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Simobil Boss Says Investing In Slovenia Still Pays Out (interview)

Ljubljana, 21 November (STA) - Dejan Turk, the boss of Telekom Austria's subsidiary Simobil, the winner of this year's Invest Slovenia FDI Awards in the large company category, has told the STA that it still pays to invest in Slovenia, but added that the economy needs a fresh impetus from the state.

Slovenia's second largest mobile operator was presented the award for best foreign-owned companies conferred by the SPIRIT agency for promotion of enterprise and tourism at a ceremony last week.

Turk, a Slovenian citizen, says the award is a confirmation that the company is doing well despite the economic turmoil, adding that it is an advantage to work in a foreign-owned company because managers are not burdened with politics.

"You can focus on the market, customers, company, motivation of employees and your brand," which according to Turk is the reason why the company is successful. The ownership is stable and the supervisory board is consistent and participates in our strategic operations, he adds.

Simobil has regained the trust of its owners so that they started investing again in Slovenia. "The amount of investments is significant. We invest in the network and IT services around EUR 25m a year."

Asked about the environment for foreign investments in Slovenia, Turk says that investors have to deal with the frequently changing legislation and not a very stable tax policy.

"Coupled with the economic crisis, this demands from us as the local management to be rather innovative in convincing the owners that their company and investments in Slovenia are safe and on the right track."

Turk is an optimist and is working hard to convince the Austrian owners that not everything is bleak as portrayed by foreign media, that they should persevere and continue to invest in Slovenia.

He believes that people trying to reduce their costs is an opportunity for smaller providers, including Simobil. The company has a wide range of innovative services intended for SMEs, which is an opportunity for growth.

Turk is also an optimist regarding the Slovenian economy in general, but says that a little bit of wind in the sails from the state would be welcome. The state should remember that the economy is the main guarantee for a success or a failure of a country, he adds.

According to Turk, one of the problems is that highly skilled workers are leaving the country because they believe they are paying too much taxes. He called for the introduction of a cap on social contributions, which is "known in almost all developed countries".

Asked about the planned privatisation of the national telco Telekom Slovenije, he says Simobil welcomes it as it will get a competitor free of political influence. During the 15 years of Simobil's presence in Slovenia, its "biggest competitor on the market has unfortunately been aided by the state several times".

The company is looking forward to the upcoming auction of radio frequencies by the state, with Turk expressing hope that the price will not skyrocket. If the prices are fair and within normal scales, which means a total of EUR 100m for all operators, investments will be higher accordingly.

On the other hand, if the frequencies end up being very expensive, operators have to invest at a slower pace. This is not good for the very purpose of the auction, which is to enable fast internet connections in the entire country, Turk says.

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