STA, 8 November - The state-owned bad bank has rejected reports that it had presented to former Adria Airways pilots a plan for a potential new flag carrier, while confirming for the STA that it would present to the finance and economy ministries next week calculations on the feasibility of establishment of such a company.
Responding on Friday to yesterday's unofficial report by Radio Slovenija, Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) chief executive director Matej Pirc rejected it, while saying he had indeed met with a representative of former Adria pilots.
Pirc said that he had recently met with pilot Primož Jovanović, who has been calling for a state intervention, but added that the meetings had been requested by the latter as he wanted to present his calculations related to feasibility of the idea to establish a new flag carrier.
He said that, given that the bad bank was preparing calculations of its own, which included several scenarios with different assumptions, he was interested in what pilots had to say.
Radio Slovenija said that the new carrier would have five Canadair aircraft and 200 employees, and that a EUR 20 million loss was expected in the first year after incorporation, which Pirc labelled as excessive numbers.
He said that BAMC was advocating a "slimmer organisation", and not a company with 200 employees, but admitted that it would be hard for the company to function without making a loss.
The national radio also said yesterday that the government was expected to decide by the end of the month whether it will establish a new flag carrier, which, according to some accounts, would be called Air Slovenia.
Radio Slovenija added it would be easiest to establish the new company by purchasing Adria Airways, which went into receivership in early October, as a whole. A call for bids issued by Adria receiver will close on 11 November.
Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek told the weekly Mladina last week that a regional air carrier could become a partner of the company, while refusing to reveal any details.
STA, 26 October 2019 - Although quite windy, Slovenia has only two wind turbines. This may change if investors and environmentalists find common ground on the eight wind farms for which the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning is drafting national zoning plans.
In March 2018 the government decided that national zoning plans, a key document to find a location for a major new investment, is drafted for two wind farms.
Both of these are now among the eight planned by the ministry, of which three are to be built in western Slovenia and five in the east of the country.
The ministry is working on the national zoning plans in collaboration with investors and the public, but it told the STA the procedures were still in their early stages.
All the planned wind farms for which it is in charge of producing a national zoning plan will have a power rating of at least 10 megawatts, the ministry said.
The wind farms planned for the windy west are Senožeška Brda, Zajčica and Dolenja Vas. Mislinja, Paški Kozjak, Ojstrica, Rogatec and Plešivec are planned in the east.
The government would like to increase the share of energy produced from renewable sources in line with Slovenia's energy policy and climate goals.
But it is hard to say how long it will take before the first wind farm is built, especially since the plans for Ojstrica and Zajčiča have been met by strong opposition by locals.
Locals and environmentalists are usually worried about the wind farms' impact on public health and the damage that they could cause to the environment.
Ex-Yu Aviation reports that Lufthansa is not interested in working with the Slovenian government to develop a new national carrier. It’s understood that the German firm expressed its lack of interest several weeks ago, leading to a visit to Frankfurt last week by the Slovenian Minister for Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek. While the minister obviously failed to make a case for Lufthansa setting up a new carrier – which, under the Slovenian plans would have launched in early 2020 – Lufthansa is among several airlines now adding new services to Ljubljana is the wake of Adria Airway’s collapse.
Adria’s bankruptcy came after having been bought by 4K Invest, a Munich-based, Luxembourg-registered investment fund. 4k Invest’s only previous experience in owning an airline was gained with Switzerland’s Darwin Airline, which the fund rebranded as Adria Airways Switzerland before the carrier entered bankruptcy proceedings. The Swiss authorities are currently investigating 4K Invest’s role in the collapse, with accusations bankruptcy fraud and mismanagement.
All our stories on Adria Airways are here
STA, 18 October 2019 - Pošta Slovenije, the state-owned postal operator, which has been closing its offices around the country in line with its optimisation plan since 2012, is in the spotlight again after announcing more cuts at the beginning of the month. Facing protest from the public, the operator said on Friday it would somewhat delay the optimisation.
"Pošta Slovenije will not rearrange or shut down any of its postal offices until the middle of next year," the company, which started the optimisation to adjust to the situation on the market, told the STA today.
The decision comes after the announcement of further optimisation was met with discontent around the country.
In the last seven years, 67 post offices have been closed and another hundred were reportedly scheduled to be shut down in the next three years.
The Ljubljana city council expressed its opposition to the planned shutting down of postal offices in the capital in a press release at the beginning of the month, noting that Pošta Slovenije planned to close down at least five offices in the Ljubljana area.
"There are currently 33 post offices in Ljubljana. The planned shutdowns would reduce this number by 15%," the press release said.
Even more affected are local communities. In Griže in the Žalec municipality, a rally was staged at the end of September against the closing of the only post office in the town.
The initiative against the closing down of post offices, formed by the Ljubljana city councillors of seven parties, also turned to the Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS).
"We've called on the agency to look into the plans for closing down offices and stop issuing consents, as the shutdowns are not in the public interest."
