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Milan Conference for Business Ties with Italy (adds)

Milan, 09 December (STA) - Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek was confident of the big potential ahead for what she said were already good relations with Italy as she presented investment opportunities in Slovenia to representatives of 179 Italian companies at a conference in Milan on Monday.

After similar events in Düsseldorf and Paris, the investment conference in Milan is the third such presentation as part of the government's efforts at privatisation and its bid to attract foreign direct investment.

Bratušek attended the conference together with her Italian counterpart Enrico Letta, who was cited by the Italian Ansa press agency as saying that it was important for Italian companies to recognise their opportunities in the privatisation process in Slovenia.

Italy is the second largest export market for Slovenia, and in 2012 also represented the largest market for Slovenia's imports. Bilateral merchandise trade amounted to EUR 6.4bn and services trade to EUR 1.3bn last year. Italy places third in terms of foreign direct investment in Slovenia.

"Slovenia currently has EUR 11.7bn worth of foreign direct investment, but only a little below 7% comes from Italy. Apart from privatisation and investment opportunities outlined at the conference, there is also potential in tourism and automotive industry," Bratušek said as cited by her office.

According to her, Italian investors already present in Slovenia recognise the country as an attractive destination for expansion as they appreciate its motivated labour force, language skills, appropriate tax environment, good geographical location, export orientation, innovation and other factors.

Investment opportunities offered by Slovenia were presented in more detail by the acting head of the SPIRIT agency for promotion of entrepreneurship, investment and tourism, Boštjan Skalar, who highlighted Slovenia's position on the crossroads of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and access to expertise and quality labour force.

"Foreign direct investment is the right tool to stimulate economic growth and stability, reduce unemployment, increase prosperity and better integrate Slovenia into international business," Skalar was quoted as saying in a press release from the SPIRIT agency.

Slovenia's privatisation process and the companies slated for privatisation were presented by Matej Runjak, a member of the board of the Slovenian Restitution Fund (SOD), which manages state skates in companies.

According to a report by the public broadcaster TV Slovenija, the company operating the Venice airport is interested in acquiring Aerodrom Ljubljana, the company operating the Ljubljana airport, which is one of the 15 companies slated for privatisation.

On the occasion of the PM's visit, Slovenia signed an accord to participate in the 2015 world Expo show in Milan, the SPIRIT agency said in a press release. The agency will coordinate Slovenia's participation in the show in cooperation with ministries.

The agency highlighted the importance of the show for Slovenian companies, considering that Italy is Slovenia's second largest trade partner and the first by the number of tourists coming to Slovenia. Particularly developed is cooperation with Lombardy and especially Milan.

Participation in the show has so far been confirmed by 139 countries and the organisers expect 20 million visitors, as many as 15 million from Italy. Held every five years, the show will be held between 1 May and 31 October, 2015, with food as its theme.

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