Page 1




A cut above the rest Winners of Kamra tal-Periti’s awards programme





77. 111.

FOOD trends






In light of the abnormal increase in population in recent months, Sarah Micallef asks the experts what the benefits are for local business, as well as the challenges Malta faces as a result.

Marie-Claire Grima delves into the history and possible reintroduction of export credit insurance in Malta.




We are family: the ups and downs of running a family business Jo Caruana takes a look at the unique challenges – and opportunities – posed by family businesses, which make up no less than 60 per cent of the local business world.

47 IN FIGURES POPULATION GROWTH… IN NUMBERS A look into the figures related to population growth in Malta.

With just weeks to go before this year’s cyclists are off on their next incredible journey, Jo Caruana speaks to Foster Clark LifeCycle Challenge 2018 founder Alan Curry.





Martina Said chats to the architects whose firms’ outstanding work was recognised by the Kamra tal-Periti’s newly-launched awards programme.


stablished in 1947, The Commercial Courier is the official magazine of the The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. It is the leading business magazine, having one of the best distribution channels in the sector. The publication is distributed for free to the members of the The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry. It is also distributed with The Malta Business Weekly as well as delivered to leading business people on the island. This issue covers the month of September 2018.


Articles appearing in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.


All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited.

Maltese fashion photographer and visual artist Stephanie Galea chats with Sarah Micallef about what led her to pursue a career in photography, and bringing out the message in her work.

The Exchange, Republic Street, Valletta VLT1117 Tel: +356 2123 3873 Fax: +356 2124 5223 EDITOR

Kevin J. Borg Editorial Coordinators

Sarah Micallef Edward Bonello Publisher




Jean Mark Meli Matthew Sciriha

Content House Ltd Mallia Building, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Mriehel BKR3000

sales coordinator

Tel: +356 2132 0713

Antoinette Micallef

Elena Dimech Tel: +356 2132 0713 Design

ON THE COVER Detail of the Farsons Corporate Office Main Staircase by TBA Periti, one of the winners of the Emanuele Luigi Galizia National Architecture Awards

Malta chamber’s bronze collaborating partners SEPTEMBER 2018


CC Editorial

Budget should be an opportunity to capitalise on past successes and plan long-term As is customary every year, the summer months for the Malta Chamber mean a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the economic, social and environmental situation in the country, in view of the financial Budget of the upcoming 12-month period. With no exception, the Chamber has proposed to Government a series of recommendations, following an internal consultation process collecting feedback from committees and individual members. In total, the Malta Chamber made 30 key recommendations which include well over 60 practical measures for inclusion in the Budget document for 2019.


n its 2019 pre-Budget document, the Malta Chamber acknowledged the fact that Malta is currently experiencing a buoyant economy featuring unprecedented growth rates, consecutive fiscal surpluses, relative price stability and full employment. In fact, the Chamber reiterates its call on Government to capitalise on the present economic resilience to invest in the necessary infrastructure and safeguard future sustainability. At the same time, the Chamber calls for further competitive enhancing measures with a view to protect the recent economic SEPTEMBER 2018

achievements and ensure further sustainable growth. The context in which the Budget for next year is being designed is that of a dynamic business environment characterised by numerous internal and external challenges. These include tough negotiations on the next EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework, tighter EU rules and regulations such as the CCCTB which could be seen as prelude to increased tax harmonisation at EU level, increased migration pressures, the election of populist governments in some of our closest partners in Europe, ongoing political and economic

turmoil in the neighbouring Maghreb and Middle East, ongoing trade wars between the country’s competitors namely the US and China, and the looming prospects of BREXIT just to name a few. All of the above, compounded with the need to reform traditional segments of the economy which require major restructuring and ongoing economic, social and environmental pressures exerted by an increased foreign population resident in Malta and tourist arrivals, will continue to result in major challenges for Malta to retain the current growth momentum. 09

CC Editorial While people may have grown accustomed to annual growth rates exceeding five per cent, economic theory holds that economic cycles are made of peaks and troughs. Expectations need to be managed in a number of sectors to ensure sustainability. The Chamber is of the belief that policy makers at a national level must be made aware that, in spite of the positive economic results achieved in the last years, there are weaknesses which need to be addressed. Besides, as maintained above, there exist a number of long-term threats that must be properly addressed through effective action plans. At the same time, Malta remains very strong in a number of areas while notable opportunities exist for the country’s taking, in order to maintain this positive momentum in the longer term. With this in mind, the Malta Chamber once again calls on the authorities to address the Budget from a multi-annual perspective. This would be closer to what happens at a European Union level, where a seven-year multi-annual financial framework is drawn. This would entail planning well ahead on what is required in the medium to long term rather than looking at the Budget as purely


an annual fiscal exercise. Government should take this opportunity to initiate a thorough impact assessment of the country’s ongoing growth with a view to set sustainable targets for maximum carrying capacities and output levels, in the country’s economic segments. This study would further recommend a way forward towards reaching the set output levels and maximising returns with the highest efficiency of resources. Once this analysis is concluded, a national debate on a new long-term economic, societal and environmental master plan for the country post 2020 would be in order. The above proposals are being made in the context that the country has now managed to achieve a Budget surplus, full employment and relative price stability. In the coming years, the Chamber believes that fiscal policy should seek to finetune elements of the redistribution process whilst concentrating

on the optimum allocation of resources in the public sector and ensuring the right fiscal environment for the private sector to do likewise. Consequently, the country could benefit from efficiencies that allow it to increase output and wealth sustainably with a constant level of applied resources. The Chamber is also in agreement with Government’s declared objective of quality which is expected to characterise the upcoming Budget. The theme of quality was already mentioned extensively by the Chamber in its Economic Vision for Malta 2014-2020, which it had published as a business plan for Government. The Malta Chamber believes that this is the opportune time to capitalise on the successes of recent years and plan long-term where we want to take our country. These are exciting times indeed, and the Chamber is all too pleased to once again be an integral part of the process. cc

The Chamber is of the belief that policy makers at a national level must be made aware that, in spite of the positive economic results achieved in the last years, there are weaknesses which need to be addressed.



Is Malta’s increasing population reaching boiling point? The abnormal increase in population in recent months – an astronomical 3.3 per cent between January 2017 and January 2018 – has given new relevance to a national discussion on the country’s ability to sustain increases in population size. With the population increase mainly due to net migration, Sarah Micallef asks the experts what the benefits are for local business, as well as the challenges Malta faces as a result.


he fact that Malta’s population grew 1.2 percentage points higher than the EU average translates itself into about 5,500 persons. I do not think we need to panic because of that,” begins Finance Minister Edward Scicluna when faced with the issue of Malta’s population growth. “One has to put this into the context of our increasing labour force and various residency schemes, whose beneficiaries do not necessarily stay on the island throughout the year.” Affirming that the local business community “not only wants but needs foreign workers” the Finance Minister posits that the main complaint is the speed with which they can be brought over, with the community asking Government to facilitate 12

the procedures necessary to bring foreign workers from around the world. “As an economist and policy-maker, this policy is ensuring the avoidance of an over-heated labour market, with its wage inflation repercussions and turn-around of our current wave of high economic well-being,” he maintains. Indeed, as economist and lecturer at the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy Marie Briguglio maintains, in principle, the fact that Malta attracts foreign workers is great news. “It effectively relieves a really important constraint (our shortage of labour), a constraint that hamstrings our economy and our potential to develop more broadly. When our population grows, we get bigger – despite the limits of our physical

territory. I also consider the influx of foreign people to be very refreshing socio-culturally, for our diversity, possibly relieving some of our political bi-polarity, our homogeneity,” she says. And, as economist at E-Cubed Consultants Amanda Borg argues, a growing population means greater demand, but it also means a greater supply of labour, bringing with it significant economic benefits to local business. “The increase in the population gives rise to higher aggregate demand, inducing consumption and spending on goods, services and housing, which have a positive impact on Maltese businesses by ensuring a steady flow of new customers,” she explains. Going on to further highlight that the SEPTEMBER 2018

CC COVER STORY steep increases in population will invariably lead to strains on the local infrastructure, as well as introduce new hardships which Malta previously has not experienced. “In certain areas which are most exposed to this reality, the country is already experiencing severe issues with cleanliness and order. Certain tourist areas, which are meant to be the showcases of the country, are often seen to fall into disrepair, while cleansing services struggle to cope with their increased demands,” he warns, adding that the traffic situation, together with all its ancillary issues such as parking, quality of air and noise pollution, is also an issue that ranks high on

people’s minds – “as more cars are registered every day, commuting times get longer, which also leads to loss of productivity.” “An increase in population size will also mean a greater stress on the country’s few natural resources such as demand for land, water and energy, while leading to the inevitable generation of more waste. This will also lead to an impetus to the construction industry, which may not necessarily be sufficiently supported by the right infrastructure and urban planning. The lack of housing stock available at present is also leading to inflated rents and buying prices,” the Malta Chamber President continues.

“This doom and gloom idea of a population moving blindfolded towards a precipice may seem to occur for a while but experience shows that this will correct itself.” - Edward Scicluna, Finance Minister

higher labour supply is welcomed by businesses, Ms Borg maintains that it enables them to fill the gaps within the supply of labour of Maltese workers, both in terms of numbers as well as skill deficiencies, to respond to the higher demand. “Today, around two out of 10 workers in Malta are foreign nationals, thereby enhancing the human capital stock with new skills as well as proliferating knowledge that is shared with the local workforce. The development of new industries is enabled, which otherwise would be bottlenecked by skills shortages. This leads to a more diversified economy, including multiplier effects that spill over to other business,” she continues. Still, as Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia points out, it is no secret that SEPTEMBER 2018


CC COVER STORY Ms Borg seconds this notion, stressing that the influx of foreign workers and their families brings with it a number of challenges to the social, environmental and infrastructural facets of the Maltese economy. “Within a context where the physical territory is limited, changing landscapes within Malta’s unique character, waste from construction projects, affordability of housing, traffic congestion and multiculturalism must be properly managed,” she maintains, going on to expand on the traffic and transportation issue in particular. “The growing population as well as robust economic growth have increased pressure on the country’s infrastructure which is insufficient to meet efficient transportation requirements. The number of vehicles on the road is on the increase, resulting in more traffic bottlenecks that become even more exacerbated during the tourism peak. In fact, the European Commission has cautioned Malta to manage the infrastructure and address air quality issues as the country may risk losing tourists as well as a drop in the quality of life,” says Ms Borg, calling on policy-makers to increase capital investment to enhance the infrastructure. “This should contribute to supporting the growth in the economy on the basis of a medium to longterm master plan covering the economic, social and environmental aspects, to minimise external costs as much as possible.” Indeed, the problem, according to Dr Briguglio, is that “we are simply not prepared.” Arguing that the infrastructure was not sufficient for a smaller population let alone a larger one, the economist believes that the footprint of citizens and businesses on land, air quality and water quality has not been sufficiently well governed, and the situation is worsening. “Sure, huge infrastructural expenses (often with EU money) have been incurred, educational campaigns have been run and hand-outs in the shape of all manner of grants are designed. But that is not enough. We seem to be afraid to bite the bullet, to enforce with laws, with real penalties, to tax and to actively discourage negative impacts of traffic, of waste (including by business), of construction, and of destruction of the countryside,” she quips. “The way I see it,” Dr Briguglio continues, “the increase in people is not the problem. It’s the lack of management of our capacity that is. Think of it this way: a small sink can receive hundreds of litres of water if the drains function well, but if the drain is blocked, even drops totalling a few litres will be a problem. Right now, we are like a small sink with a blocked drain. We are not managing flows well. If we get our act together, we can receive many more people. The question is, will Government do the dirty work like a good plumber to fix the pipes, 14

