The Slovenian State Asset Management Strategy is well known. The state knows what it wants to achieve in the future. However, is it also aware of its responsibility with regards to achieving those objectives?
"The state is Slovenia's largest employer (33%), with the property value of over 40%. However, European Commission data shows that between 2007 and 2013, state-owned enterprises operated less successfully than private ones. This cost Slovenia EUR 13 billion, which could have been invested in education, research or start-up companies," emphasized Nevenka Črešnar Pergar, Director of NP Consulting.
Bojan Ivanc, CFA, CAIA, head of the SKEP analytical group at the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce, expressed his opinion: "Politicians took into account and understand the results of the study on managing state-owned enterprises, but they do not have the necessary will to make changes." He added: "The main issue is not the non-profitability of SOEs, the problem are poor investments of profits in the good years." Ivanc further mentioned that the state is inefficient when it comes to large portfolio management. Therefore, it is necessary to extend the list of companies set for privatization.
Mag. Anja Strojin štampar, MBA, Board Member, SSH stated: "State ownership is often generalized as negative in general. But it is necessary to look at each company separately." She further added: "Today, we have the answers that we did not have five years ago. Responsible entities in each of the companies are well known. We know the portfolio and understand what is strategically important. We know our goals, we know what direction we are going to, our strategy is set. All we have to do is implement it." Strojin štampar also commented on the recent ad-hoc appointments of new supervisory-board members of NLB: "The former and current supervisory boards are not comparable, due to the increased number of positions. It is positive that the new supervisors know and understand the banking sector. They are expected to operate better and to be responsible in their roles. The selection process today is highly selective and based on the tendency toward institutional independence."
Imre Balogh, CEO and Executive Director, BAMC emphasized the role of BAMC: "BAMC is one of the key organizations for the society as a whole as well as for the taxpayers. We would like to develop into an organization that will experience a positive development and bring benefits. But changes will be necessary; more transparency, better governance, cooperation with all stakeholders."
Enzo Smrekar, CEO and Board member of Droga Kolinska said: "In Slovenia it is vital that we develop products and services, which have a high added value and are profitable. Intangible assets, such as know-how, patents, trademarks - are crucial and they represent the added-value. In order to achieve the added value, however, business stability is essential. "The dangers posed by frequent changes in company management are far-reaching. Leadership that is constantly changing is focused only on short-term goals." According to Smrekar, the most successful companies are those who build brand recognition in the long run. Smrekar further added: "The debate about whether or not certain business decisions are political is not productive. What is important, is to ask which companies should remain state-owned, and to deal with the issue of managing these companies."
Rob Irving, Co-chair of Dentons’ Global Private Equity Group, stressed: "Things are going in the right direction. The biggest problem is the political will regarding privatization. Slovenia is not an isolated island, we should take into account the best practices at the international level. You have a strategy, what you still need is a timetable for its implementation. Without a timeframe, it is difficult to assess performance." With regards to the changes in NLB supervisory board, Mr. Irving believes that if NLB was to be privatized within a short timeframe, such actions could have serious consequences. "Because privatization is not happening any time soon, this is not a major concern for investors." He does put emphasis on procedural transparency. The state of speculation and instability, in his opinion, is always critical.
Maria Anselmi, General Director of Bisnode Southern markets, described Slovenia as a "microreality" with regards to its size. She said: "The three elements of success are: trust, stability and commitment to goals. For trust, it is essential to be transparent. Decisions, likeable or not, should be publicly explained and equipped with facts and figures."
David Burger, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana, shared his own experiences with helping U.S. investors enter the Slovenian market: "They are being sent from door to door. It is unclear who decides what, or whom they can turn to. This is an example of how not to do things."
Within the AmCham Focus, Matjaž Čadež, Founder and Chairman of the Board at Halcom, commented on the management structure in private systems. "There is no ideal manager, as he/she must fulfill four conflicting roles. Leadership is about having a complementary team, where people with different characteristics fulfill different positions. It is important that decisions are taken on the basis of knowledge and competence rather than on the basis of hierarchical organization. The leader must, however, assume responsibility."
Matej Runjak, Director in Advisory Deals, BRS group, PwC, pointed out: "Executives of state owned enterprises find it difficult to make decisions. Each decision is being problematized, there is no logic of capital. Not only money, but also reputation and integration into the environment, all belong to the framework of remuneration. Although the sense of affiliation within state companies is being built, it often quickly disappears due to political leadership changes."
Tone Strnad, MSc, General Manager, Medis, on the performance of large systems: "Every system can be effective. If the company is large and is growing in terms of innovation, it also knows how to motivate its employees. State-owned companies often lack this innovative environment, waiting for hierarchical decisions to be made. "
"Small businesses are very flexible. However, a strong leadership role is important- a certain degree of 'dictatorship' in the sense of determination and accountability," said Iztok špan, owner and Director of Tajfun.
The discussion ended in the spirit of social responsibility. Panelists emphasized the importance of linking enterprises to the environment and their responsibility to give back to the community. Through sponsorships, grants and stipends, clean-up projects, investing in culture, sports and humanitarian activities. Strnad said that as far as the company Medis is concerned, "nobody has it all, but we all have something better."
You can find photo gallery of the event HERE.