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NEWS

Issue 81

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December 14, 2017

Distributed with Times of Malta

Malta’s ranking in the Ethics and Corruption category of the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) has dropped from 39th to 46th place due to falling public trust in politicians. see page 5, 6 >

NEWS Renewed calls by the European Commission to increase women’s representation on executive boards have been met with mixed reactions from Maltese industry bodies. see page 9 >

Valletta businesses feel ‘good vibes’ ahead of 2018 Marie-Claire Grima Ever since it was announced back in 2012 that Valletta would be the European Capital of Culture for 2018, the city has been on an upward trajectory. From the completion of Renzo Piano’s fabulous City Gate and Parliament House project to the restoration projects on some of its most priceless heritage builds, it’s practically unrecognisable from how it used to be not too long ago. Surveys carried out by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) indicate that Valletta’s status as European Capital of Culture in 2018 has intrigued a growing number of tourists to choose Malta and visit Valletta. “Between January and September, the number of guest nights that respondents attributed di-

rectly to the Valletta 2018 effect increased from 254,800 in 2015 to 526,500 in 2017,” says Paul Bugeja, CEO of the MTA. “The same surveys also indicate that in 2017 around €84 million of tourist expenditure generated can be directly attributed to the Valletta 2018 effect.” The ‘Valletta 2018 effect’ is also drawing substantial funding – the more people want to visit Valletta, the more money it is able to acquire to continue improving, from private investors as well as broader entities. €11 million in public funds have been spent on projects related to Valletta 2018 over the course of four years, including infrastructural upgrades to the capital city, while another €19 million will be spent on other ongoing Valletta beautification projects, including MUŻA, the Grand Master’s Palace and the Manoel Theatre. Furthermore,

in 2016, it was announced that around €50 million in ERDF funding would be allocated for the development of cultural projects and the restoration of heritage site projects, which are included in Government’s strategy for Valletta for 2018-2025 and will serve as an important legacy after 2018 for the creation of new jobs in the culture sector and the growth of creative economies. Additionally, a €24 million EUfunded project to regenerate the often-maligned lower part of Valletta was announced in September 2017. There appears to have been a concerted effort to make sure that no corner of the city is left behind. The neglected and forlorn Valletta of a few years back barely seems like the same city, Continued on page 3

NEWS e Provost of the American University of Malta, Professor John Ryder, sheds light on the University’s low student intake and current staff numbers. see page 13, 15 >

STOCK MARKET REVIEW MiFID II and MiFIR have made it necessary for all legally independent entities to obtain an LEI in order to trade in financial instruments. see page 23, 24 >


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NEWS

“A great PR opportunity for the city and for Malta” Continued from page 1 which is now arguably Malta’s hottest and most in-demand location. Who doesn’t remember the countless half-shuttered shops, the listless restaurant staff, and the streets that used to fall predictably silent just after sunset? None of that is anywhere to be seen on the brink of 2018. Fashion designers Charles and Ron, who opened their flagship store in Valletta early in 2016, with clothes and accessories that feature elements of Maltese culture, say it has been “amazing” to be in the capital city over the past two years. “In the last few years Valletta has gained many new establishments and has also come alive again at night. All this adds to the appeal and excitement building up for Valletta 2018,” they told this newspaper. “Valletta 2018 is a great PR opportunity for the city and for Malta. The city will be the centre of attention, and this will definitely be felt after 2018 as well. There will be new interest internationally, and with all the events happening in the city, we’re convinced business will increase.” They add that there’s certainly some room for improvement. “We hope that cleaning efforts will be stepped up. Parking inside the city needs to be controlled better, too. Our beautiful city deserves to be clean and organised.” The streets of Valletta are thronging with shoppers and the nightlife is wonderfully vibrant. Restaurants are packed to the gills, and reservations at any of its good eateries

“We have already seen a very big improvement in the capital city in the run-up to Valletta 2018, and we are sure that the effect will last beyond the year.” – Gerald Darmanin, Operations Manager, Caffe Cordina

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN VALLETTA. PHOTO: RAY ANASTASI

at this time of year are like gold dust “Preparations in the city are in full swing, and lots of tourists are asking us for information about upcoming events,” said Gerald Darmanin, Operations Manager at Caffe Cordina, one of Valletta’s oldest and most renowned cafés. “Since we’re located in the heart of Valletta, we are expecting a rise in business – particularly among tourists who are interested in historic places. We have taken several steps to prepare for 2018. Caffe Cordina has undergone a complete rebranding, along with a new menu and the launch of a new product line, and we’ve also refurbished our outdoor area in the piazza.” Mr Darmanin said he hopes that Valletta 2018 will not only allow the café to expose more tourists to traditional Maltese products, but garner appreciation from the Maltese community of Valletta’s heritage, traditions and history.

“We have already seen a very big improvement in the capital city in the run-up to Valletta 2018, and we are sure that the effect will last beyond the year.” Property prices in Valletta have skyrocketed, as many want to invest in the city where it’s all happening. With more travellers seeking to soak in every inch of Valletta during their stay in Malta, and tourism in the capital expected to increase by about 10 per cent next year, boutique hotels are sprouting up like mushrooms, and abandoned houses and palazzos are being given a new lease of life. “There is a good vibe in Valletta and all businesses are making a great effort to make Valletta look and feel even better,” said Robert Borg Millo, Hotel Manager at Palazzo Consiglia, a recently-opened boutique hotel in St Ursula Street. “Valletta 2018 was always at the centre of our thoughts when planning the hotel’s amenities and facilities. We have

managed to make the most of the space we had available in order to offer literally all the amenities you expect to find when staying in a five-star hotel.” Mr Borg Millo said that the Palazzo already has a good base of bookings for the first six months of 2018. “The trend of bookings is very much on a last-minute basis and we are confident that with the continuous coverage on Valletta 2018, we will manage to supersede this year’s occupancy and profitability. In view of the substantial number of new boutique hotels opening in the near future, we will continue striving to be one of the leading hotels in Valletta. We really hope that Valletta will remain an all year-round destination for tourists, but I am sure there will be an overspill of interest even after Valletta 2018 is over.” But what of the cultural component of the European Capital of Culture? The city is set to host 200 events and projects during its European Capital of Culture year, with a total of 140 projects and 400 events planned to take place nationwide - will this have a tangible effect on cultural activity in the long-term? “Valletta 2018 has provided a great platform for artistic endeavours, and stimulated a great deal of cultural activity,” said Kenneth Zammit Tabona, Artistic Director at the Manoel Theatre. The theatre is re-opening its doors this week after months of restorations and is gearing up for an extensive programme of events in 2018. “Valletta 2018 has increased international awareness of both Valletta and Malta itself. Before Valletta won the bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2018, it was so run-down, nobody wanted to go there. While life in the city has certainly changed, some for the better, some for the worse, there’s no doubt that now the city is finally being celebrated and appreciated for what it is. I hope this activity will not finish in 2018, leaving us with a great anti-climactic depression in 2019,” Mr Zammit Tabona added. Mr Zammit Tabona expressed his hope that the kind of activity Valletta 2018 will bring is the kind that leaves a legacy. “It’s one of the reasons why I created the Malta International Baroque Festival, back in 2013. That is the kind of activity that leaves a legacy, in order to allow projects like this to go on and survive in the future, and create new initiatives of their own. It has given us a great opportunity to create something new.”