“The increase in people is not the problem. It’s the lack of management of our capacity that is.” - Marie Briguglio, Economist & Lecturer, Faculty of Economics, Management & Accountancy or will it wear kid gloves when handling polluting activities?” Ms Borg also weighs in, warning that due to the already high population density as well as issues related to the waste that is being produced today, Malta cannot sustain major increases in migration flows in the long term. “Whilst acknowledging the fact that the local labour market has become reliant on foreign workers, any increases in migration flows for the medium to long term should focus on increasing in terms of value and not volume. This targets growth through increased productivity whilst ensuring that effective capacity is being created,” she attests, adding that this can be achieved by targeting highly-skilled foreign human capital to our shores, without driving out locals from the property and job markets. On the part of Government, Minister Scicluna admits that Malta’s infrastructure needs to rise to the challenge, and in his

view, it already is. “Malta is transforming itself. Better office buildings, better roads and better infrastructural projects. The next challenge is a greater fastidiousness with better quality. We need more foresight, better planning and long-term visions not just by the central Government but also at the local level, at the businesses level and all around,” he says. Asked whether Malta ought to increase its net expenditure and level of capital investment to ensure the economic momentum is sustained by enhanced infrastructure, Prof. Scicluna maintains that this is already the case. “We are already doing that. The €100 million a year investment on roads sounded over-ambitious when it was announced, but today, we realise that nothing less can be spent to cope with the wear and tear of today’s growing economy.” As for whether the country can continue to sustain such major increases in migration SEPTEMBER 2018

CC COVER STORY flows in the long term, the Finance Minister believes that the situation will stabilise, arguing, “human beings are rational. They adapt. They react. The market responds in a similar manner. This doom and gloom idea of a population moving blindfolded towards a precipice may seem to occur for a while, but experience shows that this will correct itself. Having said that, Government is carrying out studies and simulations under various scenarios which help the policymaker in the planning process.” On behalf of the Chamber, President Frank V. Farrugia explains that the Malta Chamber has, for the past years, called on authorities to address the Budget from a multi-annual perspective. “This would be closer to what happens at a European Union level, where a multi-annual financial framework is drawn. This would entail planning well ahead on what is required in the medium to long term rather than looking at the Budget as purely an annual fiscal exercise,” he says. “The Chamber recommends that in the Budget, Government initiates a thorough impact assessment of the country’s ongoing growth with a view to set sustainable targets for maximum carrying capacity in the country’s economic segments,” Mr Farrugia continues, adding that the study would consider the areas mentioned and examine the extent of sustainable growth that can be expected of each. “This will give us a clear view of the investment required, as well as a way forward towards reaching the set output levels and maximising returns with the highest efficiency of resources. Once this analysis is concluded, the Chamber further proposes that Government initiates a national debate on a new long-term economic, societal and environmental master plan for the country post 2020,” he affirms. Interestingly, the Malta Chamber’s recently released Labour Market Review for 2018 shows that a chunk of the Maltese population remains not adequately employed or not employed at all (during the third quarter of 2017, out of every 100 persons aged between 15 to 64, an average 68 were employed). I go on to ask, how can this portion of the Maltese population be addressed? And could this lead to a situation in which we’d be less reliant on foreign workers, hence starting to address the population issue in the long-term? “This is one of the successes of this Government,” Minister Scicluna affirms, pointing to the increase in the labour force participation rate and the employment rate of the population. “We raised the 2020 Employment Rate target to an ambitious one – the target of 62 per cent set up by the previous administration was ridiculously low. We raised it to the EU average of 70 per cent. I am also pleased to confirm that SEPTEMBER 2018

we have exceeded them, since the current Employment Rate as of the first quarter of this year stands at over 72 per cent,” he continues, explaining that the first three Budgets incorporated a large number of measures which succeeded in making work pay. “The most important of these were the availability of free childcare centres, the inwork benefit for parents who both work and the tapering of benefits for single parents and long-term unemployed,” he adds, before

admitting that “there are still pockets of persons who are happy to stay at home for valid justifications. But these are not seeking work. This is the reason why local business are seeking labour from outside Malta.” Economist Amanda Borg also recognises the fact that higher employment rates in Malta have been achieved through ‘make work pay’ policies and support structures that address labour market integration and social exclusion.

“The increase in the population gives rise to higher aggregate demand, inducing consumption and spending on goods, services and housing, which have a positive impact on Maltese businesses by ensuring a steady flow of new customers.” - Amanda Borg, Economist, E-Cubed Consultants


CC COVER STORY As a result, she notes that significant improvements have been registered in the participation rates of females and older workers in the labour market. Despite such efforts however, Ms Borg laments that “there are still categories within the Maltese population that require further policy action, namely persons with no or very low skills, especially women that are aged above 30, as well as persons with disabilities.” She goes on to propose extensions in childcare to cater for shift workers as well as within industrial zones to help to attract low-skilled and unskilled women, as well as fiscal incentives, targeting both employers and employees which will help to retain and attract older workers and persons with disabilities to join the labour market. “Such policy actions may lead to a lower reliance on foreign workers within certain industries such as wholesale and retail, yet this is not considered to be the case within other sectors, such as hotels and accommodation. Furthermore, it is to be noted that the higher employment rates within the Maltese population that are achieved through such policy actions are not considered to replace highly skilled foreign workers that are crucial to fill in existing skills gaps and boost productivity,” Ms Borg concludes. Finally, attesting that the Chamber has continuously advocated the need for the country to invest the proceeds of today’s positive economic performances to futureproof the economy, the President goes on to explain that this can only be achieved by “investing in education, training and labour market reforms to secure a domestic pool of workers that are able to adequately fulfil the demands of an innovative and dynamic economy in the medium to long term.” The Chamber’s proposals are primarily focused on maintaining the importance and relevance of the country’s domestic workforce, while only resorting to foreign workers to supplement areas of domestic shortfall, Mr Farrugia states. “Active labour market policies have proven successful in attracting dormant resources back into the workforce, but the Chamber believes that additional initiatives may attract cohorts wherein there still exists potential to increase employment rates. The Chamber also acknowledges the vital role that incentives for active ageing can play due to the fact that Malta’s population is an ageing one,” he says. Other proposals Mr Farrugia highlights focus on implementing best practices observed in advanced economies, such as the introduction of sector-specific working groups wherein industry and academic experts collaborate by forecasting the direction of the industry, identifying gaps in the labour market and proposing workable solutions to mitigate those gaps. SEPTEMBER 2018

“The Chamber has also offered to play an instrumental role in conducting the reforms necessary in the country’s education and career guidance systems, as well as proliferating work-based learning as a way to improve the education of soft skills and a better cross-communication between

education and reality,” he continues, before adding that “the Chamber is also well aware that the recruitment of foreigners will always be a necessity, and an important solution available to employers to address the vacancies generated by the current growing economy.” cc

“Active labour market policies have proven successful in attracting dormant resources back into the workforce, but the Chamber believes that additional initiatives may attract cohorts wherein there still exists potential to increase employment rates.” - Frank V. Farrugia, Malta Chamber President 17


The assets of a migrant labour force The upsurge in Malta’s economy has been accompanied by an exponential growth in the number of foreign workers on the island. Rebecca Anastasi asks four corporate leaders what this has meant for their business and for the island.

Mark Ransley page 23

Lena Nordin page 20

Charlo Bonnici page 23

Ivan Refalo page 20




Lena Nordin – Chief HR Officer – Betsson Group “Betsson Group is one of the largest iGaming companies in Europe, with offices in 10 locations. We have been at the heart of entertainment for over five decades. Gaming is what we do; it’s what we love. We are fully-owned by Betsson AB, which is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm Large Cap. Diversity, to us, is a natural part of that perfect mix. In Malta, we employ 900 people from 49 different nationalities. One of our mottos is ‘Be Yourself. Out. Loud. And Proud’.” How is your business impacted by the large migratory flows towards Malta? Betsson Group is powered by people, and we are always on the lookout for talent. Malta,

as a hub for skilled employees from all over the world, is a huge asset to us, and we like to think we contribute to the competence pool on the island by offering our employees excellent career paths and interesting development opportunities. Malta is part of the EU, which means that moving here from other EU countries is fairly easy. That is of course a great advantage, especially for those employees who may be relocating for the first time. An augmenting population naturally impacts everybody and calls for an efficient infrastructure, schools and childcare services, recycling and other environmentallyfriendly initiatives to the benefit of everybody. That can be challenging for a small island, but it’s a challenge well worth the reward of a prosperous society with increased opportunities for all inhabitants – expats and Maltese alike. How have you coped with cultural differences among employees to allow your business to continue to move forward? Betsson Group is a multicultural workplace and we run a multicultural business. We see the diversity this brings to our company as one of the cornerstones of our business. When we recruit, we focus on competence, skills and personality traits that we believe will help us reach our company goals. We are looking

for talent that benefits our business, and we couldn’t care less about in which shape, form or colour that talent may come. With as many nationalities as we have at Betsson, any cultural differences become less of an issue and these are treated more as personality traits. Therefore, the journey that each employee takes with us – we call it the Betsson Employee Experience – differs. We share common values and joint attributes that define us as Betssonites and make us, as a group, stand out from the crowd. Our onboarding process ensures that all new starters get a good foundation when they first join us and are introduced to our values, history, culture and ways of working. Is your business benefitting from the economic spin-offs of such significant increases in population? With the inflow of expats, the demand for local goods and services increases, helping the economy to prosper. This in turn provides opportunities for local businesses to start up and thrive, adding to the supply of restaurants, shops, salons and so on, thus increasing the quality of life for our employees as well as others on the island. Malta’s aim of being a tech hub also benefits us, since this creates an innovative environment where competence can flow, and people develop their skills and grow professionally.

Ivan Refalo – Head HR & Corporate Communications - Mediterranean Aviation Co. Ltd “Mediterranean Aviation Company Ltd, better known as Medavia, has been a success story since 1978. It is highly experienced in the establishment and operation of line maintenance stations inclusive of the technical support in the field under normal and AOG situations. It is also able to offer heavy base maintenance, full refurbishments and modifications, painting jobs and other work at its state-of-the-art hangar facility in Malta. The company possesses its own fleet and has made its name running charters to and from remote airfields of the oil and gas industry.” How is your business impacted by the large migratory flows towards Malta? The country’s migratory inflow does not really have a marked impact on our company. The company primarily seeks highly-skilled workers, hence we are not significantly impacted by this phenomenon, although some niche jobs do attract migrants who would be seeking such opportunities. Any effect this might have is only secondary, however. Do you employ foreigners and, if so, how have you coped with cultural differences to allow your business to continue to move forward? Medavia has been employing foreign employees since its inception, 40 years ago. 20

When Medavia was set up, many of its pilots and cabin crew hailed from foreign countries. The trend continued since highly-specialised technical skills related to aircraft maintenance and operations control, among others, were not available on the island. Therefore, the philosophy of embracing different cultures was ingrained in the company from the very start. Today, the workforce comprises some 20 different nationalities. The way in which so many employees from different nationalities and cultures cooperate and work together towards a common goal makes us at Medavia proud. The closing phrase of the company’s mission statement sums this up perfectly: we strongly believe that the company’s greatest assets are its personnel, irrespective of their culture, creed, political beliefs and nationality. Consequently, we invest regularly in their development, training, safety and quality of life. Acceptance, respect and positive interactions within a multicultural team were always the accepted norm for the company. This was the natural way of doing business for Medavia and it has managed this very well. Thus, whereas the reality of a more diverse workforce in many businesses in Malta might sound like a new phenomenon, this has been a state of fact for a long time and a positive one, for Medavia.

