Despite Slovenia's successes in export it has seemed until recently that global investors were uninterested in the alpine republic.
Slovenia is a relatively strong exporter – in fact, one of per capita champions among the EU member states. Slovenian companies are becoming more established and building a reputation for being reliable partners. In recent years the Alpine republic has also become a fashionable tourist destination attracting a steadily growing number of visitors. Recently is has also bun to attract the attention of foreign direct investment.
In 2017 several global companies announced plans to invest in Slovenia, some already starting to build facilities. The greenfield investment, which received considerable media attention, was Magna's new car paint shop in Hoče near Maribor. The 150-million-euro plant will start operations in 2019. Japanese company Yaskawa, one of the leading makers of industrial robots, has started building its new European robotics hub in Kočevje in Southern Slovenia: the new factory will gradually increase its annual production capacities from 4000 to 6000 robots. Most important of all, Yaskawa will also open a robotics R&D center in Kočevje. Another Japanese company, Sumitomo Rubber Industries, has announced plans to open a new elastomer factory in Logatec near Ljubljana.
These are just three examples of last year's important FDIs. The figures confirm that Slovenia isn't lagging behind other »new« EU members, as the case used to be. The latest survey of foreign investors in Slovenia, prepared by the Center of International Relations at the Ljubljana University's Facutly of Social Sciences, found out that Slovenia is among the countries with the fastest average annual increase of FDIs in the region, together with Poland, the Czech republic and Hungary. This is a favorable new trend being powered, among other things, by the greenfield investments made. Faster privatization, take overs and the increase of investment by global companies already present in Slovenia are also fueling the flame. Belgian chemical company Soudal took over glue maker Mitol last June, for exampl. In April, leading paint manufacturer Helios was acquired by the Japanese Kansai Paint group. Companies like Trimo, Swaty Comet, Iskra Zaščite or Hidria Klima were also taken over by foreign investors in the last couple of years.
An excellent example of a long-term investor continuously upgrading its presence in Slovenia is Swiss based pharmacy giant Novartis. Novartis has invested a total of almost two billion euros into Lek since 2003 and has just began building a new plant in 2017. Russian group Koks, owner of the Slovenian Steel Industry, has invested 650 million euros over 10 years: another 300 million is earmarked for further modernization.
Why is Slovenia attractive to foreign investment? According to a survey done by the Center of International relations, Slovenia's highly skilled workforce is an important factor. A typical comment from respondents in the survey is that »it is common to find employees who speak two foreign languages«. One of the key advantages pointed out by representatives of companies investing in Slovenia is an excellent capacity for innovation. The respondents find that the general business environment in Slovenia is similar to that of the neighboring countries in the region. Yet when it comes to R&D, they rather compare Slovenia to the likes Germany and Scandinavia.
And what can we expect in the coming years? Austrian Herz Energietechnik, one of the leading specialists for renewable energy systems is building a new factory in Šmartno close to Ljubljana. Scottish BSW Timber is exploring options to build two sawmills in Slovenia. The Chinese company SHS Aviation, currently operating Maribor's airport, announced plans to increase the airport's capacities. The 660 million worth investment should make Maribor's airport an integral part of the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative. No official contact with the government regarding the building permits has been made so far. Many are skeptical regarding the ambitious plans of SHS company. But no matter what happens, Slovenia is slowly yet steadily attracting foreign investment.