Pošta Slovenije said today the procedure of rearranging and shutting down of post offices depended on several factors and could take months. It added that one of them was AKOS's consent.
According to the Economy Ministry, the universal postal services must be available to all citizens, especially to vulnerable groups.
Regardless of the changes on the market in the last years, each municipality must have at least one postal office or a contract postal unit.
"95% of Slovenian citizens must have a contact postal point within a 4.5 kilometre air range and no compromises are acceptable here," Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said in a reference to a solution introduced in rural areas where postal offices have been shut down.
There are currently 485 contact points in Slovenia, of which 321 are post offices, 138 contract postal units and 26 movable post offices.
Since the optimisation of Pošta Slovenije's network started in 2012, 67 post offices were closed and replaced by 52 postman's cars which operate as post offices.
According to Pošta Slovenije, Slovenia has a quite high share of post offices, 71%, while the share for Germany is only 0.1% and the Netherlands 0.3%, while the rest are contract postal units.
The postal operator also noted that 24 parcel stations had been placed in 16 towns around the country and that a self-service post office was available in Ljubljana as well as in Koper.
Packages can also be picked up at 114 petrol stations around the country.
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, 30 August 2019 - Port operator Luka Koper posted revenue of EUR 120 million in the first half of the year, up 6% over the same period in 2018. Net profit declined by 28% to EUR 25 million, according to an earnings report released on Friday.
The bulk of the decline in profit is attributed to a damage claim worth over EUR 9 million. Without the one-off charge, profit would have contracted by only 8%, the company said.
The second major reason is an increase in labour costs of EUR 8.4 million due to the hiring of workers that had previously been sourced from port services companies.
The number of employees thus surged by 40% over the year before to 1,662.
At the same time, investments were almost four times higher than in the same period last year, at EUR 16.5 million, with several major investments completed and additional big-ticket items under construction, including a new ro-ro terminal, a parking garage and extension of pier 1.
Volume-wise, the port saw transshipments decline by a percent, as the car business continues to contract and instability in global trade continues, according to the company.
STA, 29 August 2019 - While the volume of construction work in Slovenia in the first half of the year was up by 14% year-on-year, certain statistical indicators suggest the trend may reverse. Major builders expect the volume of business to be similar to last year's, but are cautious as they would like to see more stability in state investments.
The volume of construction work has increased, but the statistics on building permits suggests that the trend could reverse in the near future, as the number of permits has been dropping steadily over the past three years.
In the first half of 2019, the number of approved permits was down by 10% year-on-year, with the number of permits for residential buildings increasing, and the number of permits for non-residential buildings significantly dropping.
The latest business sentiment data for the sector show a deterioration both on the monthly and annual levels, but the indicator is still above the long-term average. Construction companies have decreased their prospects of hiring, while expectations related to orders are somewhat more optimistic.
Major builders such as Kolektor Koling, Kolektor CPG, CGP and Pomgrad have confirmed for the STA that they are cautious regarding future operations. They expect this year to be similar to last, and are ready for a potential cooling of the market.
They would like to see more stability on the market, including by the state embarking on major projects, especially in road infrastructure.
Kolektor Koling and Kolektor CPG say that there is demand for construction work and that this will be the case at least until the end of the year. They complain about the growth of costs and prices of input material and a shortage of qualified staff.
The members of the construction arm of the Kolektor conglomerate are currently building a new technological centre of the national grid operator ELES, upgrading the Rimske Toplice-Laško railway and reconstructing the railway infrastructure in the Croatian port of Rijeka.
For 2020, they expect the current rate of growth to be maintained, but are cautious about many risk factors, so they will constantly monitor the situation and be ready for a quick response to possible changes.
Kolektor Koling and Kolektor CPG admit that the construction sector in the country is highly dependent on public projects, such as the new Koper-Divača railway line, the Third Development Axis expressway and the second tube of the Karavanke tunnel.
"If the state stays true to its commitments and provides for a continuity of demand, then we can expect a stable and healthy growth also after 2020," they assessed.
The company CGP currently operates at full capacity, with its ongoing projects including a multi-storey car park in Koper, a high-end residential and hotel complex in Ljubljana and a Lidl logistics centre in Arja Vas, among others.
"We intend to end this year on a par with the previous year," said the company whose projects in the coming year include an Ikea shopping mall in Ljubljana and construction of apartments for the public Housing Fund.
"In the coming years we see a lack of projects mostly in the field of reconstruction and construction of public roads," CGP has told the STA, pointing a finger to the government.
Pomgrad is also operating at full capacity this year, with its ongoing projects including the upgrade of the Pesnica-Šentilj and Poljčane-Slovenska Bistrica rail sections and elderly homes near Ptuj and in Croatia's Osijek.
