The Slovenia Times

US-Slovenia Conference Welcomes Privatisation Plans


"Our mentality is changing," Pahor said in his opening address to the two-day US-Slovenia Business Bridge conference. He noted that a lot had changed since he addressed the same event as prime minister in 2011, when he had difficulties persuading his partners and the public that opening Slovenian market was not going to threaten the country's sovereignty.

He was glad that the country had become more welcoming to foreign investment, expressing the hope to see the "next package of 15 companies" slated for privatisation after the first one had been approved by parliament and is being implemented.

The conference, organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia in cooperation with the SPIRIT investment and tourism promotion agency and the US Embassy, was also addressed by co-owner and chairman of home shopping company Studio Moderna Sandi Češko, who called for closer business cooperation with the US.

He said that companies had recently been often urged to follow the emerging BRIC economies, but that Slovenian companies should also target other markets, such as the US, which he described as the most competitive market and where hard work and innovation were valued highly.

Several participants in a panel debate on privatisation and restructuring welcomed the sale of the Domžale-based coatings maker Helios to Austria's Ring International as a good signal, but they also underscored that Slovenia was not the only country selling state companies.

Finance Ministry State Secretary Mitja Mavko said the government was intent on ending the past practice of protraction in privatisation and that foreign as well as domestic investment could help in the restructuring of Slovenian companies.

Matej Runjak of the Restitution Fund (SOD), which manages state assets and coordinates privatisation, said that not all the 15 companies could be sold at once and that SOD wanted to dedicate most time to Telekom Slovenije in order to secure the best price possible. He expects the deal could be signed by the summer 2014.

Archibald Kremser, a board member of the NLB bank, labelled Helios's sale as an "exceptional achievement" that would bring new know-how and experience to Slovenia, but he also said that Slovenia had "competition" so it must make a positive impression to ensure demand for companies on sale.

Rob Irwing of international law firm White&Case termed the sale as a "major signal that Slovenia is serious about privatisation". However, he also said that Helios was one of the easier sales but it still took rather long. He also warned against excessive expectations about the price of companies, especially in light of their indebtedness.

The conference, which is expected to be attended by more than 800 participants in two days, will hear US investors' experience and views about Slovenia, and discuss the opportunities for Slovenian companies in the US.


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