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Low trust in politicians affecting Malta’s ranking on Global Competitiveness Index Malta’s position on the ‘Financial Market Development’ pillar has plummeted since 2010 Rebecca Anastasi Malta’s ranking in the Ethics and Corruption category of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) has dropped from 39th to 46th place over the period 2010-2017, mainly due to a substantial deterioration in performance on the indicator measuring public trust in politicians, according to Thierry Geiger, the Head of Analytics and Quantitative Research at the Forum. The Ethics and Corruption category forms part of the Institutions pillar of the GCI, and is composed of three main indicators: diversion of public funds, irregular payments and bribes, as well as public trust in politicians. Since 2010, the earliest year offering comparable results, the publication has reported a significant decline in the latter indicator, plunging one point to 2.9, and 41 places from 33rd to 74th , thus affecting Malta’s ranking in the entire category. Indeed, much of this drop can be traced to results issued in the reports published over the past two years. Malta’s position on this indicator fell 17 places in the past year alone, as noted in the 20172018 edition. The Forum’s annual report is a survey conducted with business executives in over 140 countries, with respondents giving their views about the countries in which they work. In Malta, “a comprehensive list of Maltese companies” is sampled every year, according to Matthew Castillo a member of the Executive Board of Competitive Malta, WEF’s partner institute on the island. He specifies that approximately 70 companies are surveyed locally. He also noted that “Malta’s overall competitiveness score is a relative one and hence the ranking is also affected by the score other countries obtain.”

This information was highlighted in response to questions sent to WEF, and its local partner institute, asking whether recent events have affected, and will continue to affect, Malta’s performance on the international competitiveness index. Mr Geiger said that “it is difficult to predict how the performance of Malta – or any country for that matter – will evolve.” He advised looking at the recent trends and noted that “among the 12 pillars of the GCI, Institutions and Financial Market Development are the only two where Malta posts a worse performance than in 2010 (both in terms of score rank and rank).” Commenting on the report in light of the issue, Mr Castillo high-

SIMILAR NEGATIVE TRENDS REPORTED IN ‘UNDUE INFLUENCE’ AND ‘FINANCIAL MARKET DEVELOPMENT’ Since 2010, Malta has also lost considerable ground in the category ‘Undue Influence’, which also forms part of the Institutions pillar. Malta’s score in this category declined by 0.7 points resulting in a drop of 21 places down to the 60th position. In addition, Malta’s rank in the 8th pillar, ‘Financial Market Development’, plummeted to 43rd, from 11th, down 32 places. The main indicators which have caused this dramatic drop are ‘Ease of Access to Loans’ (with Malta falling from 12th position in 2010 to 39th); ‘Venture Capital Availability’ (from 36th place to 52nd) and ‘Regulation of Securities Exchanges’ (from 12th to 28th place).

lighted that the “results are based on the perception of key executives of companies filling in the survey” and that “their opinion is obviously affected and shaped by events they ex-

perience or have an opinion about, based on what they read and listen to. Hence, it is not excluded that these events might have an effect on the results Malta obtains in the 2018-

2019 edition.” He stated that Malta’s overall score in these categories can be improved by not only emphasising transparency, but also by ensuring that this is seen and felt to be happening. “By reinforcing the notion of transparency and showing that this is taking place, it will, in the long run, improve the score Malta receives on this index,” he said. When asked about how recent events might affect Malta’s performance in the World Press Freedom Index, Pauline Ades-Mevel, the Head of the EU-Balkans desk at Reporters Without Borders (RSF), stated that “RSF is not able to say what will happen with the rank of Malta in the next index to Continued on page 6


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e Business OBSERVER

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NEWS

‘Good chance’ Malta’s ranking will drop in next World Press Freedom Index Continued from page 5 be published at the end of April 2018, but there is a good chance that the country drops because of the comments we will get from respondents to our questionnaire.” With reference to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia in October this year, Ms Ades-Mevel said that the assassination of a journalist inside the European Union is extremely rare and has created “a chilling effect on fellow colleagues”, and is likely to lose Malta its current rank in the next index. She also noted that these events have cast a spotlight on Malta and highlighted the serious concerns about democracy and the rule of law on the island. “Not only was the journalist killed in a very violent manner, which intended to shock, but she had posted some terrible comments on her blog a few minutes before being killed,” she said. Ms Ades-Mevel emphasised that the issue was not whether or not individuals close to Government were guilty of commission-

“Malta’s overall score in these categories can be improved by not only emphasising transparency, but also by ensuring that this is seen and felt to be happening.” ing or facilitating the murder, but that “Joseph Muscat’s government has actively and systematically created an environment in which those who speak out are the last lines of defence against the crimi-

nal forces that have overwhelmed the island and its institutions.” “The European Union, its member states and the international community must act now against the network of crime and corrup-

tion that has taken hold of Malta and eliminated in broad daylight its main independent voice.” Moreover, she stressed that “RSF will focus its attention on the situation on the ground in the is-

Matthew Castillo, Competitive Malta land so any possible further attack, or infringement will be watched closely and denounced.”


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Industry bodies divided on calls to introduce gender quotas Rebecca Anastasi Renewed calls by the European Commission to increase women’s representation on executive boards, as referred to in a recent action plan presented during the EC’s Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights, was met by mixed reactions from Maltese industry bodies, some of whom questioned the effectiveness of introducing gender quotas in the local corporate environment. The recent Commission action plan, designed to tackle the gender pay gap, referred to a proposal already on the table at the EC, which advocates “the adoption of the Commission proposal for a Directive on improving gender balance among directors of companies listed on stock exchanges.” The proposal, which aims to deliver concrete action by the end of the Commission’s mandate in 2019, lays down “quantitative objectives for member states”, thus advocating quotas, and emphasising “the importance of boards setting transparent selection criteria for candidates.” “All the legislation needed for a woman to become a director on board is already in place,” said Dolores Sammut Bonnici, the President of the Malta Employers Association (MEA). “I am saying this because we have been talking about this ad nauseam, and for a woman to be considered equal and to merit the board seat, she has to be as available as, as good as, and as ready as any other man.” Ms Sammut Bonnici said that there are broader issues blocking the rise of women that require a shift in culture and mentality. “We have to stop thinking that women are disadvantaged because they have the

caring responsibility. This should be the men’s responsibility too! In the end it is a question of being able to deliver and commit. Then, and only then, can we say that we are equal, at least in having the choice to decide whether to go forward, should we wish to.” Ms Sammut Bonnici noted the positive effects more women on boards would have on business on the island. “It is beneficial for companies to have both sexes represented at a decision-making level, because of the diverse angle of thought that each possesses.” She noted the different opinions on the application of