Do you service foreign clients and what have been the challenges and opportunities in this regard? Around 95 per cent of the company’s business is conducted with foreign entities, therefore foreign clients are our main customers. The major challenges are a result of market competition in some specific services provided. Ultimately, we always strive to continue delivering the highest standards in safety, punctuality and cost-effectiveness, with tailored solutions. This is the area which is most highly valued by repeat clients and this has been the case over the years. SEPTEMBER 2018


Mark Ransley – Managing Director - EEC-ITIS Malta Tourism and Language Institute “EEC-ITIS Malta Tourism and Language Institute is a merger of two schools, formally known as Malta Tourism Institute (ITIS) and EEC Language Centre. The Institute is also represented in the Council of the Malta Association of Hospitality Executives (MAHE) in the field of education, especially in hospitality and catering. The Institute’s Tourism Centre offers programmes in International Tourism and Hospitality Management from Certificate to Higher Diploma. The programme can be completed

in 18 months including internship. EEC-ITIS Malta is committed to advance education and training in and for industry, and by a diversity of means to encourage and to develop creativity and learning, for the benefit of the community in the country in which the Institute’s students reside.” How is your business impacted by the large migratory flows towards Malta? I would say the business has been impacted positively. Some of the foreigners who come to Malta for work purposes do not know how to communicate in English, so they take up lessons with us. However, most of our students come for one of the programmes in International Tourism and Hospitality Management and, while here, work parttime. Do you employ foreigners and, if so, how have you coped with cultural differences to allow your business to continue to move forward? No, I do not, and this is mainly due to complications in getting a work permit for those who want to be employed in Malta. It’s extremely difficult and takes between three to four months to actually get the permit in hand. For example, we wanted to employ someone who had all the necessary

high-level qualifications, but could only work part-time. When I called the relevant entity, I was informed that getting a work permit for a part-timer would be difficult. I’ve been told that the situation is now being improved, but work permits are always a problem. I would like to employ more foreigners since they inject new ideas, and have different ways of teaching and thinking. Is your business benefitting from the economic spin-offs of such significant increases in population? Yes, we are generating more revenue since we have more foreign students and this is dependent on the increasing population. Do you service foreign clients and what have been the challenges and opportunities in this regard? Yes, and the main challenge is providing students with their residence permits. NonEU students usually get a three-month visa and if they need to, can apply to extend this, but the process, once again, takes too long. I’ve had to turn students away because of this and, in one instance, even employed a lawyer to help one of my brightest. He was a really good student and could have done really well, but he had to return to his home country.

Charlo Bonnici – Human Resources Director - Vassallo Group of Companies “Vassallo Group stands at the forefront of several different sectors in the local market that include property and construction, furniture and interiors, the elderly and disability, catering, hospitality, architecture and education.” How is your business impacted by the large migratory flows towards Malta? As a group we employ around 1,700 individuals in diverse sectors including construction, care for the elderly and disability, property management, catering and hospitality. In the present economic climate where there is full employment and in view of a number of projects we have committed ourselves to, we are highly dependent on finding the right people and the right skills to reach our targets. As everyone knows, it has become extremely hard to find all the personnel required in Malta so, like everyone else, tapping human resources beyond our shores is a must. And that’s what we have been doing in the past few years. How have you coped with cultural differences among employees to allow your business to continue to move forward? We have decided to embrace diversity rather than let ourselves be engulfed by fear. Although we have employees coming from SEPTEMBER 2018

over 50 nations across the group, I feel that the level of integration is quite high. There is a general acceptance of cultural differences. So much so that two years ago we started celebrating cultural diversity by holding an annual event called Cultural Diversity Day. On this day, we invite our foreign colleagues to dress up in their national costume, sing or dance to traditional music from their own country and share their typical food with their colleagues. We also ensure that foreign employees participate in all events, including CSR activities. How has your business benefitted from the different perspectives afforded by having a foreign workforce? I am glad to say that although challenges remain that need to be overcome, so far our experience with foreigners has been a positive one. Language may be a barrier. Sometimes we manage to get skilled people whose level of English, for example, is not what we would have expected. We try to mitigate the problems by organising English language as well as Maltese language courses, and I am very happy to see a number of foreign employees who have mastered our language. Of course, one of the challenges is to ensure that, whichever language one uses to communicate with employees, one is

understood. Bilingual staff meetings have become the norm. Following an employee survey we conducted a few weeks ago, it was pointed out to us that we may also need to communicate with certain groups of employees in their own language, which is quite challenging. But in order to be effective, we cannot dismiss this idea. I have to admit that I truly believe in the benefits of having a multicultural society and, also, a multicultural workforce. I think that this development has helped our society mature and embrace a cosmopolitan, rather than a village, mentality. I do not share the fears some have of this reality. cc 23

CC cover story

We are family: the ups and downs of running a family business An estimated 80 per cent of the local business world is made up of family businesses – making them a very important part of the island’s economy and success story. Here Jo Caruana takes a look at the unique challenges – and opportunities – posed by this very particular business demographic.



CC cover story


here is literally a family business on every street in Malta. From the dinky grocery shop handed down from generation to generation over decades, to the vast retail, entertainment, property and construction companies run by fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and other relatives, it is no surprise that an estimated 80 per cent of all businesses in Malta are actually family businesses. “Often described as the soul of the economy, family businesses hold a crucial role in the economic growth of any country,” states Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia. “Through history we have watched great family businesses establish themselves in their local contexts; some have even managed to break international ground and become world-renown household names. Family businesses have a special place in the public consciousness. Very often, admiration is mixed with awe for the genius behind such ventures, as their achievements are widely respected.” It is with this in mind that the Chamber decided to organise a day-long conference dedicated entirely to family businesses (details on page 73). “As an organisation, we have a great debt of gratitude towards family businesses,” Mr Farrugia continues. “In fact, historically, a huge majority of the businesses that have made up the Chamber’s membership were predominantly family-owned – a trend that persists today. These businesses,

which include brands and products that every Maltese family is familiar with, have been the backbone of the Malta Chamber and are synonymous with the 170-year old organisation.” Among those with a solid background in family business is Joseph Zammit Tabona, the director of the Xara Palace Hotel Co. Ltd and Infinitely Xara Ltd. He explains that his side of the Zammit Tabona family has been involved in various businesses since around 1860 but, on each occasion, the family business never went beyond the second generation. His family’s background covers everything from shipchandling and selling beer to the navy, to managing the franchise of Pepsi Cola under the Malta Bottling Co Ltd, the Crown Corks Company and the Malta Steel Co Ltd. “I personally went into the accounting profession and ended up as a senior co-partner of one of Malta’s leading accounting firms until my retirement in March 2000,” Mr Zammit Tabona says. “My wife Susan and I always had our eye on the Xara Palace in Mdina, which we acquired on 6th April 1996. It took us three years to restore the premises to its former glory and we opened our doors to the general public in June 1999. We are now in the second generation as the Xara Collection is run by our children, Nicola and Justin. Today we place a great deal of emphasis on ‘tender loving care’ and ‘family spirit’; it’s a huge part of what we do.”

“Succession is a fact of life.” – Dr Nadine Lia, Regulator for Family Businesses, Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses



CC cover story Asked about the challenges of running a family business, Mr Zammit Tabona highlights the limited resources and the constant effort required to seek the support of bankers. “When we were developing the Xara Lodge, the entire project was being financed through our principal bankers,” he explains. “When we came to finish this project – with the global financial crisis at its worst – that bank refused to finance the last €2 million, although we were fortunate enough to find another bank willing to provide me with the sum personally. It wasn’t an easy project but, looking back, I am proud of what we achieved as a family, and especially of Justin who was responsible for the concept, development and marketing. Today we are a household name and our strength lies in the fact that we all pull the same rope, are dedicated and involved. We continually look at new opportunities so as to best develop the Xara Collection into the future.”


As someone who has grown up in a family business, Denise Micallef Xuereb, the director of construction at AX Group, is also very passionate about what family businesses bring to the market. “Our company had already developed from a one-man-band into a structured group of companies by the time the second-generation family members started working in the business,” she details, adding that AX is diversified into four core divisions: construction, development, healthcare and hospitality. “Our parents gave us the liberty to choose whether we wanted to work in the business and we weren’t forced into it, but we developed within a culture of ‘working through the ranks’. For instance, both my sister Claire

and I have worked across all the different hotel departments – little did I know that I would venture into the construction world instead! “Today, despite still being a family business and keeping family spirit at the core of our operations, we operate very much in a corporate and structured environment – so much so that we now have various boards, as well as a CEO who is not a member of the family.” Speaking about succession planning – the important matter of planning how successive generations will take over from the generation currently in charge within a family business – Ms Micallef Xuereb explains that the AX Group has been planning this aspect for a number of years.

“We have watched great family businesses establish themselves in their local contexts.” – Frank V. Farrugia, President, Malta Chamber



“Keeping family situations for family and treating work as work has been beneficial.” – Denise Micallef Xuereb, Director of Construction, AX Group with both the challenges and opportunities faced by family businesses. As regulator, her role is primarily to assist, support and provide assistance to all family businesses in matters intrinsic to them. “Our work involves representing family businesses, as well as promoting and working towards new policies and incentives,” she explains. “The work also involves registering family businesses so that they may benefit from the numerous incentives and schemes available to them. Our aim is to provide a platform for family businesses to come together and provide a comprehensive service that ensures their sustainability and longevity.” Dr Lia continues to explain that family firms require a specific understanding of how mixing business with family results in unique characteristics. “Those who deal with businesses in the absence of family influences are often uncomfortable when confronted with family businesses,” she says. “And yet family firms enjoy advantages over other businesses too.” Of course, succession planning is also a vital part of the service that the regulator offers. “Succession is a fact of life,” Dr Lia stresses. “It will happen whether the business wants it to or not, and often when least expected or desired. Successful succession, on the other hand, will occur if it is wanted and will not come as any surprise if planned properly and early enough. 

