“Political noise notwithstanding, the region’s economies are in a sweet spot, and should continue to ride the booming Eurozone wave this year.” That is the headline of a new report published by the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw), which highlights a number of key areas to watch during 2018.
Slowly but steadily, Belarus continues to liberalise its regulations to attract more foreign investment. The country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, recently signed a decree on the development of the digital economy, thus making Belarus the first world’s jurisdiction with overall legal regulation of businesses based on blockchain technology.
Only seven Emerging European countries can boast better than average fixed broadband internet download speeds, latest figures from Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index claim. Only three countries: Romania (4th), Hungary (5th) and Lithuania (11th) make the top 20, and only a further four (Latvia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Poland) can boast above average broadband speeds.
Hungarian bank OTP passed another obstacle in its quest to grow throughout CEE on December 18 when the Romanian Competition Council approved its purchase of Banca Romaneasca, part of the National Bank of Greece Group. The deal had originally been agreed back in July 2017.
A major new report carried out by See News for the Sofia Investment Agency shows that more than one in five Bulgarian workers is employed in Sofia. The unemployment rate in the capital has decreased by almost a third over the past four years and is now just 3.8 per cent, well below the national average of 6.2 per cent. Sofia also accounts for a staggering 40 per cent of Bulgaria’s total GDP, and is currently enjoying growth of 7.7 per cent. Growth for Bulgaria as a whole is less than half of that, albeit at a still impressive 3.4 per cent. In 2016, 52 per cent of all foreign direct investment to Bulgaria went to Sofia.
More than 60 per cent of the demand for office space in four major CEE cities – Warsaw, Lodz, Krakow and Sofia – during the first half of 2017 came from the outsourcing sector. That is one of the key findings of a major new report published on December 14 by Colliers, one of the region’s largest real estate agencies. The report claims that the demand for office space is itself being driven by the ready availability of skilled workers, but also warns that the stock of highly-qualified graduates is not inexhaustive.
Consumer prices in Romania were up 3.23 per cent in November on the same month in 2016, the country’s National Institute of Statistics (INS) announced on December 12. The figure is the highest for more than four years, with prices up 0.66 per cent on October. The increase has been caused by the sharp growth in price of a number of everyday goods (particularly eggs and dairy products), as well as energy. High interest rates, and the unfavourable leu-euro exchange rate have also placed upward pressure on prices.
Lithuania‘s Maxima Grupe (Maxima Group), the leading Baltic food retailer, with a firm footing in Latvia, Estonia, Poland as well as Bulgaria, has signed an investment agreement to acquire Stokrotka, a chain of 410 convenience stores in Poland.
Whisper it, but the business environment in Belarus is blossoming, thanks in part to some business-friendly reforms, the most recent of which is cutting red tape for companies. Despite recent protests against high unemployment rate and low living standards – or perhaps because of them – private companies are gently being encouraged to establish themselves.
Slovenia is Emerging Europe’s leader in the number of ‘hidden champions’ — 3.5 per one million inhabitants. As defined by Professor Hermann Simon, a German business leader and author, hidden champions are firms that are market share leaders — amongst the world’s top three or number one in the continent, with turnover below 1 billion euros and yet not generally known to the public. Poland has only 0.7 such businesses per 1 million inhabitants, the Czech Republic and Hungary each 0.4.
Income convergence in the Western Balkans has stalled, according to the IMF’s new report, Regional Economic Outlook: Europe Hitting Its Stride. Measured in purchasing-power-parity terms, income levels in the region today are less than 30 per cent what they are in the euro area.
Prague’s Na Příkopě and Pařížská are the most expensive retail streets in emerging Europe, with monthly rents averaging 220 euros per square metre. Kaunas is Europe’s most affordable retail location, with annual rents standing at just 174 euros per square metre. The figures were published on November 16 in a major new report prepared by real estate agency Cushman and Wakefield.