“Relying only on personal contacts, particularly where a board is composed primarily of men, risks perpetuating the use of the old boys’ network.” – Michelle Gialanze, President, Women Directors in Malta

quotas, stating that “the legislation is in place for the freedom of choice and should never be made to pressure,” asserting that “professional women themselves believe that the decisive factor should not be the gender of the applicant but the competence.” On the other hand, Frank V. Farrugia, President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry commented that “while recognising the importance of the contribution of women in the business world, the Chamber believes that quotas to have more women on company boardrooms are not the solution to improve the gender balance inside private companies.” He stated that such an imposition could negatively affect the way women would be perceived by their peers and colleagues, stating that jobs given on the basis of gender, rather than academic qualifications and merit, will “be counterproductive for the same women’s long-term career progression.” He warned against adopting “a one-size-fits all scenario on all European member states” since the realities on the ground in Malta may be different to those in a Northern European member state. He also noted the difficulty of implementing such provisions in certain local sectors, particularly those which are “naturally maledominated” or in “the case of family-run businesses. The Malta Chamber fears that imposing mandatory quotas would force entrepreneurs to get side-tracked from making the right decisions in the interest of their companies.” Tony Zahra, the President of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) agreed with this assessment, saying that he did not believe this was a matter

of legislation or enforcement but that it was a question of “women willing and ready to assume the responsibilities that the job demands.” He said that he had not “come across any barriers to women on boards”. He pointed out that more women were active in the workplace than ever before since they “now are more likely to have a career that spans well beyond their marriage” and “are ready to take on more responsibility and time commitment. We do not believe that a system of quotas is the way forward,” he stated. Reflecting on these points, Michelle Gialanze, the President of Women Directors in Malta (WDM), emphasised that board diversity is not just about gender but about how all of the instruments blend together. “As WDM we are strong advocates of meritocracy, and of being appointed for one’s capabilities and not for numbers,” she said – however, equality had not yet happened, so change had to be encouraged.

When asked what could be done to include more women on boards, Ms Gialanze said that “creating and cultivating an active pipeline of female candidates” would be the most important element. Relying only on personal contacts, particularly where a board is composed primarily of men, risks perpetuating the use of the old boys’ network; to tackle this, she advocated the use of search firms and lists. She also noted that female participation across all levels of a company was critical and that this could be encouraged through various initiatives, aiming to prepare women for board membership by “placing them in roles with profit-and-loss responsibility, ensuring they have committed mentors and sponsors, and equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to confront the governance and strategy issues that boards typically face.” This, she said, would “counteract cynicism that may arise with the enforcement of a quota.”


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e Business Observer is Malta’s leading business newspaper distributed with Times of Malta every month. Editorial Coordinator Marie-Claire Grima

EDITORIAL

Publishers Allied Newspapers Ltd. Content House Group Ltd.

e quality of life Christmas is a time for contemplation, and as we write this with yet another year drawing to a close, it’s good to stop for a moment and take stock of what has been accomplished this year. The economy remains in roaring shape, with the latest economic figures indicating that Malta’s GDP is up by 7.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2017. Malta’s economy continues to outdo most other economies in the EU. Business sentiment is overall positive, although there are cracks in the dam that are starting to show and that need to be mended before it’s too late. We’ve spoken about this in numerous articles and editorials this year, but yet another case in point is Malta’s slide down the ranks in the Global Competitiveness Index, which is addressed in more detail on pages 5 and 6 of this edition. Perhaps it will have to be something that hits us where it hurts the most – our wallets – before we take long-overdue action. 2018, which for years seemed to be a distant spot on the horizon, has finally arrived, with the promise of continued prosperity across all sectors, from tourism to food and beverage to retail. In our cover story, we take a look at the atmosphere in the city on the eve of this auspicious year. The announcement that the city would hold the title in 2018, some six years ago, was the catalyst that was needed to transform the capital, from a shabby, unkempt and rapidly decomposing city to the flourishing, prosperous and extremely desirable metropolis we see in front of us today. If nothing else, Valletta 2018 has been a blessing for an area that was becoming increasingly decrepit, a capital city that much of the population preferred to avoid. But although it’s wonderful that Valletta is finally being recognised and cherished, proudly holding the title of Malta’s capital city and maximising its full potential as an attraction for tourists and Maltese people alike, truth be told, it shouldn’t have been allowed to reach the miserable state that it had in the first place. After all, the architectural gems, the Baroque heritage, the historical treasures and even the splendid views

we’re so proud of in 2017 have been there for hundreds of years. Why did it need to be endorsed by outside authorities before we found something we could be proud of? The answer is simple – because there wasn’t that much money in it. Unfortunately, as Maltese, we tend to conflate ‘happiness’ and ‘quality of life’ with how much cash we have in our pockets. There’s no other reason to explain why we ride roughshod over our architectural, historic and cultural heritage, both built and environmental, in order to put up the next quick fix that will render the greatest amount of profits with the minimum amount of effort. Two such examples that are in the press at the moment are the ex-Sea Malta/NAAFI building in Marsa, and Villa St Ignatius in the Balluta St Julian’s area, both of which suffered the onslaught of the demolition crew while the authorities stood idly by. But they are only two in a sea of such examples. As the Chamber of Architects said, “This country has many rules and regulations on paper, often uncoordinated; it is therefore easy for such rules and regulations to be ignored with impunity.” It’s the same story across all sectors. Whether the lack of enforcement is due to ineptitude or something much worse is another story, but one that we can only avoid for so long. The incredible work that has been done to get the economy firing on more cylinders than we ever thought was possible risks being overshadowed by the usual suspects – corruption, lack of good governance, and increasingly, a total lack of respect for our heritage. The overriding school of thought seems to be “If we can’t make money off it immediately, let’s knock it down, and build something that can.” But this is a short-sighted strategy. Valletta 2018 – at least, from an economic perspective – has been successful precisely because of its correctness, and the care that has been taken to conserve and complement its colourful history with a living social fabric. That exercise has resulted in a valuable legacy that’s worth being proud of - but what will ours be?

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BUSINESS OPINION

Sustaining the Valletta 2018 effect

Paul Bugeja The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) is very pleased with the remarkable results achieved during the first 10 months of this year, in particular with the fact that the positive results are spread across various performance indicators. Now that Valletta 2018 is round the corner, it is satisfying to note that the build-up of marketing towards it has generated a positive effect for the Maltese islands. Surveys carried out by the MTA indicate that Valletta being the European Capital of Culture has intrigued respondents to choose Malta and visit Valletta. Between January and September, the number of guest nights that respondents attributed directly to the Valletta 2018 effect increased from 254,800 in 2015 to 526,500 in 2017. The same surveys also indicate that in 2017 around €84 million of tourist expenditure generated in 2017 can be directly attributed to the Valletta 2018 effect. Valletta 2018 is part of a more widespread success. In October 2017, increases were registered in

total inbound visitors (12 per cent), total nights spent (6.2 per cent) and total tourism expenditure (10.2 per cent). Moreover, inbound tourist trips from January to October 2017 surpassed two million (+15.7 per cent). This figure was reached over a period of 12 months last year, rather than 10. Total nights spent reached almost 14.7 million nights (+10.2 per cent) and total tourism expenditure for the period January to October 2017 surpassed €1.7 billion (+13.2 per cent). The issue of seasonality is being addressed. As can be witnessed by both the latest statistics, as well as through first-hand feedback from industry stakeholders, the winter months are no longer shunned by travellers. Furthermore, the demographic mix that is setting foot on our islands is very positive. We are happy to note that younger

generations are choosing Malta as their destination of choice, which complements the vision that the MTA has for a modern, vibrant destination with a unique blend of history and culture. We have been working incessantly to promote Malta as an ideal destination for conferences and association meetings throughout the year and especially in the leaner winter months. In less than two years since it was set up, Conventions Malta has managed to win another prestigious international recognition at the M&IT Industry Awards. After placing third among the top Convention Bureaux outside the UK last year, this year Conventions Malta improved its position and picked up the first prize, winning the Gold Award for Best Overseas Conventions Bureau.