“In fact, we have adopted a number of corporate governance measures, introduced a number of boards with executive and non-executive directors, introduced audit committees, and are structuring roles and responsibilities across all levels. We believe it will help us to ensure the right checks and balances are in place when we need them to be.” As for her advice for other family businesses, Ms Micallef Xuereb stresses how important it is to differentiate between family and business. “It is such a fine line,” she says, “and that can prove very tricky. Thankfully, keeping family situations for family and treating work as work has been beneficial in our case.” Meanwhile, as the Regulator for Family Businesses within the Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses, Nadine Lia is only too familiar SEPTEMBER 2018


CC COVER STORY The earlier you plan succession, the more the founder can plan and strategise about how they would like their business to grow. Beyond that, they can also plan their retirement and pension to ensure they maintain and provide for their lifestyle. This also gives them the time to plan the transition and distribution of finances and assets, while the next generation have their minds at rest that their livelihoods are not jeopardised by a sudden demise of a family member. Early and thoughtful planning allows the family members to clearly define their roles, and it allows the same family members to acquire the skills and character development needed to take over.” Naturally, all of this ties in brilliantly with the topics and subjects that will be covered at the upcoming conference – an event that Dr Lia highly commends. “Both the Family Business Office and the Chamber of Commerce have the best interest of family businesses at heart and this conference is proof of that. Family businesses are the backbone and driving force of a robust and resilient economy, and the aim of this conference is to give family businesses an opportunity to get together, discuss and gather useful information in the carrying out of their endeavours with the full of support of the Family Business Office and the Chamber of Commerce. We look forward to seeing as many members of family businesses there as possible,” she concludes. cc


Malta Chamber celebrates family businesses in 170th Anniversary conference Organised by the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, ‘A Family Affair – Safeguarding Malta and Europe’s Beating Heart’ will take place on 1st October, and will celebrate family businesses and their achievements, as well as examine their future. Among other topics, the conference will discuss themes revolving around issues of shareholding, structure, governance, procedure, finance and succession. The attraction of the conference shall certainly be the participation of heavy-weight international names, whose family businesses have become world-wide household names. In fact, the Chamber is proud to have secured the participation of speakers from global players such as Ferrero SpA, Grimaldi Lines SpA and Buffa SpA. Ferrero Chief of Research and Development, Briano Olivares, Grimaldi Lines Executive Manager, Eugenio Grimaldi and Buffa srl founder Paolo Buffa, are expected to share their experiences running some of the world’s most recognisable business brands, and how they managed to reinvent themselves to maintain and consolidate their market share. They will be joined by members of leading family businesses from Malta, namely Denise Micallef Xuereb of AX Holdings Ltd, Joseph Zammit Tabona of Infinitely Xara, Benjamin Tabone Grech from Engel & Völkers Sara Grech Malta, as well as Peter Borg from Bortex Group Holdings. The event that will be opened by Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business Christian Cardona, shall feature speakers from Bank of Valletta plc, HSBC Bank Malta plc and RSM Malta, together with Dr Nadine Lia from the Family Business Office, who shall be shedding light on support available for the family business model. The conference is sponsored by the Family Business Office.

“I am proud of what we achieved as a family.”– Joseph Zammit Tabona, Director, Xara Palace Hotel Co. Ltd and Infinitely Xara Ltd



It’s a family affair For many who have worked through the ranks of a young or well-established family business alongside their very own relatives, they admit that they wouldn’t have it any other way. Martina Said speaks to four businesses based in Malta to find out about the ins and outs of working with family.

Pio Vassallo page 38

Charles M. Mercieca page 34

Ivan Cassar page 37 SEPTEMBER 2018

Sara Grech page 34 33


Charles M. Mercieca – Founder and Director at Brands International Ltd “Brands International focuses on the execution of complete furnishing and finishing solutions for the residential, commercial and contract sectors through a full range of top-quality European branded products all under one roof, with a showroom and office located in San Gwann.” How has your business evolved through multiple generations? The business was founded in 1985 after a split of a third-generation business involved in the supply of timber and DIY products, which was established in 1939. Our business today therefore has strong elements of a fourth-generation business addressing the building sector. In order for the business to evolve, keeping up-to-date with innovation within the sector remains key. Finishing a home, a commercial property or executing a Government contract requires extreme focus and technical knowledge, and we are continually strengthening the BI team with many non-family qualified professionals. What are the pros and cons of operating as a family business as against a non-family business? Managing a family business requires great commitment, which enhances stability in the long term. Also, family members are usually more flexible to protect the business, and are ready to make sacrifices during difficult times. Under a family business structure, normally shareholders view their interest holding of ownership on the longer term which gives time for the company to reap benefits for the shareholders. On the other hand, there could be elements that become challenging. In many cases, large-numbered families, typically involving non-immediate relatives, could possibly result in conflicting ideas, governance issues and nepotism. This would inadvertently have

a negative influence on the business, with conflict resolution becoming the order of the day! Moreover, succession can also be a trying issue, and families must plan ahead for passing ownership to the next generation. What factor/s have been the main drivers behind your success as a family business operating in Malta? There are various factors which in my opinion have contributed to our success,

namely building and diversifying our business activities, seeking to improve the product range, reaching the right level of efficiency levels as a team whilst ensuring the right employment growth, and team efforts, among many others. Nevertheless, success over a long-term period does not mean that challenges are not encountered at intervals, including meeting the changes of an ever-evolving market and unpredictable levels of competition.

Sara Grech – CEO at Engel & Völkers Sara Grech “Sara Grech Ltd was not born deliberately. In my youth, I went to boarding school in the UK and then to New Orleans, Louisiana, to do my ‘O’ Levels and ‘A’ Levels, where I graduated with honours and was accepted at the University of San Francisco (USF). I studied Hospitality Management with the intention of moving into the hotel industry. I then came over to Malta to visit my family and my mum was taken ill, so I decided to stay longer before embarking on fulfilling my career. I met my future husband and the USA was off my radar. I joined my brothers in the real estate 34

business to find that in the 1980s, young ladies were not very welcome within the property and construction industry. This was a cultural shock, because having spent 10 years in the US, I thought it insane that women were treated differently. So, I set out to open my own business. At the auditor’s office, one of the questions they asked which stuck with me was: ‘What would you like to name the company?’ Honestly, I had no clue. Several minutes later I said, ‘Sara Grech’. Sara Grech Ltd was born in March 1985, and I worked hard to build a household brand name. My passion was only one: to serve all

those that wanted to own their own home and have a better lifestyle through their purchase or sale.” How has your business evolved through multiple generations? I am the first generation, however, coming from the same industry as my dad makes me the second generation. Out of my three children, Benjamin and Semira are involved, while my youngest daughter, Hannah, is fulfilling her own dreams of building her fitness business in London. My children are very happy to have the opportunity to SEPTEMBER 2018

CC BUSINESS be the third generation, and to build the industry and add more real estate services to the brand. If only I could see the multiple generations to follow! What are the pros and cons of operating as a family business as against a non-family business? Honestly, I do not see any cons. We are very close and get on very well. We all know our roles and do not thread on each other. It works wonderfully. I think being a mother and having your children see you from their youth work hard and work happy, has instilled the same kind of attitude towards their working life. It is so true when they say enjoy what you do and let the passion run through and success will follow. They both love the business enormously, so I feel blessed that two out of three will help keep the business running. What factors have been the main drivers behind your success as a family business operating in Malta? I have always been very focused on what I set out to do. My front door policy is that when I enter the office it is purely business, and this has also been taken on by Benjamin and Semira. “Use your head not your heart,” I would say. At work, we are colleagues. No exceptions. We hold regular meetings at work, and on the weekends, we meet up for lunch, dinner and days out, but on very rare occasions do we discuss work. We travel a lot together, and I think that over the many years we have been doing this, we only get stronger as a family and as a team.

Ivan Cassar – CEO at Aeris Environmental “Aeris Environmental brings disruptive ‘clean green technology’ to drive measurable improvements and changes in performance and sustainability of key assets in the built environment. Aeris solves real world problems more effectively than conventional toxic technologies as it is uniquely based on validated green Cleantech solutions. We embrace technology and data, having made a direct investment in our AerisView® cloud-based network, which is uniquely scalable across all climatecontrolled environments, buildings, trains, planes, trucks and ships. Aeris Environmental delivers healthier and cleaner air using patented anti-microbial technology; energy reduction with an integrated approach to HVAC&R system optimisation; cost savings through reduced operating costs, less maintenance and longer life of asset; and trusted performance which is environmentally safe.” SEPTEMBER 2018


CC BUSINESS How has your business evolved since it was first set up? We originally started using Aeris products as end users through our other family-run company, Complex Co Ltd that was established in 2014. As a full facilities management company, we had also offered air-conditioning optimisation and sanitisation services to our clients using Aeris products. We did not advertise our services, so our client base was considerably small. In 2017, after a meeting in Sydney with Aeris Environmental Ltd CEO Peter Bush, it was agreed that due to our vast knowledge of Aeris products, it was time for Aeris to be introduced to Europe through an office base outlet in Malta. So, from end users we have now become representatives of the product for the European region and North Africa. What are the pros and cons of operating as a family business as against a non-family business? When we started operating our facilities management company as a family-run company, I thought that working with my wife would be a difficult scenario. Experience has taught me, however, that if the set-up is planned well, it’s just like working with any other company. We both have different roles and, surprisingly, work-related conversations during our family time is near to non-existent. The only con I can think of about running a family business is the long hours spent at the office. However, we converted this into an advantage as we are together most of the day. What factors have been the main drivers behind your success as a family business operating in Malta? I think the advantage we have in both companies is having something original that other companies do not offer. As for Aeris, most of our line of products are ‘world’s first’. The only task at hand is to educate our customers to change their methods so as to achieve what they have been trying to achieve most of their engineering life. In the past, the Maltese mentality was to look to our neighbouring European countries for reference, but today, Maltese businesses have built a strong backbone to be the first in Europe. The higher standards of expectations by Maltese businesses put us in the right location.


Pio Vassallo – CEO at Vassallo Group

“Vassallo Group carries a 72-year legacy, and over the years has diversified its operations that brought about expansion and investment. Although it started as a construction company entrusted with removing debris caused by World War II back in 1946, today, Vassallo Group stands at the forefront of several sectors in the local market – in construction as well as other sectors, namely joinery and interiors, elderly and disability, catering, hospitality, architecture and education. As a group, we employ around 1,700 persons across the different sectors, some of whom have been working with us for many years.” How has your business evolved through multiple generations? My paternal grandfather Pio, who started out as a farmer, saw a window of opportunity in the aftermath of the destruction caused by the War, for able-bodied people like him and his nephews, Mikelang and Guzeppi Gatt, to offer their services by utilising a truck in my father’s possession to do the job. They were later joined by my uncle Cikku, and this was the seed for the eventual formation of Vassallo Builders. In 1965, my grandfather and uncle amicably ended their partnership with our relatives, the Gatt brothers, and formed their own enterprise. My father, Nazzareno, the present group Chairman, joined the family business in 1967 and took a leading role soon after. As a family, we are very much involved in the daily running of the business. My father is group Chairman and myself group CEO. My sister Natalie leads CareMalta, whilst my brother Ruben heads Vassallo Group Realty, our property management company. My brother Chris is Group Strategy Director as well as Director of CaterEssence, our catering

arm, whilst my sister Charlene, a lawyer, contributes as group Director. What are the pros and cons of operating as a family business as against a non-family business? Within our group, we have a healthy mix of family and non-family members who occupy both executive as well as non-executive roles. Ing. Alex Tranter leads CaterEssence, whilst Jonathan Buttigieg heads Vassallo Builders. Other executive and non-executive directors who are not family members contribute in the various boards within the group. This is, in my opinion, the right recipe for a successful business. Although we are a closely-knit family which obviously has a lot of advantages, by also involving non-family members we get different perspectives, which is very important, particularly within one of our most important boards, the consultative board, in which new business opportunities are discussed. What factors have been the main drivers behind your success as a family business operating in Malta? Our values define the way we do business, as well as the way we interact with our employees, clients, partners and customers. Our four core values are excellence, integrity, respect and innovation. As we consolidate our different operations or expand into new business segments, recruit fresh talent and strive to be true to our mission statement ‘Building on our success’, these values guide us in the way we conduct our business and the decisions and actions we take. I think this was the main contributor to the success achieved in the past 72 years, and will need to be central in all we do to ensure further success in the future. cc SEPTEMBER 2018


