THE INVESTMENT presence of Spanish companies in Slovakia, compared with other countries, is not very visible. There are roughly 60 Spanish companies in Slovakia, most of which are small and medium-sized firms. Nevertheless, Slovakia sees still untapped opportunities here, which was the impetus for the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency (SARIO) to organise with Spanish partners a recent roadshow.
“After the SARIO roadshow in Spain, we expect the interest of Spanish companies in Slovakia to materialise and grow,” Carlos Padilla, the trade attaché at the Spanish Embassy, told The Slovak Spectator. “We still [see] possibilities in the automotive and household appliances sectors, but in the public works sector as well.”
When assessing Spanish investments in Slovakia it is necessary to realise that in Spain small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) prevail, Ľubomíra Gabrielová, head of the marketing department at SARIO, stressed to The Slovak Spectator.
“This is why their investments are limited in spite of the financial support of ICEX (Instituto Espanol de Comercio Exterior) and regional chambers,” Gabrielová said.
One of the most significant investors from Spain in Slovakia is the mobile company Telefónica O2. Based on Gabrielová’s information, Telefónica, which operates the O2 mobile network in central Europe, is considering relocating its regional headquarters to Bratislava, due to a more convenient tax and business environment.
Spanish companies have invested heavily in the automotive industry. Here Gabrielová mentioned Jobelsa, Arcelormittal Gonvarri and Elastorsa as firms already operating in Slovakia. In the machinery sector she listed Funderías Condals. In the field of IT, Soitron obtained its experience through collaborating with Soitsa SA, a Spanish selective outsourcing specialist, and after obtaining Soitsa SA shares in 2005, it established itself as a leading IT service provider.
Other companies that Padilla mentioned as standing out include INDRA (IT technologies for transport and traffic, energy and industrial companies) and OHL (public works), both in Bratislava, as well as Cortizo (aluminium systems for architectural projects) in Nová Baňa, and Fagor Ederlan (chassis and powertrain manufacturers) in Žiar nad Hronom. Global retailers are also present in Slovakia, such as Zara and Mango, and in tourism, Gate One Hotel in Bratislava became part of the Spanish hotel chain NH Hotels in January 2012.
As for SMEs Padilla mentioned ESNASA in Leopoldov, Vicente Torns (production of copper and aluminium cables) in Komárno and Cikautxo (manufacture of hoses for automotive radiators) in Nové Zámky.
Slovakia can expect a continued inflow of Spanish investments in the automotive, construction, electro-technical and services industries. But in spite of the good investment environment in Slovakia, the interest in trade cooperation prevails over investment in the case of Spanish companies, according to Gabrielová.
Spanish investors could also target attractive tourist destinations, building hotels and aquaparks, an area in which they have a lot of experience.
“The first investment of this kind is Abba Hotels,” said Gabrielová, adding that it has invested in the building of a four-star hotel in Bratislava.
SARIO organised the investment roadshow in collaboration with ICEX, the Slovak Embassy in Madrid and local chambers in Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid. During the show, experts presented to Spanish businesses the investment environment in Slovakia as well as possibilities for trade cooperation with Slovak trade partners.
“We focused especially on those sectors in which Spaniards have experience, i.e. sectors in which they already do business in Slovakia,” said Gabrielová, adding that SARIO tries to catch new investment signals from Spanish companies.
Since 2004 SARIO has assisted the implementation of 14 investment projects from Spain. Most of them have focused on the automotive, electro-technical, machinery and wood-processing industries. These aggregate investments of about €96 million created 2,300 jobs. SARIO is currently working on three Spanish investment projects.
With regards to the preferences of Spanish investors, SARIO has not registered any changes and they continue to prefer the above mentioned sectors. Opportunities for other Spanish investments exist in the energy sector, construction of infrastructure, new technologies, tourism and SMEs, especially in regions of central and eastern Slovakia. Spanish companies have shown increasing interest in investing in Slovakia in the construction of residential real estate, as well as in the restoration and construction of infrastructure, with the aim of utilising the experience and available workforce in Spain, according to Gabrielová.
Padilla noted that relations between Spain and Slovakia are excellent and that there is full cooperation between the two countries, but that there is still room for improvement. With regards to any changes within the bilateral cooperation Padilla said: “The main change we have observed is that, since 2005 in particular, our trade and investments have grown steadily, which are very positive and promising changes.”