Over the past four years, the MTA has focused on improving flight connectivity to Malta throughout winter. Fewer marketing funds were dedicated to promote the summer months and more funds were allocated to generate incremental business in the winter months. The efforts to address the issue of seasonality are showing concrete results as the growth rate registered for the winter period November 2016 to March 2017 (25.1 per cent) exceeded that for the summer season April to October 2017 (+14.1 per cent). Next year brings exciting prospects. The biggest challenge is to fill the substantial number of seats created by the increased capacity, both during the winter and summer months. Other projects include the further development of faith-based tourism as a niche market. The latter is an umbrella

“e biggest challenge is to fill the substantial number of seats created by the increased capacity, both during the winter and summer months.”

term for, among others, religious tourism, pilgrimage, secular pilgrimage and cultural tourism with interest in religion. The MTA and the Ministry of Tourism are also collaborating on the introduction of a Skills Card that will serve to regulate and improve the Human Resources component of the product offered by tourism operators in Malta. This is being done to strengthen and safeguard the reputation of Malta’s tourism offering. Furthermore, an Insolvency Fund is being set up as a means for consumer protection, as required by EU legislation. Local travel agents, like their counterparts across the European Union, are legally obliged to provide such protection in case they go bankrupt. When it comes to conferences and meetings, the MTA’s main objectives are to target the US market as it is the cradle of associations, to continue promoting Malta for association events and to raise more brand awareness. In fact we will invest in attending IMEX USA and offering a number of opportunities for Maltese stakeholders to participate. In conclusion, there is no doubt that next year will be an exciting one. Our role is to ensure the sustainability of this build-up, so that future generations may carry on reaping the benefits that we are experiencing at present. We are confident that our incessant work will contribute towards this. Paul Bugeja is the CEO of the Malta Tourism Authority.


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“We were too optimistic in our initial targets” – American University Provost Rebecca Anastasi The American University of Malta (AUM) has been at the centre of controversy ever since its inception. The granting of ODZ land in Żonqor Point in Marsascala, by Government, prompted a public outcry; the number of students expected to have enrolled in the first year did not materialise; and recent reports of staff dismissals have made the headlines. The University has attempted to dodge criticism, including about members of its own board of trustees, mostly by staying quiet. However, the University’s Provost, Professor John Ryder, is frustrated at certain elements of the press for the media storm which has erupted over the low student intake and current staff numbers, dismissing them as rumours. “There’s nothing experimental about this. We know exactly what we’re doing. I’ve been doing this for close to 40 years myself. We know exactly what needs to be done, how they do it at every level, and every step, so this idea of just insulting the faculty and the students is a distressing one. It’s gratuitous hostility. In the long run, that stuff will go away because it will rot on the ground,” he told this newspaper in an exclusive interview. “In the long run – and I don’t think that’s very long – it will become clear that all these rumours are foolish, and they will stop because the reality will indicate otherwise. There are still people out there who don’t think we’re building a university out here. I don’t know what they think we’re building.” While initial projections had indicated that student numbers would start out at 100 for the first academic year, rising to 350 in the second, to 710 in the third and, finally, 1,220 in the fourth, current

estimates indicate substantially lower figures. “I think we were too optimistic in our initial targets and that was due to enthusiasm and excitement,” Prof. Ryder stated. The actual number of students enrolled at the University is between 14 and 16 – he isn’t quite sure – as a result of the difficulties the institution has had in attracting numbers. Most of the students are members of the expat community who already lived in Malta. “We have quite rigorous entry requirements. We’re not running around with a butterfly net, and the level of English required as a matriculating student is a challenge. We also have a small number of degree programmes, so we cannot cast the net too broadly, and as that expands then we can attract a wider range of students. And we’re brand new, so there’s not much in terms of track record,” he explained. The lack of a local market has also presented its problems since “in the short-run there is less motivation to enrol at AUM when Maltese students can take a similar degree programme at the University of Malta.” Enrolment is mainly done through student recruitment fairs abroad, to which the AUM sends its admissions staff, as well as through agencies tasked with promoting the University in international markets. Prof. Ryder specifically mentioned Russia, China, India, North Africa and the Middle East as being markets of interest, gradually expanding to North America, though he admits that this “will take some time”. Recent reports have stated that the low number of students and lack of a strategic plan have resulted in a series of staff dismissals. “A number of people have left. Some of them were dismissed, some of them resigned,” Prof. Ryder admitted, stating there were various reasons for the departures, some

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF MALTA PROVOST JOHN RYDER. PHOTO: ALAN CARVILLE

“ere are still people out there who don’t think we’re building a university out here. I don’t know what they think we’re building.” of which were personal. “I don’t like to talk about personnel matters. Maybe five or six left, or were dismissed, and all of those are being replaced. We’re advertising to replace them all and a couple of additional positions.” He stated that the challenges which have been faced on the recruitment front – particularly for some of the administrative vacancies, such as those in admissions – has also impacted the potential to recruit more students. “We’ve had a number of very good applications for Director of Admissions and Admissions Counsellors, but those

two positions are difficult to hire locally. Local professionals are experienced in processing students, but they don’t have the kind of experience we need in actively recruiting students.” Sadeen Group, the Jordanian contracting company behind the University, granted a number of scholarships this year as “a kind of pump primer”, and most of the students who are currently enrolled on campus are there on full four-year scholarships, with “a couple of them” paying tuition. “You need to infuse energy into the pump for it to start working and

then it will work on its own,” Prof. Ryder said. He insisted that while next year, the University “will be offering some awards”, based on academic merit, it is unlikely to grant the same amount of funding to students starting in 2018. Prof. Ryder insisted that the University has the necessary funding it requires to operate. “Is there funding? The answer is yes. Is there a commitment to fund the University? The answer is yes. We wouldn’t be working here if there weren’t. Do we concern ourselves Continued on page 15


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NEWS

THE AUM CAMPUS IN BORMLA. PHOTO: ALAN CARVILLE

AUM Provost insists University has funding necessary to operate Continued from page 13 with funding? Of course we do. Everyone does.” However, he couldn’t, or wouldn’t elaborate on whether the University is funded only through foreign investment or if local entities are involved. “That’s above my pay grade. I cannot with confidence tell you one way or the other because I don’t know the full investment portfolio. That’s the investors and they don’t bother me with those details and I thank them for not bothering me with those details.” Prof. Ryder outlines the University’s strategy, which for now consists of continuing to build its educational foundations, marketing the institution to prospective students and developing new programmes. Two of these have already been drawn up and submitted for approval to the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE), and seeking accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). “This is the same body that accredited Harvard, Yale, Brown, Amherst; every university in New England. If, and when, we achieve that accreditation, we join that club. That’s good for marketing; it’s good for reputation; it’s good for all kinds of things.” Continuing the work on the Bormla campus is also high on the University’s list of priorities. “It will probably take two or three years to finalise the Bormla campus, but finishing the British building should be in spring sometime. Then, of course, we have applications in for Marsascala,” he stated, which leads to another point of inquiry. Education Minister Evarist Bartolo recently commented that the University’s operators should first focus on building their reputation rather than developing a second campus. Are the original plans for a Marsascala campus still on

