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CANADIAN COMPANIES ARE RARELY SEEN IN SLOVAKIA - BUT THAT COULD CHANGE

The invisible investors

THERE IS not a lot of Canadian direct investment in Slovakia, and it is usually not even seen as Canadian.

The Alcan aluminium extrusion plant started apertation in Levice in May 2007(Source: SITA)

THERE IS not a lot of Canadian direct investment in Slovakia, and it is usually not even seen as Canadian.

Companies from Canada often invest in Slovakia through their European divisions and partners, said the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Henry Silva. Those investors include TriGranit, which built the Polus Centre in Bratislava; Magna Slovteca, which produces auto parts in Nové Mesto nad Váhom; and Alcan in Levice, which started producing aluminum products in 2007. There are also dozens of small companies with Canadian partnerships, mostly in services, consulting or real estate, he added.

"Lots of Canadians who came here have invested through their sister companies under a different name, and one rarely sees Canada as the head investor," Silva told The Slovak Spectator.

However, both the Canadian Embassy and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said that Canadian businesses have not yet made the most of Slovakia's potential as a business destination. That potential mainly lies in its burgeoning automotive sector, advantageous tax system and improving roads.

"The flat rate tax is still a very powerful tool," said Silva. "Slovakia is considered a tiger of Eastern Europe. The infrastructure is getting better and the land is still cheaper than in most parts of the world."

The promising development is in outsourcing, where Slovak professionals work remotely for Canadian companies, Silva told The Slovak Spectator.

"With modern communication technologies, there is no problem for local specialists in Slovakia to send their work in electronic form to Canada at the end of the day," Silva told The Slovak Spectator.

One example is local Slovak architects making designs for Canadian architects and builders for projects worldwide, Silva said. Similarly, there is high demand for such distance work by local design engineers who can design parts for the automotive and aerospace industries.

Slovakia's entry to the European Union has made it much easier for Slovak companies to do business with EU companies than with Canadian companies. But even without Canada having EU membership, it has been easier for Canadian companies to overcome the complications of doing business with Slovakia, because Canada has a long history of business relations with the EU, Silva said.

"The substantial improvement of business conditions in Slovakia - for example, infrastructure, and the transparent and consistent application of rules and regulations - is also helping trade to grow," he said.

The chamber has been working on attracting Canadian investment to Slovakia and presenting what Slovakia can offer, Silva said. It has been trying to present the pros and cons of investing in Slovakia.

"The idea is to bring many Canadian investors to Central Europe," he explained.

Canada's main exports to Slovakia have been electronic equipment, books, machinery, wood pulp and medical devices. Slovakia has exported to Canada passenger cars, iron and steel products, organic chemicals, machines, furniture, shoes and stockings, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The most promising areas for Canadian investors are the environment, food and agriculture products, construction materials and services, aviation, information technologies and telecommunications, Silva said.

Alcan Levice

Alcan Extruded Products, a business unit of Canadian-based Alcan Engineered Products, laid the cornerstone of its new aluminium extrusion plant in Slovakia in July 2006 in the industrial zone in Levice. The plant was opened in May 2007.

Alcan's overall investment stands at around $35 million (Sk868 million) so far. The company envisages having 200 employees eventually.

"The planned production capacity is 25,000 tonnes of aluminium castings, but is expected to take three or four years to reach such a volume, based on experience," Alcan Extruded Products President Reinhard Fleer said at the factory's opening.

The plant planned to produce 2,900 tonnes last year.

Insemas

Behind Insemas, a private artificial insemination centre for cattle, stands the Canadian company Semex-Alliance, a leader in the field of genetics. Insemas was established in Lučenec in 1991. The company has about a 40-percent share on the market.

Corinex Group

Corinex, an IT and communications systems company based in Vancouver, has been operating on the Slovak market for more than 15 years. Corinex Co-operative is the oldest of the Corinex group companies. Its core business activities are focused on data transfer devices.

TriGranit

The TriGranit Development Corporation was founded in 1997 through a merge of Hungarian-based Granit Polus Investment and Development Corporation and Canada-based giant Trizechahn.

The company is active mainly in the Central European real estate market, including Slovakia. During its more than 10 years on the Slovak market, TriGranit has invested more than €144 million in Slovakia, mainly in Bratislava.

The Polus City Centre shopping mall and the Millennium Towers office buildings were TriGranit's main development projects in Bratislava. The towers provide about 45,000 square metres of office space.

The company's latest project is Lakeside Park, the first phase of which should be finished by the first quarter of 2008. The entire complex, which will span approximately 88,000 square metres of office space, will be completed by 2013.

Valiant - Matador

In 2005, Slovak tire maker Matador established a joint venture with Canadian firm Valiant Machine and Tool entitled Valiant-Matador Automotive, which offers manufacturing solutions to the automotive industry.

A new commercial corporation called Valiant-Matador has started selling automated assembly lines and welding lines to Central and Eastern European countries.

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