in Slovenia had been discriminated against by a financial company, which did not enable him to use its services.

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