“Local professionals are experienced in processing students, but they don’t have the kind of experience we need in actively recruiting students.” track? “In one sense, that’s obviously true,” Prof. Ryder said, but added that the University is “making projections all the time.” “We’re projecting now for 150 students next year and we probably can project for at least another 150 the year after so this is going to grow exponentially. The Marsascala campus… I’m not an engineer or construction contractor, but if I had to guess, it could take several years to build that.” Does he know when works on the second campus will commence? “I hesitate to talk that way because it’s not my area of expertise. I take care more of the University as an academic institution than as a building,” he insisted. “The decisions of when to do this and when to do that are made more by the investors in consultation with the architects, the planning commission, etcetera. I don’t yet know when the Planning Authority will approve the application. I suppose that can happen tomorrow or it can happen a year from now.” “My guess is it will happen sometime earlier. And even then, there are preparatory things that need to happen, and I have no idea how long that will take.”

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Paradise Bay Hotel to rebrand as resort with new team at its helm Sarah Micallef The management of the Paradise Bay Hotel has recently been passed on to the third generation of the Fenech family, who have big hopes for the future growth and development of their family business. Chairman Ferdinand Fenech, who forms part of the second generation, looks back on its history and explained to this newspaper how now, the time is ripe to hand the reigns over to his children. “My father ran a number of hotels including the Paradise Bay, and in 1993, just before he passed away, he split the business between his children. My sister and I became joint owners of the Paradise Bay Hotel and we ran it together until this October, when the decision was made to acquire my sister’s shares. The hotel has now been acquired by Ferdinand Fenech Ltd, and is being run by my son, Stefan, who is Managing Director, and my three daughters, Claudette, Ariadne and Rebecca, who are Directors. I felt it was time to look to the future, which led to my decision to pass the business on to the younger generation,” the Chairman said. As the hotel is in the process of being rebranded as a resort, the Chairman asserted that there are several areas and avenues that can be improved and developed, which is where the new management team will come in. “People expect more, and you have to compete with other hotels to give clients the best satisfaction,” he said, explaining that the company will be applying for permits to expand the hotel upwards, and is also in the process of refurbishing the main area and all amenities associated with it.

PARADISE BAY HOTEL’S CHAIRMAN FERDINAND FENECH AND MANAGING DIRECTOR STEFAN FENECH. PHOTOS: ALAN CARVILLE

“ We’re rebranding the hotel, and working to find niche markets. It’s a large space, so there’s a lot that can be done.” - Stefan Fenech, Managing Director “We also plan to build a spa and more conference halls in the future. Within the next year or so, we are planning to add 160 rooms, which will give us a total capacity of 410 rooms,” he explained. Over and above that, a further expansion has the potential to add even more rooms, as the family sets its sights on the future. “The hotel sits

on a vast area which hasn’t been developed yet – that is now in the hands of the younger generation to develop.” Expanding on the development plans going into 2018, his son, Managing Director Stefan Fenech added, “We’ve also applied for the redevelopment of our lido, which is the first pri-

vate, man-made beach in Malta and is also a Blue Flag beach. We’re looking at redeveloping it to include restaurants on the beach, in addition to the existing diving school. In this way, we are looking to increase one of our niche markets: weddings.” Speaking of his priorities as Managing Director moving forward, Mr Fenech maintained that the hotel is seeking to continue the growth that it has experienced within the last two to three years, so his role will be very hands-on. “We’re rebranding the hotel, and working to find niche markets. It’s a large space, so there’s a lot that can be done, from family entertainment to seminars and conferences.”

In the meantime, the Chairman’s biggest priority is overseeing the handover of the hotel to his children. “I plan to remain Chairman for a few years until it all starts to take shape, and then I can take life a bit easier! I would like to see the hotel change totally, the way I’ve always dreamed. There’s a lot to be done, but I’ve always had a lot of enthusiasm for the business, and my son and daughters are the same, so I am confident they will carry it through.” “Tourism has been our niche since we started in the 1960s,” he continued, “and business is good at the moment, which is encourContinued on page 18


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Handing over the reins to the next generation CHAIRMAN FERDINAND FENECH

Continued from page 17 aging. But you always have to keep improving and evolving.” His son is in agreement, adding, “you need to constantly come up with fresh ideas and keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. Business has changed a lot – nowadays you don’t have tour operators filling the hotels for you, you really need to keep abreast of what’s happening. The length of stay has also changed – from seven to ten nights to about 6.7 nights, with a lot of people coming in on low-cost flights.” Asked about his thoughts on tourism in Malta currently, look-

ing forward to 2018, the Managing Director explained that within the last two years, the island has seen a lot of growth in the sector. “Malta has always been seen as a safe place to visit, and we are now getting a lot of exposure thanks to Valletta’s title of European Capital of Culture in 2018. I believe that it will have an impact in 2018 and beyond. It’s encouraging. This winter we are also seeing new flights coming in from low-cost carriers, which is also good,” he said. He feels that the main challenge will come about after the current growth spurt within the industry. “We are riding a wave of invest-

“Tourism has been our niche since we started in the 1960s and business is good at the moment, which is encouraging. But you always have to keep improving and evolving.” - Ferdinand Fenech, Chairman

ment and doing well. The question is what will happen after that. We need to measure things up and balance out our options,” he continued. On his part, Chairman Ferdinand Fenech considers the future to be bright. “Even if tourism figures do go down by a small percentage in the coming years, I don’t think we’ll suffer,” he maintained. And while he believes the business is on the right path, the time could also be right to branch into other lines of business too. “I would like to divert from tourism into another sector, so as to have a combination of business. We have always worked within the tourism industry so it would be a challenge. Restaurants are doing well, but rather than going for one area because it’s currently doing well, it is better to come up with a new idea. I believe Gozo can really flourish, and looking for business concerns in Gozo would be a worthy challenge.” Indeed, with a new team on board and a distinct sense of enthusiasm, it would certainly seem like the possibilities are endless for the Paradise Bay Hotel, and the family behind it.


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AST Group prepares to raise funds for new vessel through Prospects MTF bond issue Marie-Claire Grima International trading company AST Group p.l.c. is preparing to raise funds through a bond issue on Prospects MTF in the coming weeks, in order to finance the acquisition of a multipurpose vessel which will serve as the company’s fully-owned distribution channel. This will allow the AST Group to vertically integrate its operations into the logistics sector and provide value-added services to its clients. The Prospects MTF market is regulated as a Multilateral Trading Facility (MTF) and operated by the Malta Stock Exchange. Founded in 2011 by its CEO Emmanouil Kalamaras, AST Group commenced trading in animal feed products to different European markets. The principal products traded by the Group are roasted guar meal korma, fish meal, Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) and HiPro Sunflower meal, sourced from suppliers based in India, Morocco, Hungary and Bulgaria respectively. Its clients range from smaller animal feed producers or endusers such as farmers who are equipped to produce their own feed, all the way to multinational companies with a global footprint and annual multi-billion euro revenues. Over the past years, AST Group has gone from strength to strength and now has branches in Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, Spain, France, as well as Malta. Mr Kalamaras first came to Malta in 2013 and the island immediately drew his attention as a potential logistics hub for his operation. “As an EU member state, Malta is strategically positioned in relatively close proximity to the key existing

markets and to other markets where the company intends to expand in the near future across the Mediterranean region and mainland Europe,” said Mr Kalamaras, whose own personal experience within the shipping industry spans over 10 years. “It also has a very strong transshipment ecosystem, therefore facilitating our operations and access to the market.”

