The Slovenia Times

Positive signs



Whatever the figures show, entrepreneurs, scientists and diplomats remain concerned that Slovenia lags behind when it comes to FDI. The common refrain, oft-repeated, is that the country needs to open up more towards foreign investments. Biljana Weber, head of Microsoft Slovenia, warned last May that foreign investment in the country was at "an extremely low level". Five months later his opinion has not changed: "Unfortunately, there were no substantial steps forward in attracting FDI in this year."

Good examples

Weber is not entirely downbeat, however: "It is encouraging to see increased openness to FDI among all stakeholders and increased awareness that effective measures to encourage FDI are now really necessary." And he also sees progress when it comes to public opinion: "Even the Slovenian public, which has been relatively averse to FDI, is more accepting of the need of such investments to ensure sufficient economic growth in the future. This awareness represents a good foundation for moving forward."
The ministry of the economy and the Public Agency for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investments (JAPTI) both say they are making efforts to build on that foundation. "Together with JAPTI we are pursuing an active policy of promoting and attracting FDI," says Suzana Zagorc of the ministry of the economy. And Lidija Vinkovič of JAPTI asserts that the agency "has significantly and positively influenced the growth of FDI in Slovenia with its promotional activities, services for investors and with financial incentives."

Boost for grants

JAPTI reached the end of the EUR 8m allocated to its FDI cost-sharing scheme this year sooner than expected. But the agency was able to support 17 projects from foreign investors. "All together these projects have an investment value of EUR 44.6m and they will create 673 new jobs," says Vinkovič. Next year the agency wants to give the scheme a boost to EUR 14m, a substantial increase both on this year and on 2010, when there was EUR 6m available for grants.
JAPTI only supports investments valued at under EUR 50m. Larger investors are handled by the ministry of the economy, like the EUR 45.5m incentive recently granted to Novo Mesto-based Revoz. The car maker, a subsidiary of French giant Renault, will use the grant for the innovative Edison project that will result in the production of new generations of the Twingo, Daimler Smart, and electric cars. The entire value of the investment is estimated at EUR 326 and as many as 162 new jobs are to be created.

High technology

Innovation, growth and employment are also key words at Julon. With facilities in Ajdovščina and Ljublana this company recycles waste into synthetic fibres. The EUR 3.6m grant it received last year has helped it continue its progress and it is one of the FDI success stories in Slovenia, winning a FDI award this year.
Zagorc says the country will continue its efforts to attract investors in sectors with high technology: "They are an important factor in increasing competitiveness and productivity and they contribute to the transfer of knowledge and technologies, efficient resource allocation, balanced regional development and the inclusion of Slovenian enterprises in the supply networks of transnational enterprises," she argues.
Vinkovič adds there has been an interesting change in the type of FDI investment now seen in Slovenia: "We have seen a shift from investments predominantly in manufacturing to investments in research and development projects. Today they account for 33 percent of all FDI projects."

In the pipeline

Several major foreign investments are in the pipeline. Brewer Pivovarna Laško, along with a consortium of banks, is selling a majority share in Mercator and it looks likely that the purchaser will come from abroad. There are ongoing negotiations with two investors that submitted binding bids for a minority share and capital increase in sporting goods manufacturer Elan. For the sale of paper manufacturer and graphic company Aero, investors submitted non-binding bids and they are to perform due diligence. The sale of Fotona, a leading developer of laser systems, is in the same state.
And it is expected that in March a public tender will begin for the sale of Adria Airways - if the sale goes ahead, it will very likely represent a new foreign investment and perhaps a sign that FDI really is moving forward in Slovenia.


More from Nekategorizirano