Challenges, success and succession of family businesses in Malta By Dr Andrew J. Zammit, Managing Partner, GVZH Advocates – Author and Dr Yasmine Aquilina, Advocate, GVZH Advocates – Co-Author


amily businesses unquestionably form the backbone of the Maltese economy. From small family-owned retail outlets to larger family-established companies or groups of companies operating high-tech industrial facilities for the manufacture and export of sophisticated consumer goods, world-class breweries and beverage bottling facilities, five-star hotels, and large real estate developments, the family unit has always been of critical importance – not only to the development of Malta’s social fabric but also to its economic development over the past two centuries. And this importance is only increased by the consideration that employment in the private sector is largely accounted for by family-owned businesses. Like any other businesses, the dynamics at shareholder level have a significant influence on the way the business operates. Thus, for example, a private-equity owned company seeking maximisation of profits as its primary goal is bound to be run quite differently to a family-owned business passed down three generations which will be more intimately connected to the very market that it services. This connection typically brings a stronger social and ethical dimension to the conduct of that business, whereby the pursuit of profits are generally not the sole objective and other social considerations are brought to the fore. One typical example from Italy, which is close enough to home, 40

would be FIAT, which has had a significant impact on both the social and economic development of Torino over the years. It is also true, however, that shareholder dynamics within a family business are often complicated by the fact that shareholders are not only participants in a collective business venture, but also members of the same family unit, with all the associated dysfunctions and idiosyncrasies which such relationships bring. The family unit involves emotions and behaviour that would rarely be found between unrelated business partners – emotions and behaviour created on a personal and family level, and which are inevitably brought into the business and very often hinder the proper running of that business. Common examples would be the hitherto prevailing practice of excluding female family members from family businesses ostensibly due to their homemaking commitments, and key leadership functions being occupied by family members on the basis of their gender, age or line of descent, rather than on the basis of objective assessments of merit, suitability and skill. As legal advisors to several local family businesses both large and small, our firm is regularly involved in successionrelated issues which must be addressed on an ongoing basis. The passing down of ownership and control from one generation to another is always a highly sensitive affair.

The careful handling of such situations necessitates the involvement of experienced external advisors to facilitate the succession process through the creation of appropriate structures, mechanisms and protections intended to safeguard not only the interests of the shareholders and family members, but most importantly the preservation of the long-term interests of the family business in question. In many cases options such as buy-outs and consolidation of shareholding should also be carefully considered as possible routes to ensure that every family member’s interests can be addressed to the fullest extent possible. Typical considerations faced by external advisors when handling a family business succession plan include the following: - Preservation of the financial benefit derived from the business by older members of the family to preserve their post-retirement quality of life; - Sensitivities of older family members relating to the relevance of their knowledge and experience in a modern business environment somewhat farremoved from the prevailing environment at the peak of their careers; - Conservative outlook on the part of older generation family members which impairs the undertaking of new investments, distribution channels or business methods; SEPTEMBER 2018

CC BUSINESS - Fragmentation of shareholding created by the multiple divisions of shares amongst siblings or family members, creating the risk of regular divergences in the objectives of the business in question; - Raising of finance from external sources for capital expenditure or working capital requirements; - ‘Power struggles’ between family members to occupy key executive roles within the business; - Methodical handover of key external business relationships from one generation to the next; - Family members who lack commitment to the family business or do not contribute to the same extent as other family members expecting equal financial reward for their work; - Rigid remuneration structures which are based more on seniority within the family unit rather than on skill, capability, commitment and/or effort; - Unsophisticated corporate governance practices, including irregularity and/or informality of board meetings, absence of non-executive directors and lax internal controls; - The cost of reorganising shareholding due to capital gains and duty on documents liabilities due upon the transfer of shares from one family member to another. The list goes on. Whilst several of these considerations can be managed effectively through the involvement of the appropriate legal, accounting and tax professionals, it is clear that the commitment of older family generations is critical for the success of any transition of ownership and control of a family business. In cases where older generations pay lip service to a succession plan ‘in principle’ but fail to follow through with action

Dr Andrew J. Zammit

to implement the required changes, real risks of material and irreversible damage to the family business are created as internal dysfunctions distract the family members from their business. The Maltese Government’s recent initiative of introducing various incentives through the Family Business Act has been received favourably by the local business community. A significant number of local family businesses have availed themselves of the benefits introduced by the Act, particularly the reduction in the duty on documents and transfers applying to transfers of shares by existing owners to their descendant family members. Indeed, the original deadline of 31st March 2018 was extended to 30th September 2018 to accommodate the large influx of families that have taken up this

opportunity to reorganise themselves. Many of the families that we have advised through this process have applied a mechanism of donating the shares in the family business to their children (next-generation), whilst retaining a right of usufruct so that the benefits of dividends and voting rights remain vested in the donor for a period of time, typically vita durante. Families that have not yet considered availing themselves of the benefit within the time-window of 30th September 2018 are strongly advised to speak to an advisor of their confidence to understand the benefits, mechanisms and implications of the process. At the time of going to print it is still unclear as to whether or not a further extension to the 30th September deadline will be applied. Whilst this procedure will not serve to address wider governance and organisational issues, it certainly helps families empower the next generation through the vesting of ownership of the family business (albeit subject to the usufruct) and pass on the proverbial baton. The complexity of managing a succession process carefully and correctly cannot be overstated. Families looking to rethink their internal ownership, governance and organisational structures would be advised to seek professional guidance at an early stage from advisors enjoying the confidence of all family members so that the interests of all involved can be managed as smoothly as possible. The alternative of having divisions and factions created within the family unit very often threaten the integrity of the family business not only economically but also on a familial level. cc GVZH Advocates, 192, Old Bakery Street, Valletta. T: 2122 8888; E:

Dr Yasmine Aquilina SEPTEMBER 2018 41


From one generation to the next


rom the shop on the corner to the multinational organisation employing tens of thousands of people, the vast majority of commercial enterprises worldwide can be considered family businesses. According to various studies, the vast majority of Maltese businesses are familyowned, accounting for around 80 per cent of the Maltese labour market. “Contrary to popular belief, family businesses don’t only comprise a great proportion of businesses in small countries like Malta, but rather they have a significant presence in the global economy,” says Maria Farrugia, Audit Senior at DFK Malta. “Having such a significant physical presence, local family businesses can be considered to be the backbone of the Maltese economy.” DFK Malta has worked with family businesses for over 30 years, having assisted them at different times in their business cycle. “Our services span from corporate advisory and corporate services, which include restructuring of companies, business transfers, registration with the Family Business Act, drawing up of succession plans, family constitutions and family charters, to other conventional services which we can offer as an audit and accounting firm – such as financial audit, preparation of vat returns, bookkeeping, preparation of management accounts and general business advisory services.” As yet, there is still no universal definition of a ‘family business’, although several have been put forward. “Through the Family Business Act, the Maltese legislator has created a definition which addresses different types of businesses, namely listed companies, limited liability companies, registered partnerships en nom collectif, partnerships en commandite, trusts and any other registered form,” says Ms Farrugia. “In the case of companies, in order to qualify as a family business, the Act states that all the company shares must be owned by a minimum of two family members subject to certain conditions. They can be the family business owner’s spouse, ascendants, descendants in the direct line and their relative spouses, brothers or sisters and their descendants.” “At times, businesses were required to restructure by transferring shares from one family member to the other in order to be able to satisfy the requirements laid out in the Act’s definition. With respect to partnerships, the full capital contribution to the partnership should have been made by two or more family members; and with respect to trusts, all the beneficiaries must be owners and family members within the same family.” “The Act further states that no family 42

member can own more than 80 per cent of the company’s shares or beneficial interest, contribute more than 80 per cent to the partnership’s assets, benefit from more than 80 per cent of a trust’s property, etc,” Ms Farrugia continues. “Furthermore, a business will still be considered to be a family business if employees who are not family members and who have been in continuous employment with the business for three years, own not more than 10 per cent and if other non-family members own not more than 5 per cent.” Like any other kind of business, a family business comes with its own particular set of challenges. Ms Farrugia says that issues which trouble local family businesses include those relating to attracting and retaining the right people, and the effect that legislation, policy and competition can have on their business operations. “Conflicts which tend to arise internally are usually those relating to different family members having different expectations from the business; for instance some individuals might look at the business as a ‘bank’ from which they can just withdraw money whenever they need it, whilst other members might disagree with this approach as they see that it is not a sustainable one. It is very common for family wealth to lead to such a dependency on the business,” observes Ms Farrugia. “Other conflicts include those relating to succession or business transfer. Let’s say a founder or owner passes away suddenly, with no succession plan in place; the business is very often automatically passed on to the children or the spouse, who at times would have no idea of what goes on in the business. Conflicts can arise amongst the descendants as they try to decide which roles to take in the business.” Since the transfer of business ownership and management is one of the toughest challenges that businesses are faced with, it is never too early to start planning for business succession, whether the business is staying in family hands or not. “Many business owners tend to think that it is still too early to plan for the business’ direction after their resignation or retirement, once they are still feeling healthy and retirement still seems to be so far away,” Ms Farrugia says. “But unfortunately, the future is unknown to us all and many businesses have had to face an unexpected transfer following the sudden death of the owner. These situations are already difficult in themselves, not only for family members but also for employees, so one can only imagine the crisis with which the business is faced if there is no plan in place for the successor.” “The head of a business should draw up a succession plan, with the help of professional

Photo by Inigo Taylor

Family businesses comprise the overwhelming majority of businesses in Malta, but without careful succession planning, even the soundest business can fall to pieces. Maria Farrugia, Audit Senior at DFK Malta, speaks to Marie-Claire Grima about how the Family Business Act can help such businesses groom the new generation for success.

advisers, which should be revisited and revised if necessary to give direction to their successors. Additionally, throughout their lifetime, business owners should communicate with family members and employees to involve them in decision-making, and to share their skills and experience with them, so that these are eventually carried forward to the business’ next generation. If the owner’s successor enters the business only after the owner has resigned, it will be far too late to get accustomed to the way things are done in the business.” Some of the incentives offered under the Family Business Act to encourage succession planning include the reimbursement of advisory fees in connection with the succession or transfer of the business amounting to €2,500 per annum for five years, i.e. a total of €12,500, as well as reimbursement of training or education expenses of up to €1,000 per annum. “I believe that this incentive will encourage business owners to seek SEPTEMBER 2018


“If a founder or owner passes away suddenly, with no succession plan in place; the business is very often automatically passed on to the children or the spouse, who at times would have no idea of what goes on in the business.”