Mr Kalamaras expounded on Malta’s appeal by saying that the country is open to business, has different sources of raising capital available, and has a highly reputable shipping registry. He also cited the vast supply of professional talent available in Malta – lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and corporate service providers – as reasons for Malta’s attractiveness as a logistics hub.

“Malta is strategically positioned in relatively close proximity to the key existing markets and to other markets where the company intends to expand in the near future.”


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Over the years, AST Group has also enjoyed healthy partnerships with Maltese service providers within the logistics business. “A robust corporate structure made of companies registered in Malta is already in place to support the business expansion programme out of Malta,” Mr Kalamaras affirmed. Giuseppe Muscat serves as Non-Executive Director and Chairman of the company, together with William Wait and Dr Luca Vella as independent NonExecutive Directors. To date, the AST Group has distributed its products either by land – in containers loaded on trucks – or by sea – through chartering of third-party vessels. The volume of stock held by the AST Group is minimal, given that sourcing only takes place after a contracted sales order. It now aims to complement the animal feed operation by setting up a shipping operations and a logistics centre in Malta for the storage of animal feed products and distribution to markets around the Mediterranean and in mainland Europe, after being awarded a Maltese licence to operate as a feed store and to import animal feed. The logistics centre will be situated close to the Malta Freeport Terminals, allowing AST Group to branch out into numer-

“e acquisition of the vessel will further contribute towards AST Group’s vertical integration of its operations and to create a robust supply chain within the animal feed ecosystem.”

ous growth areas. Mr Kalamaras explained that holding higher volumes of stock is particularly important when it comes to fish meal. “Fish meal is a seasonal

product traded mostly in the summer months, so it needs a high level of inventory to maintain the continuity of supply and to expand the sales pipeline,” he said. “The acquisition of the vessel will further contribute towards AST Group’s vertical integration of its operations and to create a robust supply chain within the animal feed ecosystem. We will be able to offer product sourcing at competitive prices, product warehousing in an EU jurisdiction close to the main markets, a strong product sales teams organised in offices located within target markets, and our own fully-owned product distribution channel.” With this investment in place, AST Group hopes that its animal feed business will be further developed by introducing new products, cross-selling of its existing product lines, as well as expanding its distribution services from its hub in Malta into new territories throughout Europe. Applications for the AST Group p.l.c. €2 million 5.5 per cent 2018-2028 bond issue will be available from Financial Planning Services Limited in January 2018. Financial Planning Services Limited are the appointed Placement Agent, Manager and Registrar of this bond issue while Grant Thornton are appointed as Corporate Advisors to the Issuer.

AST GROUP CEO, EMMANOUIL KALAMARAS


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STOCK MARKET REVIEW

No LEI, no trade Vincent E. Rizzo ‘No LEI, no trade’ is the title of a circular issued on 17th November 2017 by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to all market participants. The Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) System is a G20 commitment and therefore a global initiative, not one aimed solely at EU member states. This title, which is also widely used in European Union markets in Financial Instruments Directive and Regulation (MiFID II/MiFIR) literature and articles, drives home two main messages. Firstly, that the regulator, without exception, will not allow legal entities to trade without an LEI. Secondly, that it is solely the LEI that will be acceptable under MIFID II/MIFIR. Other entity identification numbers, such as the local C-number issued by the Registry of Companies, will not be a valid alternative as one may have initially thought some months ago. MiFID II and MiFIR have necessitated the need for all legally independent entities to obtain an LEI. As of 3rd January 2018, the new regulation comes into force and failure to hold a LEI will effectively block the ability of all such entities to trade in financial instru-

ments on either regulated markets through a trading venue, or otherwise, until such LEI is obtained. This new obligation, according to regulators, is principally aimed at easing the identification of abusive market behaviours such as insider dealing and/or manipulation. All investment firms are required to report comprehensively on all deals conducted on behalf of investors so as to uniquely identify all parties to deals in financial instruments. The emphasis is clearly being placed on ‘identification’. As a result, it is felt by regulators that this effectively total transparency will render financial markets cleaner and safer. In fact, in a 9th October 2017 press release, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) describes a LEI as follows: “The LEI is a 20-digit, alpha-numeric code that enables clear and unique identification of legal entities participating in financial transactions. It was developed, following the financial crisis, as a global system for the identification of legal entities. It has proven to be the most robust identification method for legal entities and as a result has been widely used by regulators in the EU and globally.” The LEI is key to improving market surveillance and transparency; it also generates important benefits for businesses in terms of costs reduction, improved risk management and increased operational efficiencies. The LEI plays a key role in the new harmonised data-reporting regime under MiFID II and it is crucial to ensure the quality of the data reported to EU supervisors. Finally, the LEI is important for

“is new obligation, according to regulators, is principally aimed at easing the identification of abusive market behaviours such as insider dealing and/or manipulation.” firms to fulfil their reporting obligations under financial regulations. LEIs are also key for matching and aggregating market data, both for transparency and regulatory purposes. The definition of ‘legal entity’ is very wide in scope and includes, amongst others, all companies (private or public), funds, trusts, sole traders and other bodies (including associations, foundations, charities etc). Investment firms (stockbrokers, banks and other intermediaries) will therefore not be

able to execute trades on behalf of these legal entities effective 3rd January 2018 unless the LEI is provided to them for reporting purposes. As such, it is very important that entities act fast and obtain a LEI as soon as they can. Equally important is for companies seeking a listing of instruments (whether in Malta or elsewhere) to note that they would need to obtain a LEI prior to the listing date of the instruments concerned. The application process is fairly straightforward. While there are

no local issuers of LEIs, a list of approved issuers is available from the website of the LEI Regulatory Oversight Committee at www.leiroc.org/lei/how.htm. Local Operating Units (LOUs) have been established and these enable the registration, validation and maintenance of reference data and issue LEIs via online portals. The Malta Stock Exchange (MSE) has also done its part and Continued on page 24


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Continued from page 23 issued a notice to its members last week notifying that it has established contact with an accredited LOU and it is now available to act as facilitator for KDD Central Securities Clearing Corporation (www-en.kdd.si). The process documented in this notice by the MSE is very easy to follow. There are two MSE forms (one for legal persons and one for funds) that investors or issuers can complete and forward by email together with an application fee of €92 as detailed therein (an annual renewal fee is also applicable). The form requires the details of the entity applying for the LEI and subsequently asks for details on the entity’s immediate parent company and ultimate parent company. Where the entity applying for a LEI is a standalone company, it will be sufficient to indicate so. The procedure is very similar when applying for the LEI online via one of the many other accredited LOUs. The timing of the issuance of a LEI varies among LOUs but is generally expected to take a few days. However, a number of LOUs have also informed potential applicants in recent days that in view of the high demand ahead of the commencement date, they cannot

aries service investors going forward, it would perhaps not be such a bad idea for the regulators to embark on more frequent and direct information and education campaigns aimed at having as much of the investing community aware of the impact MiFID II and MiFIR will have on them. The extent of the changes coming through warrant increased information flow, and not only from service providers. Vincent E. Rizzo is a Director at Rizzo, Farrugia & Co (Stockbrokers) Limited.

guarantee the issuance of a LEI prior to this date and issuance may take a few weeks until the backlog is dealt with. This new regulatory obligation is just one of a number of changes being introduced by MiFID II and MiFIR that will directly impact investors. In truth, this is possibly a relatively straightforward and a low-impact one at that. Other

changes are likely to have a more direct and far-reaching impact on investors going forward and investors will need to be receptive to such regulatory changes as will no doubt be explained to them by their service providers in the coming weeks and months. Given the extent of change that MiFID II and MiFIR will entail, including in the way that intermedi-

“is new regulatory obligation is just one of a number of changes being introduced by MiFID II and MiFIR that will directly impact investors.”

