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Maribor Seeking Further Chinese Investments

Maribor, 26 March (STA) - Chinese battery company Shihlien Apex wants to set up a factory in Maribor by the end of the year, Marko Kovačič of the Maribor Municipality said on Wednesday after arriving from China. Apart from discussing the EUR 10m investment, Maribor's delegation also examined other possible joint ventures.

According to Kovačič, Shihlien Apex wanted to build its own production hall at the beginning, but since this could not be done in time, Maribor is looking into possibilities of renting existing places.

Further talks on the matter will be held in April, when Chinese representatives are to come to the town. The Chinese company signed a letter of intent with Maribor to produce batteries there in January.

The four-member party held over 30 meetings in Chinese cities Chongqing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong to discuss possible investments.

Maribor is among others interested in finding an investor for a EUR 25m-worth project of reprocessing waste into raw materials. The project would be carried out in partnership with the city's utility Snaga Maribor. However, Kovačič pointed out that negotiations were a bit complicated, as the city wants the plant to be kept in public hands.

Apart from that, the delegation found an interested party to take over pharma company Marifarm, which is also scheduled to come to Maribor in April. Several companies from other countries are interested in Marifarm as well.

Another important item on the list was the Maribor Airport and its logistics centre. According to Kovačič, Chongqing is looking for a railway connection between Central and Eastern Europe and the Adriatic sea, which Maribor would work for in cooperation with port operator Luka Koper.

What is more, a company already signed a letter of intent to buy airport operator Aerodrom Maribor, offering EUR 5m. However the owner of Aviofun, which bought Aerodrom last year, Damijan Cehner told the STA that he had no contact with the Chinese company, while he was willing to hold talks with them.

"We don't even know who this is," he stressed, adding that several issues remained open, including a 20-year concession for the airport, which Aerodrom cannot fulfil.

The municipality also wanted to find investors for renewing the city's lighting and discussed attracting Chinese tourists as well as cooperation between universities, televisions and football clubs. In light of the latter, a number of groups of young Chinese athletes are to come to Maribor this year.

Maribor Mayor Andrej Fištravec meanwhile stressed that Maribor needs to improve its connections with the world, especially China, Middle East and Russia, as "state aid alone will not get Maribor to a higher level".

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