Together with GH Holding and VGP Drava Ptuj of Slovenia and the Croatian utility company Bikarac, they have signed a EUR 26.5 million deal to design and build a waste management centre for the city of Šibenik and its surroundings.
According to Pomgrad management board member Boris Sapač, the company expects to sign some more major contracts soon. But he complained about "public procurement procedures being too slow, which makes it hard to make plans".
The company has noticed a standstill in investment in state roads, which is something it does not welcome. "The volume of investment or tenders should be stable. This would also be good for road infrastructure, which is in a poor condition."
Sapač said that builders needed stable conditions instead of steep annual growth rates and deep falls. "This is why we are cautious optimists in our company. Excessive growths are not sustainable in our sector."
STA, 23 August 2019 - The Koper port placed 80th on this year's list of 900 best connected container ports in the world, published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad). The port has been listed the highest among all Adriatic Sea container ports since the first such ranking in 2006.
The first place went to the Shanghai port, while the port of Antwerp was the best in Europe, having been placed 6th in the world.
The Unctad ranks ports according to their liner shipping connectivity index, which takes into account the number and frequency rate of their connections with other ports as well as average and maximum vessel sizes.
The higher the index, the easier it is to access a high-capacity global maritime freight transport system and thus effectively participate in international trade.
"The greater the number of destinations and the higher the frequency of connections, the more options clients have in selecting the most optimal logistics solution," said Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's sole maritime port.
The Adriatic transport route has been making a name for itself in the past decade, with four north-Adriatic ports transshipping a total of 1.12 million container units in 2009. Last year, the figure rose to 2.47 million, said the operator.
The maritime transport world has acknowledged the advantages of southern European ports, including in servicing middle-European markets.
According to the Unctad's list, the port of Koper is on par with northern-Adriatic ports in terms of their connections, but the Slovenian port surpasses its neighbouring ports when it comes to the number of container units each vessel transships on average.
The Koper port has a 40% share of all container transport in north Adriatic Sea and is the biggest terminal in the region. Luka Koper expects to reach a record number of a million container units transshipped this year.
More details on Unctad’s list can be found here
STA, 23 August 2019 - The Hungarian government has reportedly decided that the country will stop importing sewage sludge, a move that could spell serious trouble for Slovenia which exports around 70,000 tonnes of sludge from its municipal wastewater treatment plants to Hungary.
According to the Slovenian Chamber of Public Utilities, the Hungarian government - facing media criticism the country was serving as the public toilet of Europe - decided this month to stop extending permits for sewage sludge imports.
The chamber's director Sebastijan Zupanc told the STA that the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry was trying to obtain more information on the issue through the Slovenian Embassy in Budapest.
He added Slovenia would find itself in serious trouble if Hungary closed its border to sewage sludge. From September onwards, Slovenia could be left with 120 to 140 tonnes of it a day, while an alternative solution would definitely need to be found by the end of the year, as all existing permits will expire by then.
Slovenia presently incinerates around 10,000 tonnes of municipal sewage sludge at home, at the plants in Celje and Anhovo.
Some wastewater treatment plants make use of it themselves, however Slovenia does not have sufficient capacities to use what remains for energy, with all that is exported going to Hungary. Croatia is in the same situation.
Other European incineration plants are full, which means Slovenia is very vulnerable in this field, Zupanc stressed.
Sewage sludge from municipal wastewater treatment plants is not hazardous waste, but it is very specific, since it involves excrements coming from toilets.
"We cannot store it, since this is a semi-fluid affair that reeks strongly and is produced in great quantities," Zupanc pointed out, noting it needed to be removed on a daily basis.
The Chamber of Public Utilities is part of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), which said it was working hard on the issue and cooperating with the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry.
All our stories about Hungary are here
STA, 22 August 2019 - The EU Cohesion Fund is to contribute EUR 101 million for the renovation of the 16-kilometre rail section between Maribor and Šentilj on the border without Austria, the European Commission confirmed on Thursday. The entire upgrade is valued at EUR 254 million.
The Commission wrote it had taken into account the projected increase in traffic on the Baltic-Adriatic corridor that the section is a part of. The upgrade, which will also have positive economic effects, will increase the daily capacity of the section from 67 to 84 trains.
The renovation will also increase safety and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc expressed the "hope this will convince people to leave their car home an opt for a greener transport option".
Contractors for some of segments of the project have already been picked and some of the works are already nearing completion, while the deadlines for the renovation of two rail stations on the route and for the construction of noise barriers are set in 2020 and the end of 2021 respectively.
The Maribor-Šentilj rail link runs across the hilly terrain of Slovenske Gorice and through two tunnels. It was already built in 1846 as part of the Southern Railway between Vienna and Trieste.
The link however only has one set of rails and plans exist for a second one. The Slovenian Infrastructure Agency has told the STA the decision on this will be taken depending on the transport needs and will also have to taken in Austria, where one segment also only allows for a single train. The agency expects another set of rails will be needed by 2039 at the latest.