Rizzo, Farrugia & Co. (Stockbrokers) Ltd, “Rizzo Farrugia”, is a member of the Malta Stock Exchange and licensed by the Malta Financial Services Authority. This report has been prepared in accordance with legal requirements. It has not been disclosed to the company/s herein mentioned before its publication. It is based on public information only and is published solely for informational purposes and is not to be construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments. The author and other relevant persons may not trade in the securities to which this report relates (other than executing unsolicited client orders) until such time as the recipients of this report have had a reasonable opportunity to act thereon. Rizzo Farrugia, its directors, the author of this report, other employees or Rizzo Farrugia on behalf of its clients, have holdings in the securities herein mentioned and may at any time make purchases and/or sales in them as principal or agent, and may also have other business relationships with the company/s. Stock markets are volatile and subject to fluctuations which cannot be reasonably foreseen. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. Neither Rizzo Farrugia, nor any of its directors or employees accept any liability for any loss or damage arising out of the use of all or any part thereof and no representation or warranty is provided in respect of the reliability of the information contained in this report. © 2017 Rizzo, Farrugia & Co. (Stockbrokers) Ltd. All rights reserved


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Arts Council Malta launches Festivals Malta Arts Council Malta (ACM) has launched Festivals Malta, a public cultural organisation which programs cultural activities and endeavors to make festivals and the performing arts an integral part of Maltese life. With a team of 20 talented and dedicated professionals and eight artistic directors, Festivals Malta is responsible for more than 160 activities that constitute eight festivals and five national events. Festivals Malta will also be setting up the EU-funded Malta Carnival Experience project. Carnival enthusiasts will benefit from a state-of-the-art space which will give them the opportunity to work in an exciting and vibrant environment, allowing visitors to learn about the Carnival’s history, watch full-blown parades and enjoy the creative process. “The establishment of Festivals Malta will create a strong and focused brand identity for festivals and events, increasing participation and awareness locally. It will also seek to raise the cultural profile of the country so that Malta becomes synonymous with a strong creative cultural offering,” said Director Annabelle Stivala. Festivals Malta is now a separate organisation to Arts Council Malta. This separation came about in order to keep the regulating body apart from the operating arm of the ‘parent’ entity, avoiding conflicts of interest and ensuring a more efficient kit to implement the vision and mission of the National Cultural Policy and ACM’s remit as declared in its Create 2020 manifesto.

“Festivals Malta is responsible for more than 160 activities that constitute eight festivals and five national events.”


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Employee engagement: the key to organisational success Highly engaged employees put in that little extra effort because they care about the organisation. ey care because they feel someone is caring for them. Research and practice both suggest that employee engagement may be considered the primary enabler of the successful execution of any business strategy and achievement of business objectives. Having an engaged workforce is now seen as a core competitive advantage for an organisation, linked to higher levels of talent retention, innovation, employee activation, improved employee satisfaction and customer service. As organisations strive to improve performance, employees working willingly at their optimum provide an advantage in achieving efficient, high-quality services. Thus, it has become essential for organisations to measure their level of employee engagement in order to implement initiatives aimed at developing and sustaining high levels of engagement. Unfortunately, many studies suggest that only around 30 per cent of employees are

‘engaged’. Another 50 per cent are ‘disengaged’, meaning they do the bare minimum required. More worrying is that approximately 20 per cent of employees are ‘actively disengaged’, meaning they are hard at work tearing down others and the organisation. This is also supported by results of a recent survey conducted during the 2017 FHRD’s Annual Conference by KPMG’s People and Change Advisory team, which showed that 50 per cent of HR professionals believe that their organisation’s employee engagement could be better. Given the strong link between employee engagement and business success, it has now become mission critical for organisations to make employee engagement a priority. In order to successfully achieve this, organisations must first measure and take stock of their current engagement levels. Whether an organisation is trying to improve engagement

or stem the tides of disengagement, it’s important to know where the company stands, because trying to solve a problem that one is unaware of is all but impossible. If an organisation truly wants to improve organisational performance through employee engagement, then they must go one step further and also obtain an understanding of what is driving engagement/disengagement levels in their organisation. By looking at the drivers related to engagement, organisations will get a clearer picture of and define what is truly working and what can be improved. This, in turn, supports developing an engagement strategy that generates more tangible results. Through this, organisations will be in a better position to make changes to transform their weaknesses into strengths. This will prevent organisations from succumbing to their worst enemy – stagnation – and

take a step towards staying dynamic, current and relevant. Organisations will also be able to track data over time and determine whether improvement implementations are truly affecting desired areas for change. Employee engagement is not a short-term initiative but a process that takes time and effort to develop, improve, and sustain. Through their Employee Engagement Plus Index, the KPMG People and Change Advisory Team supports organisations in taking stock, and measuring their current engagement levels through an online questionnaire answered by employees. Petra Sant, Manager, KPMG People and Change Advisory Services. E: petrasant@kpmg.com.mt www.kpmg.com/mt/peopleandchange

HSBC Malta named Malta’s Bank of the Year 2017 for second year running

HSBC BANK MALTA CHAIRMAN SONNY PORTELLI AND CEO ANDREW BEANE WITH HSBC MALTA COLLEAGUES DURING THE FT THE BANKER CEREMONY IN LONDON

For the second year in a row, HSBC Bank Malta has been named Bank of the Year in Malta for 2017 by the prestigious Financial Times monthly publication ‘The Banker’. The award recognises HSBC for making significant progress to position its business to succeed in a changed operating environment for banks. HSBC Malta received the Bracken Award which is regarded as the ‘Oscar’ of the financial world. The award is named after Brendan Bracken who was the founding editor of The Banker in 1926 and later the chairman of the modern-day Financial Times from 1945 to 1958. “This award is a tribute to my HSBC colleagues who have worked tirelessly to support our customers through a period of change in our business,” said HSBC Malta CEO Andrew Beane. “In today’s world, profitability must be supported by an increased level of compliance and risk management standards. While implementing these new standards can be challenging, I am proud that our achievements in this and other areas has been recognised as leading the industry in Malta. I am grateful to our customers and shareholders for their support, and trust that this award gives them confidence in banking with and investing in HSBC Malta.”


