ITS HIGH-QUALITY and relatively low-cost workforce, and favourable central European location are listed among Slovakia’s advantages by the many Dutch businesses operating here. On the other hand, they say they would welcome improvement in the slow work of Slovak courts and in standards of law enforcement, which is currently regarded as weak.
Many Dutch companies, including smaller businesses, were amongst the earliest arrivals in the Slovak market. Some started trading here before the former Czechoslovakia was dissolved. They operate in various industries, including finance, food, delivery, retail and consultancy. Around 2000, another wave of investments came, mainly in the food and steel industries.
“Our experience of doing business in Slovakia is positive, although one has to understand local business attitudes,” said Emile Roest, managing director of property firm VVMZ. “As regards the main barriers, I would point to the slow functioning of the courts and problems with public pro〜curement.”
There are always areas which can be improved, like the pace of reforms to increasing the competitiveness or enforcement of laws, said Dino Ajanović, general director of TNT Express Worldwide in Slovakia. “The overall experience of doing business in Slovakia is a positive one, and it has been improving over the last couple of years.”
Rudolf Bakker, managing director of food company Leaf Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator that the attitude of his company’s employees towards work and their employer is very positive. “People work hard and are loyal and reliable.”
The company as an investor received great cooperation from both local and regional authorities and support from the national government during its first two years, he added.
However, given the large number of new investors and the large growth of the Slovak economy there will be a battle for people, especially in certain disciplines, Bakker added.
Slovakia has made great progress over the last years, its GDP growth has been impressive and inflation is well under control, said Tomas Tesar, head of communication of ABN Amro Czech Republic and Slovakia, a financial group. “As a result, Slovakia is among the first [central and eastern European] countries to adopt the euro, which just proves that the country is on the right track.”
Companies and industries
Dutch Financial Group Eureko BV entered the Slovak market by purchasing the Slovak insurance company Union in 1997. The company has interests in life insurance, travel insurance and provides services in company insurance and personal non-life insurance. It also focuses on health insurance, since setting up the Union Zdravotná Poistovňa health insurer in 2006.
ING Bank started operating in Slovakia in 1992. Its branch here provides banking operations, trading in securities and investment banking services mainly to companies based in the Slovak Republic.
In 2004 ABN AMRO opened a representative office in Bratislava which was changed to a fully operational branch in April 2007. It focuses on corporate and investment banking. Recently, ABN AMRO’s business in Slovakia has been acquired by the RBS banking group.
Slovak steel company Intersteel, based in Košice, became a subsidiary of Dutch company RijnDijk Groep in 2003. Since its founding, Intersteel Slovakia has concentrated on the production of steel fabrications, with an annual capacity of 5,000 tonnes.
Heineken Slovensko, which is wholly owned by the international brewery group Heineken International, has represented the Dutch firm in Slovakia since 1998, though Heineken had already acquired one of the Slovak beer brands in 1996. Heineken Slovensko is one of the largest food companies in Slovakia.
In 2005 the Leaf food company started looking for a location to build a large new factory in order to optimise costs and – in particular due to excellent cooperation with various public authorities in Slovakia - decided to come to Levice, said Bakker, managing director of Leaf Slovakia.
As of June 2008 the company employs 265 people in Slovakia. It expects this number to climb within the next two or three years to around 500 employees.
Royal Brinkers Slovakia, makes vegetable fats for retail chains and for industrial processing in bakeries. It has been operating in Slovakia since 1997. Its factory is based in Beluša, near Púchov. The company has 45 employees.
Ahold Retail Slovakia is a subsidiary of Dutch multinational Royal Ahold, which entered the Slovak market in 2001. It currently operates 22 Hypernova hypermarkets and three Albert supermarkets in Slovakia.
Dolphin, which has Dutch shareholders, focuses on distributing water coolers to companies and organisation.
TNT Express, a delivery company, has been present in Slovakia since 1991 and currently employs 200 people.
Shell has been operating in Slovakia since 1991, mainly through its chain of filling stations.
East European Investment Services (VVMZ) entered the Slovak market in 1993 and is active in real estate development, consultancy and training. The number of people working for VVMZ is currently 20.
The executive search and human resources consultancy Lugera & Makler came to Slovakia in 1996. Among other consultancy firms are TMF in management and accounting outsourcing, and PNO Consultants, active in grant and EU funds consultancy.
With SITA reports