professional assistance in devising a succession plan for their business and in creating other governance structures such as family constitutions or shareholders agreements to regulate the family members’ roles within the organisation. It will also increase awareness and sharing of know-how amongst business owners and their employees,” Ms Farrugia says. Ms Farrugia adds that the succession plan of a business should also take into consideration the number of family members relying on the wealth generated by the business, which tends to increase with each generation. “Consequently, succession planning should ensure that the business’ wealth is being safeguarded and that it is being invested wisely to secure the business’ competitiveness and success”. “Through the Family Business Act, registered businesses are encouraged to invest in their organisations through a microinvest tax credit of up to €70,000 – instead SEPTEMBER 2018

of the standard limit of €50,000 available to all businesses – and a micro loan guarantee of up to €500,000. The Family Business Act also allows family businesses to benefit from the Investment Aid 2014–2020 framework whereby when a family member or employee takes over the business, the condition that assets be bought from third parties who are not related to the buyer shall be waived. Other governance incentives include arbitration of up to five sittings with a value of €2,500 in order to establish the business’ fair value, and the positive consideration of lease renewals for businesses occupying Government premises, where the intention is to ensure the continuity of the family business between family members.” Ms Farrugia also believes that the lack of dedication and drive towards preserving the family business comes as a result of children feeling entitled to family wealth and perhaps not appreciating the effort put in by the

founder when setting up the business. “Not only does this jeopardise family wealth but it also puts to risk the survival of the business. This can be avoided by educating upcoming generations to take responsibility for the preservation of family wealth; encouraging their involvement in business decisions; setting up governance structures to regulate the family members’ involvement in the business; preparing a clear succession plan; and setting up a protective trust to regulate the way in which family wealth is to be used.” Here, the Family Business Act can again provide assistance by further facilitating the transfer from one generation to the next. “Registered family businesses are entitled to fiscal incentives which facilitate the transfer of the business from one generation to the other. For instance, duty on immovable property is chargeable at 3.5 per cent (instead of 5 per cent) for the first €500,000 of the value of the property being transferred. When transferring shares or interests in a partnership, trust or foundation registered as a family business, the first €150,000 of the value of shares or interests are not subject to duty which is normally chargeable at €2 or €5 for every €100 or part thereof of the higher of the amount of the consideration or the value of the shares or interests being transferred. Additionally, parents donating their business’ immovable property or shares (or interests) to their children till the end of September 2018 can benefit from a reduced stamp duty of 1.5 per cent (as opposed to 5 per cent).” Ms Farrugia believes that the implementation of the Act and the research behind it has and will continue to raise awareness of the issues that family businesses are faced with. “Business owners tend to be unaware of the fact that other businesses have similar conflicts – so hopefully owners will be encouraged to persist with the knowledge that their counterparts have also been through challenging times. Furthermore, this increased awareness together with the incentives offered by the Act have led to the promotion of better practices, such as enhanced business organisation and early planning for business transfer – which in themselves both increase the chances of long-term business survival.” “Many family businesses have had their continuity threatened by several of the issues mentioned above. I think that now family businesses have easier access to professional assistance when they need it the most, and by being encouraged to take a proactive approach, they will be in a better position to resist when times are challenging. Ultimately, keeping in mind the significant presence of family businesses in Malta, by supporting family businesses we are safeguarding the success of most local businesses. I also believe that the knowledge acquired from registered family businesses will serve to identify other crucial areas which were previously overlooked, which can be addressed through further development of the legislation.” cc 43


Looking long-term through succession planning Family businesses are the heart of the Maltese economy and their success relies heavily on their ability to plan for the future, according to Albert Frendo, Chief Business Development Officer Credit at Bank of Valletta plc. Here, he speaks to Rebecca Anastasi about how succession planning can ensure these businesses live long and prosper.


ince post-independence, the Maltese economy has relied on the strength and sustainability of family businesses, which have become the bedrock of the islands’ prosperity. The recent spate of legislation – the Family Business Act, enacted at the beginning of last year – has highlighted the centrality of these small and medium companies to the country’s future, cementing into law initiatives and commitments aimed at guaranteeing continuity. “Family businesses tend to think ahead,” Bank of Valletta’s Chief Business Development Officer Credit, Albert Frendo explains. “The philosophy behind a family business is to move beyond the short-term, with an emphasis on building an asset base for the founder’s children and their children’s children.” He contrasts this with larger businesses that are more likely to think in terms of dividends, results and growth in the short-term, stating that the smaller 44

enterprises build their “focus on future generations”. Indeed, these businesses are defined by two key elements, Mr Frendo states: values and resilience. “This was evident in the financial crisis when family businesses, especially in Europe, were considered the most resilient to the crisis. They absorbed losses, they sought to maintain their workforce and they soldiered on, knowing their objectives were not short-term. They knew the need to ensure a better future, to ensure a future for the next generation,” he asserts. He aligns this commitment with that of the bank to support their customers. “We have an effective business model of relationship management,” he says. “We are very close to the family businesses and we can share practical experience on how to conduct it. At BOV, we’ve always given weight to the extent of succession planning of our customers

and its importance in safeguarding the future.” He points to the changes which have occurred over the years, stating that, today, there is much more demand on organisations to ensure they abide by legislation. “The way we’re looking at businesses now has shifted dramatically. It’s costlier to run a business since you need to have proper governance and a proper set-up,” he states. With reference to studies conducted on the sustainability of family businesses internationally, Mr Frendo notes that “there is a tendency for one to have a romantic view of a family business distant from office politics, strife or disjointed goals,” but the reality shows that only one third make it to the second generation and even less to the third. “Whether such statistics apply to Malta is a moot point – what one needs to question is whether the challenges that typically apply to family business internationally apply to Malta as well,” he explains. SEPTEMBER 2018


“We are proud to be actively working to create understanding of the importance of succession planning, allowing family businesses to live their credo and do something to ensure their continuity.”

Photos by Alan Carville

Mr Frendo seems to think they do and he names poor succession planning as “an obvious challenge” which the bank is trying to mitigate by helping family businesses plan their survival and continuity. “In Malta, businesses, unfortunately, tend to look at succession planning as solely a way to save tax, but if you look at it in these limited terms, succession planning will not work, and your business will find itself in difficulty.” This issue is compounded by another weakness of family businesses – the tendency for all decision-making to be vested in the hands of the founder of the business. “Rudy Giuliani, the ex-mayor of New York, is quoted as saying that a good leader is surrounded by good people. This sounds obvious but, in reality, there are a number of ‘leaders’ who prefer not to be challenged, and who prefer to be surrounded by loyalists.” These businessmen or women usually tend to take all decisions, and this has SEPTEMBER 2018

serious consequences on the future viability of their company, according to the bank’s Chief Business Development Officer Credit. These concerns have resulted in the bank attempting to mitigate any risks to the viability of businesses and the economy. “Ultimately our business is one of risk management, and one of the obvious worries is business continuity. If we’re lending to a successful family business, but there’s the prospect of complications, the moment the person leading the company becomes ineffective, this could challenge business continuity, and that’s a big problem for the bank,” he asserts. Another concern highlighted by Mr Frendo was the resistance some family companies have to the idea of diversifying their businesses, especially as their families start to grow. “A huge challenge for a family enterprise is when the number of family members begins to increase, resulting in smaller units within family structures.” Indeed, he sees diversification as key to counteracting the issue. “While in the short term the business will be weakened as it loses resilience, in the longer term such a route may effectively be the best one to ensure business continuity,” he insists. Hence the need for good succession planning, which is heavily reliant on good governance, Mr Frendo explains, and “a good planner of succession planning is to ensure the business can continue beyond the person involved, while the person is still leading the company.” This goes “beyond identifying a successor”, Mr Frendo continues, “but ensuring the right notes are there for the business to be safe in its journey in this competitive and global world.” He points to some success stories, stating that there are plenty of examples of lucrative, global Maltese family businesses, in diverse sectors, which have managed to make inroads around the world and, as a result, are trusted by international banks. “They have a well-thought out structure and are a safer bet which the bank can support, so they have more negotiating power,” he claims. A proper family charter, delineating the difference between family and business needs, is essential to achieve this, in his view. “There’s a lot of emotion involved and if there is a proper family charter specifying how to recruit, when to retire, how family members are promoted, whether on consanguinity or meritocracy, this will have a huge bearing on the survival of the family business.” To help family businesses on their journey to implement good governance structures

and ensure they live long into the future, the bank has embarked on a strategy which includes enhancing awareness of these issues. “We are proud to be actively working to create understanding of the importance of succession planning, allowing family businesses to live their credo and do something to ensure their continuity.” He refers to the information seminars organised by the bank, in collaboration with the Family Business Office led by Dr Nadine Lia, bringing specialists and professional advisors who deal with family businesses in their day-to-day work to speak to those running such small enterprises. This has also been done in light of the new Act enacted last year. “The backdrop is this raft of legislation which is providing more impetus for people to get invested,” he explains. Mr Frendo also describes ways in which the bank is incentivising customers to go through structured succession planning, aided by specialists provided by BOV, who also give professional advice. “We pride ourselves on knowing our customers and our experience and knowledge of the market can help our family business owners. While, in the past, the relationship may have been more about giving customers a feasible loan, today attention has turned to the long-term. This is ultimately in the customer’s own interest and that of his family, and we pride ourselves on being their partners,” Mr Frendo concludes. cc




Malta’s Growing Population

475,701 5,996 16.6% Malta’s population as it stood at the end of 2017.

The number of foreigners, both EU and non-EU nationals, who left Malta in 2017, partially offsetting the population increase.

The percentage of people in Malta under 18.

11,738 3.3% 18.8% The number of EU nationals who became residents of Malta in 2017.

The population increase when compared to 2016.

The percentage of people in Malta aged 65 and over.

8,434 36,000 2,784

The number of births in Malta in 2017.

The number of people in Malta aged 89 and over.

0.1% 32.9%

The population of Malta as a percentage of the total population of the EU.

The population increase Malta registered per 1,000 residents – the highest in the EU.

Source: Malta International Airport SEPTEMBER 2018


Source: Gozo In Figures, National Statistics Office, Malta


The amount the population has increased by since 2014.

Source: NSO, Eurostat

The number of non-EU nationals who were added to Malta’s population in 2017.


Clean air on demand


cross Malta, the air-conditioner is at once a common and welcome sight for any and all trying to escape the punishing summer heat. However, any experienced owner will tell you that, though often vital in keeping daily life moving, these units are notorious for their potential to spread bacteria through the air, causing any number of minor illnesses, even in spite of standard maintenance such as filter changing. As described by CEO Ivan Cassar, Aeris Environmental is a company that has taken this problem incredibly seriously over nearly two decades in business across three continents and myriad cultures. Aeris Environmental Ltd was established in 2000 in Sydney, Australia, originally under the different company name of Aeris Technologies Ltd. The European base of operations was officially established around a year ago, and although Mr Cassar’s Maltese nationality was an initial prompt towards setting up on the island, the key reasons behind the decision were based on solid factors. “After intensely studying the European market, we agreed to operate from Malta for two basic reasons. Firstly, the geographic location makes it highly accessible for Europe and North Africa. Secondly, today’s Maltese businesses have


built up enough of a strong backbone to compete amongst the best in Europe. These higher levels of expectation by the Maltese business community put us in the right location. This is not to mention the hard work put in by Malta as a country to meet energy saving targets and to preserve the environment, both of which are key features in the design of Aeris products,” he maintains. Back in 2000, the initial company profile stated “development and sale of products to eliminate biofilm growth in air-conditioning systems and water treatment systems to enhance indoor air quality.” Mr Cassar explains that at the time of founding the company, the common belief was that the idea of clean and healthy indoor air was something of an easy sell. It was quickly discovered that the opposite was true – a situation that has apparently continued up until this day, and one that Mr Cassar finds concerning. “Studies have suggested that Europeans can spend up to a surprising 90 per cent of their time indoors. With indoor air pollution consistently ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health by the European Environment Agency and its Science Advisory Board, it’s easy to imagine that this could be slowly killing us,” he affirms, adding that “although we know that the quality of indoor air can be adversely affected by introducing gases and other chemicals, organic pollutants such as fungi and microbial contamination can be hard to identify, and their impacts on human health even harder to understand. I don’t believe that we can know the extent of mould and the like in both homes and workplaces, and more worryingly how it might affect the occupants, and yet still not be able to address the issue.” The World Health Organisation echoes this issue, stating that, in Europe in general, anywhere from 10 per cent to 50 per cent of homes and buildings suffer from build-ups of damp and mould, and that this can raise the chances of respiratory problems up to 50 per cent above the average. This is where AerisGuard, the company’s signature trademarked product, comes in. “Aeris’ background lies within the health sector, as the original use of our enzyme-based technology was for hospital tool cleaning. The idea was to remove the stubborn biofilm layer from hospital operating tools without tarnishing the metal. This technology was

Photos by Alan Carville

In a country where the absence of air-conditioning in a home or office is more surprising than its presence, few may stop to consider the risks lurking behind what feels to most like a life-saving system. Here, Lewis Pitcher talks to Aeris Environmental Europe CEO Ivan Cassar about the importance of education, and leading the way in the drive for healthier humans and machines.

