“The most significant transaction can be tied to Gorenje,” he continues, referring to Slovenia’s white goods manufacturer. “The company has been taken over by a Chinese investor — something relatively new for the Slovenian market. The state always had influence in Gorenje, which was perceived as important domestic employer and an important Slovenian brand, so most of us expected that the politicians would have some sort of reaction because all three bidders were Chinese parties. Maybe because it is the biggest investment made by a Chinese investor in the country or maybe because the company indeed needed a strategic partner, the transaction didn’t have as many opponents as I would have expected based on my previous experience.”
Perpar admits that he himself is still a bit skeptical about what exactly the transaction means. “On the one hand it can be considered an indicator that we might have more similar investments from Chinese companies in the future. But on the other hand, China is still unknown territory for Slovenians, and I also have talked with lawyers who worked on the transaction, and they all said that business cannot be done the same way that we usually do with foreign investors. There are many barriers and challenges. First and foremost, when it comes to business, they follow different rules then we follow here in Europe, then there are the cultural differences, the language, and the approaches.”
In general, Perpar says, Slovenian legislation has an open approach and promises equal treatment when it comes to development, with domestic and international investors enjoying the same rights and opportunities. Indeed, he says, "we took some important steps to make our economic environment even more friendly and attractive for foreign investors," and he notes that “nothing proves this better than the adoption of specific pieces of legislation that were tailored to the needs of Magna-Steyr, which started to build new plant near Maribor."
In addition, Perpar says, "the parliament has recently also adopted new legislation to facilitate the process for obtaining construction permits, to make things easier and more attractive for foreign and domestic investors.” He asserts that Slovenia is “definitely more open today towards foreign investors than it was ten or more years ago.”
“It all has to do with the current economic situation,” he says. “Most company owners see the current state as a peak of the economic situation, and they are trying to make the best out of it — and that is why we are experiencing high number of sales lately." He provides an example: “One of these transactions was the sale of one of the largest insurance companies in Slovenia, Adriatic Slovenica, which was bought recently by Generali [as reported by CEE Legal Matters on June 4, 2018 http://ceelegalmatters.com/slovenia/8664-rppp-allen-overy-ulcar-partnerji-and-mayer-brown-advise-on-adriatic-slovenica-acquisition]." In addition, he reports, real estate market values, especially in Ljubljana and at the seaside, are again close to what they were before the crisis. And “Slovenia has been recognized as a country that is very friendly to crypto investments, as well as a lot of NPLs and also state projects. The most important, I would say, is the construction of a second railway track between Divaca and the sole port, Luka Koper, for cargo transports.”
Ultimately, Perpar suggests, a strong economy rewards firms, like his, with strong transactional practices. “So while a couple of years ago Slovenian firms were busy with restructuring and insolvency, today we are back to M&A.”