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Boxmark, Belimed, Yaskawa and IBM Win Investor Awards

Ljubljana, 15 November (STA) - Car-seat cover maker Boxmark Leather, medical and pharmaceutical equipment cleaning systems maker Belimed, Japanese industrial robots maker Yaskawa and computer giant IBM received on Thursday this year's Invest Slovenia FDI Awards, given out by the Public Agency for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investments (JAPTI).

At the conferral, which was part of an investors' day, organised by JAPTI in cooperation with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development (CEED) and AmCham Slovenia, JAPTI director Igor Plestenjak said the winners proved great success could be achieved despite the weaknesses in the Slovenian business environment.

The seventh annual awards for best investors were given to best foreign investors in three categories, while a special award was conferred to IBM for its long-term presence on the Slovenian market; IBM Slovenia is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Boxmark received the award for employment in crisis times. The company - a major employer in the northern region of Slovenia, providing almost 2,000 jobs - is constantly increasing the number of workers, which now exceeds pre-crisis figures by far.

The Grosuplje-based subsidiary of Swiss company Belimed won in the category of competence centres and Yaskawa's two companies in Slovenia were chosen as the best new investment funded under JAPTI's FDI support scheme, since they plan a 15% growth in sales this year and expect to hire at least 15-20 new highly-trained workers.

Plestenjak stressed that JAPTI was aware of the shortcomings in the Slovenian business environment, but was working actively on dealing with them.

This includes a direct investments support scheme under which the agency has funded since 2007 a total of 73 projects with EUR 217m, which helped create 2,573 jobs.

At the business lunch earlier in the investors' day, Alexander Dibelius, the head of Goldman Sachs Central & Eastern Europe, said that Slovenia would be an attractive destination for investments if it managed to secure a more stable political environment and reduce red tape.

Along with administrative burdens, he sees Slovenia's problems in an excessive state apparatus and banking sector, which he said was to big for the country's GDP.

Dibelius expressed support for the government's plan to establish a bad bank in a bid to salvage the outstanding loans piled on the backs of Slovenian banks.

Moreover, in order to boost the economy, he advised Slovenia to go into privatisation and attract fresh capital.

Addressing the conference, US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli noted that not much progress has been seen as regards foreign investments in the last two years since he came to Slovenia.

As a major obstacle in the country's economic progress, the ambassador highlighted a lack of courage in politics, adding that difficult decisions would soon need to be taken by both the government and the opposition for the benefit of the whole country.

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