“We agreed to operate from Malta for two basic reasons. Firstly, the geographic location makes it highly accessible for Europe and North Africa. Secondly, today’s Maltese businesses have built up enough of a strong backbone to compete amongst the best in Europe.”

later transferred to the air-conditioning sector due to the large presence of biofilm in airconditioning cooling coils. Most commercial coil cleaners active today, which are used by many air-conditioning companies, use corrosive bleach-based chemicals that simply remove bacteria and damage the cooling coils. This is not to mention that after a few weeks, the bacteria will re-grow, and this time find better areas in which to grow in the already tarnished metal surface,” he warns. The key concepts of ‘Clean’, ‘Protect’ and ‘Optimise’ have become the driving philosophy behind the company and mark the three stages of the AerisGuard process, Mr Cassar explains. “For cleaning the coil surface we use the AerisGuard™ Bioactive Multi-Enzyme Coil Cleaner which is a proprietary enzyme based cleaner and surface preparation product for HVAC&R evaporator coils for domestic, commercial and industrial air handling installations. We then protect the coil using the AerisGuard™ Bioactive coil treatment solution for indoor heat exchange coils, which provides up to 12 months of protection to control and prevent mould, fungi and odour causing bacteria. The optimal part of the process SEPTEMBER 2018


was a more recent addition since, due to our treatments, we have seen significant increases in air flow that can dramatically reduce energy consumption. A single clean would bring back the efficiency of the cooling coil to when it was new,” he continues. While the air-conditioning and refrigeration sectors are still where Aeris is most prolific, the growth in the company has seen business expand into a wide variety of areas and often as a market or even world leader. “Aeris is continuously introducing products that are considered to be ‘world firsts.’ Apart from AC and cold room cleaning, which are both offered with a substantial 12 month warranty, we also offer an extensive range of services including everything from restoration and corrosion protection on many items of HVAC equipment, to providing cleaning products specialised for beer lines, ice machines and even carpets and soft furnishings,” says Mr Cassar, going on to highlight one such ‘world first’: the AerisGuard Epicoat treatment for oven range hoods. “This is a non-toxic coating that lasts for up to six months, which is simply peeled away, taking accumulated grease and grime SEPTEMBER 2018

along with it,” he maintains. As with any business, however, there have been challenges to face. With the amount of new ground that Aeris is treading, it is inevitable that the particular challenges it faces would be unique as well. The biggest challenge in Malta and the rest of Europe, according to Mr Cassar, is educating people about the need to change. “There are a lot of common questions that we get, mostly about cost, time and necessity. Firstly, it will actually save clients money on energy bills while achieving the best indoor air quality (IAQ) with a unique international warranty of 12 months. Secondly, you only apply it once a year, which is far less often than anything else you would use on your cooling coil to remove bacteria for the same effect. When it comes to corrosion, an outdoor unit starts forming rust within the first nine months. By the time a normal warranty is over, the corrosion would already be in an advanced stage. If the application is carried out prior to corrosion, you can take advantage of the five-year warranty protection.” Despite this, Mr Cassar is positive about both the company’s progress so far as

well as the prospects going forward, but recognises that there are key battles still to be fought. “Aeris Environmental Europe in Malta has taken giant steps in the first year, by building an already extensive client base with large internationally known brand names, increasing the amount of testimony that can be used for our expansion further into Europe. We are finally being noticed and word is spreading faster, but our greatest competitor remains a lack of information for clients,” he says. As a final word of advice, Mr Cassar shares one of the most widespread misunderstandings about the product. “Something that we commonly hear from businesses is: ‘We don’t usually clean our coils and nothing has happened yet, why should we clean them now?’ The answer is, if not purely for the health of yourself and your staff, consider the energy savings you can achieve, as well as the excess strain that your equipment is working against. If nothing else, think of just how much you could be increasing the lifespan of what is often costly equipment.” cc 49


A century of movement With around 250 million tonnes of goods now passing through Malta’s ports each year and rising, the logistics sector has become ever-more vital in the country, as well as in every country those goods travel to and from. Maintaining the steady stream of food, medicine and other necessities has become a major priority across the EU and beyond. Falcotrans Sales Manager Jean Falzon speaks to Lewis Pitcher about the family values that guide the logistics company, and the modernisation that has inevitably had to come.


iven that Malta has had one of the more international histories of any nation in the world, its position as one of the trade hubs of the world is, perhaps, only natural. One needs only take a trip to the National Museum of Archaeology to see examples of valuable cargo brought to the island throughout the past 3,500 years. Also natural is how fast the industry has been forced to develop considering that, just 100 years ago, even the motor vehicle was something of a rarity. Falcotrans Sales Manager Jean Falzon describes exactly how far the company has come from its inception through to the present day. “Falcotrans was established in 1986, however its humble beginnings started with a horse and cart in 1920. Saviour Falzon, known as Ta’ Mena, and his three sons, would transport frozen meat which had just arrived from Australia, on behalf of the British Services,” he explains. Their first vehicle was purchased in 1949 and was used for the


transportation of these frozen meats, Mr Falzon continues, explaining that by the time the grandchildren joined, the business had expanded to the transportation of fruit and general cargo. “In 1960, the Falzons landed a prestigious contract transporting milk from the airport to the American Sixth Fleet stationed in the Grand Harbour. In 1970, Anthony Falzon & Sons was founded and in 1986, Falcotrans was established as a subsidiary company, launching an import-export service to and from Germany, France and Holland,” Mr Falzon says, adding that from the moment it was founded, Falcotrans expanded rapidly and today has developed a large fleet of refrigerated trailers across mainland Europe, equipped with GPS monitoring systems for temperature and location control. Indeed, while they may have started with Australian meat on the back of a cart, the Falzon family today have a far greater fleet behind them – over 50 refrigerated

trailers operate across the continent. “The key services offered by the company are refrigeration trucking services; frozen food transportation; pharmaceutical transportation; general cargo transportation and customs clearance. While we cater for most transportation requirements, we are specialists when it comes to temperature controlled logistics. We can handle any temperatures required and are able to provide a groupage trailer service to and from all mainland Europe,” Mr Falzon maintains. “While Falcotrans has grown substantially, we never let go of our original principles and what made us successful in the first place. One thing that our customers always mention is our eagerness to help and always go the extra mile. Being approachable and building solid relationships with our clients has also proved very successful. Our main philosophy has always been to put our customers first. No matter how large SEPTEMBER 2018

“Emerging technologies such as blockchain and selfdriving vehicles will change our business drastically, and Falcotrans is positioning itself to be at the forefront.”

Photos by Alan Carville


benefit is that family members have a personal interest; therefore do their utmost to ensure that the company is successful. Working long hours, doing jobs you do not particularly enjoy and always being available are all things expected from family members in the business,” Mr Falzon says. That being said, running the business does not come without its challenges. “As generations change, so do ideas, and at times you may find challenges moving forward, especially when the business is shifting from the old generation of family members to the new generation. When it’s a family business, you also need to ensure that your staff do not feel like ‘outsiders’. We understand that working in a family business can be challenging for our staff, and we do our utmost to not make them feel like they are any less valuable just because they are not ‘family’,” he maintains. Still, the internal make-up of the company is far from the only challenge facing Falcotrans in modern times. To begin with, as in any business, market advantages can quickly disappear if left unwatched. As Mr Falzon explains, “the more you succeed, the more your competitors notice and react to what you’re doing. A market leading service one day may be no better than average just a few months later. The only constant in business is change, so keeping up with market demands is a must. Knowing what your competitors are doing and working towards staying one step ahead is imperative, otherwise you are just another company trying to survive in a challenging market.” Other issues may be familiar to anyone who has been moving in Maltese business circles over the past few years, as Mr Falzon points out that the severe lack of labour supply plaguing many Maltese businesses

also affects Falcotrans. “We are in constant competition in order to recruit the personnel needed to adequately meet demand. This is leading to a lot more pressure on companies to fulfil and meet ever-increasing customer expectations. As a short-term solution we have resorted to the recruitment of third party nationals, however with the everincreasing cost of living, not to mention the high rental prices, this is also starting to prove very difficult,” he laments. Indeed, this shortage of skills is a concern echoed by companies from a wide range of industries across Malta – according to a European Commission report published earlier this year, it is a problem that almost a third of businesses in the country have reported. However, as Mr Falzon describes, it hasn‘t had a serious negative effect on Falcotrans’ ambitious plan for future expansion, as well as the adoption of future technology. “Falcotrans has a number of projects in the works in order to establish its position as one of the top logistical companies on the island. We will continue to increase our own fleet across Europe in order to keep improving on the excellent service that our clients have become accustomed to. Logistics is only one part of the supply chain, and Falcotrans is working towards playing a bigger role in the supply chain,” he maintains, and while Mr Falzon can’t go into too much detail at this stage, he adds, “we are very excited about the company’s future. Technology is also playing an ever-increasing part in our business and we are embracing it fully in order to make us more efficient, transparent and cost-effective. Emerging technologies such as blockchain and selfdriving vehicles will change our business drastically, and Falcotrans is positioning itself to be at the forefront.” cc

the company became, we never strayed away from the fact that it is our customers that have made us successful,” he humbly continues. Also, a glance through the company‘s Facebook post shows off their charitable side, including delivering a consignment of pastizzi all the way to the UK in aid of Puttinu Cares. One aspect that has naturally had to change, however, is the expansion of the company beyond the family’s children and grandchildren. While the Falzons still form a significant part of the business, the enormous company growth has meant that non-family staff now also play a major role. “While we started out as a small family business, today family members in the business only make up a small percentage of the entire work force. One of the main benefits of the presence of family members is embracing the values that made you successful in the first place, and not forgetting where you came from. Another SEPTEMBER 2018



