“Like everywhere else, there is a lot of talk about the GDPR right now in the market, and about blockchain, because Slovenians are very blockchain-conscious people,” says Partner Gregor Famira from CMS Ljubljana, who adds that he believes the country has the most bitcoin owners among all European countries.
Famira concedes that cryptocurrency and blockchain don’t necessarily influence the country’s business market directly, but he reports that a significant amount of attention was paid to those concepts in the recent development of Slovenia’s anti-money laundering legislation.
As for the GDPR, Famira says that data protection is a big deal for the market right now, and this is what is mostly keeping firms busy. “Companies are less prepared than we thought — most of them have had a bit of a shy approach. Big companies have mostly done their job, but middle and small-sized companies haven’t given much thought to it,” he explains. As a result, the CMS Partner adds, starting from confusing cookie policies, to weak privacy policies, there is still a lot to do. “It is quite a difficult process, for no one sees any business value in protecting consumer data. Companies won’t hugely benefit from it, so they see it like they see tax declarations: they all have to do it, but it’s not beneficial for them.”
According to Famira, the Slovenian business market will experience quite a few important M&A transactions this year. “I know that at the beginning of the year lawyers always think this, and towards the end of the year only half of them will be done, but there are clear signs that the Slovenian Insurance Company is going to change owners this year, and the two largest state-owned banks must be sold before 2019,” he reports.
The first of these, Abanka, must be sold before next year under the terms related to its receipt of state aid approved in 2013 by the European Commission. “As far as we know, they are working on it already,” Famira reports, “which is a good thing because we can avoid being under a lot of pressure at the end of 2018.”
The second-largest state bank, Nova Ljubljanska Banka, also received state aid in 2013, as a condition of which Slovenia committed itself to selling at least 50 percent of the bank by 2017, and another 25 percent a year later — then asked for an extension until 2019. “They tried an IPO last year, but it was unsuccessful, so now there is some pressure on them to solve the situation this year as otherwise the European Commission could start taking action,” Famira explains.
Finally, Famira reports that the country’s real estate market has also started to flourish. “Somehow Slovenia has been rediscovered as a reliable and stable market. We know it’s not London, or Frankfurt, or Paris, but it offers a sustainable and decent growth in value.”