After Germany, Italy is the second largest trade partner for Slovenia. In tourism the country prevails, though, as every fourth overnight stay in Slovenia is made by Italian visitors. As far as foreign direct investment goes, Italians are in fifth place, with a total value of 842 million euros, or 7.3 percent of all inward FDI in Slovenia.
The overall value of trade between the neighbouring countries is around 6.5 billion euros annually, and this figure has been stable for years. While Slovenia is a very strong exporter, the trade balance with Italy is quite asymmetric. The value of Slovenia’s exports to Italy is around 2.7 billion euros, and the value of imports 3.7 billion. Slightly less than 11 percent of all Slovenian exports go to Italy, while the Italian share of Slovenian imports is around 15 percent. Despite the relatively high value there are still many unexploited opportunities for trade between the two countries.
This impression becomes even stronger if we look at investments. The Slovenian small airplane maker Pipistrel recently finalized its new factory in Italian Gorizia near the Slovenian border – one of the few Slovenian investments in Italy. Italians, on the other hand, were among the first investors in Slovenia when the country became independent. While the total value of such investment remains relatively limited, it is slowly yet steadily growing. This May the Slovenian Bank Assets Management Company finally concluded its sale of Cimos automotive group to the Italian Palladio Investment Company. Cimos employs around 4,000 people, and is one of the leading global manufacturers of turbocompressor housings. It also produces powertrain elements like gearboxes, pedal boxes, hinges and breaks, and supplies a number of major automotive producers, from Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM and Volkswagen, to high-end brands like Aston Martin. The new owners intend to invest 35 million euros in Cimos by the end of this year, with additional 50 million in the next three years.
Another interesting new Italian investor in Slovenia is Serioplast, a leading European producer of rigid plastic bottle packaging. Serioplast chose Maribor as the location for its new plant because of the strategic position of Slovenia’s second largest city, its closeness to Austria and other Central European markets. The total value of the investment is 7.5 million euros.
One of the oldest and largest Italian investments in Slovenia also manufactures plastics. In 1995 the group Aquafil acquired the Slovenian polymer producer Yulon, and the resulting AquafilSLO ranks among the most successful foreign direct investments in the country. The firm’s Ljubljana-based plant is now “a centre of excellence for the group’s policies of sustainability and innovation,” producing “the raw material essential for the group’s operations from post-industrial and post-consumer waste made from polyamide 6”. In addition to the facility in Ljubljana, AquafilSLO operates three other plants in Slovenia, in Sežana, Ajdovščina and Teharje, near Celje. An even older success story is that of Sarrio’s investment in the Količevo paper mill, acquired in 1992. In 2000, the Italian Fantoni Group took over Lesonit, a fibre panel producer from Ilirska Bistrica. The plant was thoroughly modernized a decade ago, and now employs cutting-edge manufacturing technology. Moreover Sogefi, a global leader in filtration systems for the automotive industry, received the best FDI Award in 2015 for its factory in Medvode, in recognition of its status as the best employer in this field.
Italian investors are also present in retail (Eurospin), the fuel trade (ENI), and above all in financial services, with Unicredit, Intesa San Paolo Bank, and the insurer Generali Group.