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Economic, institutional reforms draw steadily more foreign investors to SEE

Eurofast is a business advisory employing over 200 advisors at 21 offices in Southeast Europe (SEE) and the Middle East. With over 28-year experience, having worked with many global brands and leading institutions, operating in the manufacturing, retail, airline, and professional services sectors, Eurofast is uniquely positioned as a one-stop shop for investors looking to enter the region. Its professionals have vast experience in helping investors select the market that meets their requirements in the region, implement the right entry strategy and mitigate risks. Eurofast was named Leading Corporate Adviser in SEE at the 2016 Acquisition International Awards.

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Panos Diallinas, Regional Director, Eurofast

Is the SEE region attractive for investors? Why?

As a pool of emerging markets with strong growth potential, the SEE countries have firmly positioned themselves on the map of attractive investment locations. We see steadily growing numbers of foreign investors in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, drawn primarily by the region’s institutional and economic reforms. Competitive advantages such as low labour costs, cheaper raw materials, significant growth potential, prospects for privatisations, low domestic competition, and favourable tax incentives have in recent years helped the region draw investor interest. Doing business in SEE has become much easier.

Which industry sectors are the most attractive for investments in SEE?

Some of the main industries, where significant growth and development has already been acknowledged, include banking, energy and telecommunications. With tax systems that offer a plethora of advantages to foreign investors, like for example corporate income tax rates from 9% to 20%, certain industry sectors provide additional incentives. Tourism and energy are of particular interest in Albania and Montenegro, natural resources in Serbia, agriculture in Bosnia, IT in Croatia and Kosovo, and clothing and auto parts in FYR Macedonia. Most of the SEE countries also have an extensive network of free zones, where further tax incentives and exemptions apply, like a 10-year corporate tax break in FYR Macedonia’s free zones and VAT exemption in one of Serbia’s 12 free zones. It is worth noting also the machinery and equipment VAT payment deferral of up to 12 months in Albania, as well as Montenegro’s flat 9% corporate income tax rate, one of the lowest in Europe.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of SEE for future investors?

A major advantage is the continuous alignment of legislation to EU norms, with more work to be done. While the region is facing certain challenges – in terms of bilateral cooperation and infrastructure networks – the common vision of EU membership keeps it firmly on the path of perpetual growth.

In the past, politically driven rationale and the underdeveloped infrastructure often made doing business in SEE difficult. Also, trade between the SEE countries was limited and each country would individually look out for its own interests by focusing on doing business with partners across the globe.

But this is changing! The region, sharing similar regulatory frameworks and a common vision of EU integration, had no need to reinvent the wheel in institutional and economic reforms, but just to institute practices that have already been successfully implemented in other parts of the world. Once it was understood that competitive economies cannot survive in isolation and building interdependency with neighbours is essential, the countries in the region started encouraging investment and trading links across borders.

What are your expectations for the development of SEE in the near to medium term?

Doing business in Southeast Europe has become much easier and appealing to investors. Eurofast has grown along with the region, which gave us the invaluable competitive advantage of in-depth knowledge and firsthand experience of the region. This is the reason why we encourage businessmen to seriously consider expanding abroad and exporting their products and services. Being a reliable regional partner, who has itself developed and grown organically throughout the years, we are in a perfect position to guide our clients and associates in the markets we are present in.