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Altaro wins prestigious prize at SVC Awards in London Maltese software company Altaro, the leading supplier of virtual backup solutions for businesses worldwide, won the prestigious ‘Backup and Recovery Product of the Year’ prize for their backup solution at the 2017 SVC Awards, which were held at The Hilton London Paddington on 23rd November. The SVC Awards celebrate excellence in storage, cloud and digitalisation by rewarding products, projects and services, as well as honouring the achievements of companies and teams involved in these sectors. The finalists were picked by the readers of the Digitalisation World series of trade publications, with the organisers announcing that a record-setting number of votes were submitted this year. The companies shortlisted for each category represent the very best in the industry in their respective category, and Altaro was selected by readers as having the best backup and recovery product of 2017. Altaro CEO and co-founder David Vella said, “We faced very tough competition from international heavyweights in the industry, but we made it. We made it thanks to the great team at Altaro and I am very grateful for everyone’s hard work and dedication.” For more information on Altaro VM Backup visit www.altaro.com/vmbackup or email info@altaro.com COLIN WRIGHT (RIGHT), VP OF EMEA SALES, COLLECTS THE SVC AWARD AT THE CEREMONY ON 23 NOVEMBER 2017.

PA approves masterplan for uniformity in Marsalforn outdoor catering areas The Planning Authority has approved a masterplan which will serve to ensure that a more homogenous approach is adopted by outdoor catering areas along the promenade of Marsalforn in Gozo. The approved masterplan sets out the layout and the preferred options of design furnishings associated with the placing of the tables, chairs and canopies in this area. The Marsalforn promenade masterplan which was submitted by the Ministry for Gozo allocates approximately 12,850m2 of land for the placing of outdoor tables and chairs. The masterplan will also serve to ensure that any proposed tables and chairs along the promenade will not conflict with other land uses, while promoting the pedestrianisation of the whole promenade. Individual owners and operators of catering establishments in the Marsalforn area can now submit an application to occupy the areas indicated within the plan with the full knowledge that these sites have already been approved in principle for this particular use.

Bank of Valletta to open new office in London Bank of Valletta will be opening a new office in London in the next few months. “Having a presence in London makes strategic and business sense for Bank of Valletta,” stated BOV Group Chairman Deo Scerri. “We feel that this move is in line with our plans to strengthen the bank’s international reach and elevate the visibility of the bank in strategically important locations.” The BOV Chairman, who was accompanied by Chief Business Development Officer Kenneth Farrugia and Chief Officer BOV Fund Services Joseph M. Camilleri, made this statement whilst paying a visit to the premises which will serve as the bank’s base in London. Mr Farrugia explained that the bank’s decision to extend its touch points by opening new offices in London is a natural extension to the existing offices in operation in Milan and Brussels. Through this office, the bank is confident that it will be able to tap new opportunities. “Our representative offices were originally set up to support pockets of Maltese emigrants settling overseas in countries like Canada and Australia. The BOV Group has today realigned its strategy for its representative offices, and

presently they serve to support European investors and businesses, interested in broadening their horizons, and looking at Malta to do so.” The BOV Representative Office in London will be the fourth in the bank’s network of offices which includes offices in Belgium, Italy and Libya (temporarily closed). The new BOV Office in London is expected to be operative over Q1 2018.

“e bank’s decision to extend its touch points by opening new offices in London is a natural extension to the existing offices in operation in Milan and Brussels.”


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e Shoreline concludes its 93rd Promise of Sale agreement

SIGNING THE 93RD PROMISE OF SALE AGREEMENT: (FROM LEFT) ADRIAN SCIBERRAS, ANDREW GATT, LIANE GATT AND JOE ABELA

A holistic data ecosystem empowers faster decisions Running a smooth operation in today’s world requires companies to be keenly in tune with the critical systems which keep the business afloat. We are constantly touching data from various applications and have become very dependent on what this data is telling us - so much so that these operational systems have drastically changed what’s expected of us at the workplace. While this new reality has created a lot of exciting opportunities across the board, it also comes with its unique set of challenges. One of these, quite simply, is being able to understand and process the intricacies of these systems in a way that doesn’t compromise your working routine – or worse, the very integrity of your business-critical data. For this reason, investing in an application integration solution may just be the best strategic move to grow your bottom line. Application integration solutions connect all the necessary systems, data, and processes that are essential to your business, allowing you to take real-time action on

your data. If you need to communicate by SMS, email or other means, or if the task requires you to tap into your Customer, Financial or Document Management applications – an integration tool might just be the secret ingredient that you need to streamline data flow and optimise your operations. This is where AXON comes into play – it connects your business

systems, providing you with full application integration and realtime data monitoring. Learn how AXON helps to ensure both transparency and efficiency in your business operations: www.computimesoftware.com/axon-integration. You can also email us on info@computimesoftware.com or call us on 2149 0700.

Adrian Sciberras became the 93rd client to enter into a promise of sale agreement (konvenju) for one of the residential apartments of The Shoreline’s Phase I at SmartCity Malta in Kalkara. Mr Sciberras is the CEO of Business Concepts International plc, whose property arm The General Properties Company Ltd has signed a number of promise of sale agreements, signifying their strong commitment to this project. He is among the first 100 clients to have reserved apartments in the €200 million mixeduse development that will be enjoying spectacular views, beautifully landscaped open spaces, and an assortment of

community amenities within walking distance. “Phase I has attracted a mix of buyers: from investors, buy-to-let clients and end-users, and a good response for The Shoreline’s Phase II seaview apartments, launched two weeks ago, is being received,” said Mr Gatt. The Shoreline offers a variety of luxury one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, all finished to exacting standards, with their own underground parking facilities. Enquiries and reservations for Phase II are being received at E: sales@theshoreline residence.com and T: 2180 8895 or M: 9949 7518. More information is available at www.theshorelineresidence.com

Get your swimsuits ready for omas Smith’s annual Christmas Charity Swim It’s that time of year again – the 19th edition of the Thomas Smith Christmas Charity Swim in aid of the Malta Community Chest Fund will once again take place off the pier by Sliema’s Independence Garden on the 17th December. People of all ages are encouraged to grab their favourite swimsuits and Santa costumes and brave the cold waters, in aid of those in need.  Registration starts at 9.30am and the swim starts at 10.30am. A registration form may be retrieved from Thomas Smith Group’s website (bit.ly/TSchristmascharityswim), by contacting Thomas Smith offices on 2205 8058, or by emailing charityswim@tcsmith.com.  Last year’s event was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions which could have been hazardous and unsafe to swimmers. A sum of €5,000 was nonetheless presented to the

Malta Community Chest Fund. The amount was reached through public donations and topped up by Thomas Smith Group and its staff. Ever since its inception, the Group, together with the swimmers’ donations, has collected just over €102,000. Family, friends and colleagues are urged to sponsor swimmers for their heroic gesture – any contribution is welcome. Those who cannot attend yet still wish to donate to this cause may send a blank SMS to 5061 8178 (€4.66) or 5061 9279 (€11.65); or a bank transfer to the following account: HSBC Bank (Malta) plc, 32, Merchants Street, Valletta. Account No.: 033080037-002; Swift Code: MMEBMTMT; IBAN No. : MT04MMEB44336000000033080 037002. The Thomas Smith Christmas Charity Swim is held under the patronage of the Office of the President.


Business Observer 14th December 2017  
Business Observer 14th December 2017  
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