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BUSINESS FOCUS - SWEDEN&LTBR>SLOVAKIA OPEN TO BUSINESS INVOLVEMENT AND PERSPECTIVES FROM UP NORTH

Importing Swedish wisdom

SWEDEN is known for the high quality of its products, for which the internal market of nine million is too small. As a country expressly oriented towards exports, it has 35 trade representatives around the world. The general honorary consul of this Scandinavian country, Ruben Kemény, has led the Swedish Business Council in Slovakia since its establishment in 1974.
"The structure of the Swedish economy is formed by a couple of big firms that are represented all over the world. However, numerous small and medium sized firms are upholding the skeleton of the economy," Kemény said.

SWEDEN is known for the high quality of its products, for which the internal market of nine million is too small. As a country expressly oriented towards exports, it has 35 trade representatives around the world. The general honorary consul of this Scandinavian country, Ruben Kemény, has led the Swedish Business Council in Slovakia since its establishment in 1974.

"The structure of the Swedish economy is formed by a couple of big firms that are represented all over the world. However, numerous small and medium sized firms are upholding the skeleton of the economy," Kemény said.

According to him, big firms can often find their way alone, but the Swedish trade representation plans to focus on assisting small and medium sized businesses coming to Slovakia.

"Currently there are approximately 40 Swedish firms in operation, and about 200 other firms present in Slovakia through Slovak firms," Kemény said.

Exports from Slovakia to Sweden currently are at SEK1.2 billion (€133 million) annually. At the same time, through third countries, goods of Swedish origin worth SEK400 million (€44.3 million) are reaching Slovakia. For example, the statistics record SFK ball bearings, which are entering Slovakia through German representation, as German exports, though they are Swedish products.

Other products on the Slovak market include those of the Swedish machine industry, telecommunication technology, cargo and passenger cars, and compressors.

IKEA represents the biggest growth in Slovakia and, apart from a hypermarket in Bratislava, has four factories for furniture production.

Another big investment is the producer of hygenic products, SCA Gemerská Hôrka, where sales, profits, and number of employees increase every year.

According to Kemény, Swedish investors expect an improving business environment in Slovakia after its accession to the European Union. Integration into the union will help to maintain long-term political stability and will eliminate concerns about the work environment. They see reforms very positively and they will follow the results of reforms with interest.

Slovakia is attractive for its skilled and cheap labour, traditions in the machine industry, and convenient geographic location, which enables further expansion in the south and east.

The Swedish Business Council in Bratislava sees the possible entrance of Swedish firms in several areas:

"The Swedish food industry is not very present in Slovakia", said Ruben Kemény. "We also see a big opportunity for companies operating in air and water protection, and in waste solutions.

"Slovakia is a candidate for EU membership and so it will be able to finance the area of environmental protection through European structural funds.

"We expect Swedish firms to be more active in the machine industry. Traditional Swedish industries are also information and telecommunications, not only in terms of the international corporation Ericsson but also in smaller specialized firms.

"Swedish industry also look sat other possibilities with interest - the Slovak army has ambitious plans to reach the quality standard of NATO in ten years. This is an interesting area for Swedish defence industry," he added.

Slovakia has not been sufficiently presented in Sweden, - representatives of the Swedish Business Council learned in communication with potential investors.

Experience proves that a Swedish investor will go to a country that he knows well and where he knows what he will find.

It is expected that this handicap will disappear after the accession of Slovakia to the EU, and this will make building mutual business relationships easier.

Apart from the Swedish Business Council, there is also the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Slovakia, which has worked here for five years.

Its mission is to protect the interests of companies with Swedish capital, as well as to act as a place to exchange opinions and experience. It also works as an advisory forum. Member companies meet once a quarter-year at the minimum. The president of the chamber is the general director of Astra Zeneca, AB, Thomas Velinder.

If a Slovak exporter wants to penetrate the Swedish market, he has to be perfectly prepared. Products of foreign countries are welcome on the Swedish market because they mean healthy competition for Swedish goods.

"It is good to have natural competition," said Kemény. "There are no administrative barriers against exports to the Swedish market, but an exporter must solve all logistic, customer, and service issues because Swedish clients are demanding not only of good quality but services as well.

There are many who want to be successful on the Swedish market. It is said that when an exporter is successful on the Swedish market, it has an excellent reference for other markets too," he added.

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