An overview of the Innovative Technology Arrangements and Services Act (2018)


he endorsement of three bills by the Maltese Parliament, often referred to as the ‘blockchain bills’, was a further sign by Government that the islands intend to offer a regulated, safe and highly professional environment for all those who work or wish to invest in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies in Malta. The Innovative Technology Arrangements and Services Act, one of the three bills, was promulgated with the object of providing for the regulation of arrangements and services operating in the field of innovative technology. The authority regulating such arrangements and services would be the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA, also herein referred to as ‘the Authority’). The Act defines and provides for the certification of innovative technology arrangements (ITAs) as well as the registration of innovative technology services (ITSs). ITAs must apply for certification from the MDIA, with the First Schedule to the Act stating that softwares and architectures used in designing and delivering distributed ledger technology (DLT) as well as smart contracts are to be considered for ITA certification. Nonetheless, it is foreseen that a flexible approach may be adopted by the Authority and other ITAs may be considered for certification in the processing of an application. For ITSs, a system of registration is to be put in place leading to the certification of such service providers


and may be applied for both by natural or legal persons. The Second Schedule to the Act defines ITSs as system auditors and technical administrators who provide review service and technical administration services to ITAs respectively. In order for ITAs and ITSs to operate, they must be recognised by the MDIA. Applications can be made through prescribed forms issued by the Authority or in the absence of such forms a written application can be made, including the provision of information, documentation and assurances as may be required at the discretion of the Authority. While the Authority will reserve the right to deny an application, review and appeal processes are regulated by the MDIA Act and may be challenged. The Act creates an adaptable system whereby the Authority decides on the suitability of candidate ITAs and ITSs based on their particular individual characteristics while maintaining a transparent approach to acceptance of applications. An example of this is the initiative outlined by the Act whereby a public Register will be created by the Authority. Once recognised, the MDIA will create a register wherein a record of recognitions will be divided into parts and classes to represent the different types of recognition granted to applicants. Different ITAs may be certified for one or more specified purposes which the Authority deems sufficient with reference

to one or more specified qualities, features, attributes, behaviours or aspects. These will be specified on the certification, therefore publicly available due to the discretion of the Authority to make certifications public. The above criterion of assessment will be examined by the Authority in line with established guidelines, to be published by the Authority. These guidelines may be amended in order to enhance the qualitative standards of authority reviews. The Act expands on the general requirements of integrity, transparency, compliance and accountability which are to be assessed by the MDIA, with specific attention to: • The ITA itself in relation to its declared attributes, and whether or not it is fit for purpose; • The legal ownership of the ITA including the integrity and suitability of administrators and shareholders; • The software comprising the innovative technology arrangement and consideration of the reviews to be given by independent registered system auditors; • The account to be given by a registered technical administrator, to be in the office at all times, and who is responsible for demonstrating to the Authority the ability of the ITA to comply with guidelines issued by the MDIA as well as all pre-required as well as post-requisites for certification; • The ITA is in a position to comply with SEPTEMBER 2018

CC LEGAL be overcome or implement any measures that are required under the Act or guidelines issued by the MDIA. Certification is valid for a period of two years. The process of certification for ITSs is finalised through the registration of a service provider with the Authority, according to established guidelines by the MDIA and the requirements established in the legislation. The Act further clarifies that one service provider may register to be certified to provide more than one service and therefore one ITS may make a number of services available to its clients and customers. By law, service providers are considered to be professionals who act as fiduciaries in relation to customer information and are therefore bound by the Professional Secrecy Act. The issued certificate must be published on any service provider’s website and shall

state the name, address and class or classes of services that the ITS has been registered to provide. cc The promulgation of the Innovative Technology Arrangements and Services Act is one of the many components that makes our economy more competitive in order to attract industries to Malta that have various spin offs. Although the legislation is very new and there will undoubtedly be teething problems in the beginning, the services industry is well equipped to make this challenge another success. Cedric Mifsud is a Partner at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates. For more information contact us on E:

innovative technology administration rules, guidelines and obligations imposed by the applicable law, including the protection of personal data and consumer rights as well as adherence to anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing measures; • The ITA has in-built technology features to enable the technical administrator to intervene in a transparent manner in the event of material cause of loss to any user or a material breach of law. The Act additionally addresses the potential situation where a DLT or ITA, although being in advanced stage of development or operation and being open, decentralised and public, cannot practically comply with one of the above-mentioned requirements for certification. The Act states that a conditional certification may be made in such cases, where the certified ITA would have specific timeframes set in place by the Authority to address matters which must SEPTEMBER 2018


CC make the headlines

BOV Centres of Expertise for Investment Bank of Valletta’s Investment Centres mark their sixth anniversary this year. This milestone is commemorated in the best manner possible – an excellent bill of health by customers themselves. From inception, the bank has looked upon the BOV Investment Centres as regional ‘centres of expertise’. The bank’s investment in these centres and the people deployed in them was consistent, and in line with the bank’s vision to provide tailored customerdriven service. The bank regularly collates customer feedback regarding a spectrum of variables, including ease of access, professionalism of employees and timeliness of service. In this manner, Executive Management is able to address any issues that might arise. Feedback received shows that customers appreciate the privacy, muted atmosphere and the personal attention provided by the respective Financial Advisor. Strategically located across Malta and Gozo, the BOV Investment Centres are manned by highly qualified Financial Advisors who are licensed by the MFSA. All the bank’s Financial Advisors are fully trained and qualified, with training sessions held regularly every year to keep them fully abreast with the various market and product developments that could have an impact on clients’ portfolios. In addition, they are given regular briefings by specialists from the Research Unit and Wealth Management Unit and Financial Markets, as well as by external facilitators. Regular video conferencing sessions are offered to disseminate information and keep advisors up to date on economic indicators at all times. In addition, Financial Advisors are now working in one office, thus making it easier to share best practices, experiences and to discuss different portfolios. Every Financial Advisor is individually responsible for a number of portfolios, and is required to hold regular meetings with the assigned clients, either at the Investment Centre or at the client’s branch of preference, should this be more convenient for the client. The latest research exercise shows that currently, six out of every 10 meetings conducted with customers are held at the customer’s preferred branch, rather than the Investment Centre itself. This is in line with the bank’s two-pronged objective that is to offer professional service at these Centres, whilst making the service as accessible and convenient as possible to customers. The advisory service is based on a ‘fact find’ which is a very detailed assessment compiled for every investor based on information provided by the client to the advisor. The activities of the Investment Centres are further supported through the bank’s House View Committee and the Research and Analysis Committee. The House View Committee evaluates SEPTEMBER 2018

international economies based on market research setting a macro-based investment position. On the basis of this information, the Research and Analysis Committee establishes key investment opportunities at the micro economic sector level. These opportunities are relayed to the Investment Centres for the consideration of the investment advisors. The teams assist customers with the management of their investments, offering tailored financial advice built on thorough knowledge of the individual customer’s circumstances and financial objectives. By working closely with a nucleus of satellite branches, BOV Investment Centres provide an ideal blend of specialisation and convenience. The customer retains the working relationship with his preferred branch, with the added value of specialised

professionals who monitor the investments in line with the customer’s risk profile, investment objectives and timeframe. Anyone interested in discussing investment options offered by Bank of Valletta is invited to contact the bank’s Customer Service Centre on 2131 2020. Alternatively, you may contact the Branch or Investment Centre of your choice. Bank of Valletta’s Investment Centres are found at Bir-id-Deheb, Birkirkara, Gzira, Qormi, Valletta and Victoria-Gozo. cc Bank of Valletta p.l.c. is a public limited company regulated by the MFSA and is licensed to carry out the business of banking and investment services in terms of the Banking Act (Cap.371 of the Laws of Malta) and the Investment Services Act (Cap.370 of the Laws of Malta). The value of investments may go up as well as down and may be affected by changes in currency exchange risks.


CC make the headlines

Outsourcing efficiently By Kyle Debono The importance of having the right staff in any organisation cannot be overstated enough. This applies even more so for entities that outsource some functions that might not need to be occupied on a more permanent basis. Your outsourced staff are also an extension of your organisation, and considering that on a per-hour basis such staff tends to cost more than in-house staff, one needs to make sure that the best quality for the cost paid is attained.   Another important factor to consider when outsourcing a function is the list of involvements of the individual. Besides being important to ensure that there are no detrimental conflicts of interest, it is also important to assess the amount of

The ins and outs of responsible gaming iGaming has fast become one of the most popular pastimes over the last 10 years or so, with the industry currently enjoying massive growth and success across the globe. Having said that, it’s important for industry providers to protect their players and to respect high standards of quality. Whilst gambling is ostensibly a recreational activity, to some it may become dangerously addictive and can have serious effects on their personal or professional lives. Enter Responsible Gaming – a ‘code of conduct’ developed by numerous regulators, trade associations, and non-profit organisations to ensure acceptable gambling behaviour. A handful of the areas covered are as follows: Underage gambling – Underage gaming is one of the major areas that Responsible Gaming falls under, and gaming operators must take the most stringent of measures to ensure that their customers are all of legal age. Protection against crime and money laundering – Full AML compliance must be 56

time the person can really dedicate to your organisation. Having involvements is a good thing from the point of view of the person’s experience and connections. On the other hand, if someone is involved in too many entities, it may be difficult for such an individual to efficiently contribute to your organisation. Thus, it is important to find a person that has the right balance between experience and other involvements, relevant to your entity. It should also be a priority to find individuals who can add to the table. Individuals with a different background and a different perspective can contribute much more to your organisation rather than people with the same skill-sets as the other people involved in the organisation. Hence, one should seek individuals who are knowledgeable in their field and can challenge the status quo. In essence, having outsourced staff that have the right attitude, are knowledgeable in their field, are able to multi-task and accept that they will always need to learn new things and adapt to different situations can make a big difference to any organisation. cc

carried out to detect and block any suspicious activity, with components designed to perform risk assessment, KYC requirements, and player profiling. Secure payments and transactions – Security tools protecting financial details and personal data must be implemented to provide a reliable and safe platform that players feel comfortable using. Data protection – Unauthorised disclosure of numbers, addresses, names, and email addresses is a serious breach of trust on the company’s part, and it can have severe repercussions for all parties involved. Ethical marketing – Operators should comply with the relevant regulatory advertising codes of practice and not target underage gamblers or players who have self-excluded themselves from gambling. Safeguarding the vulnerable - Player activity must be recorded in a way that gives companies an idea of their gambling behaviour. If larger deposits or withdrawals are being made on a more frequent basis, then the player in question should be alerted and informed. Deposit limits, self-exclusion procedures, and time-out options should all be available for access within a user’s account. How can AXON Gaming help? AXON Gaming assesses online player gambling habits to highlight early indications of problem gambling. It provides operators

Should you be seeking to outsource any of your functions and you are operating in the investment services business feel free to visit to learn more, get in touch on or call on 7985 1810.

with guidance on how to communicate with players based on their individual risk profiles. AXON achieves this through the real-time collection of various types of player data such as intensity, risk, volume and change patterns for a deeper behavioural analysis. cc For more information on how AXON can enhance your Responsible Gaming capability, visit or email SEPTEMBER 2018

CC make the headlines

A strain on the local workforce – Keeping up with demand As Malta’s economy continues to grow steadily year on year, we are faced with a severe shortage of labour, and with an employment rate of 71.4 per cent among the working age population, on par with the EU, we are left with no choice but to attract foreign workers to fill this vacuum. In fact, based on figures issued by Eurostat and the National Statistics Office, Malta is expected to require 35,000 foreign workers within the next five years to sustain its current economic growth rate, and with Malta striving to be the blockchain capital of the world, attracting the likes of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, among others, this is seemingly more than likely. Furthermore, the iGaming industries’ demand for employment is showing no signs of letting up, with the UK giant Bet365 totally committed to their expansion in Malta in preparation for Brexit which may see even more companies setting up shop in Malta.

Ben Pace Lehner – Director, Broadwing Job Placement Agency

It is not only these emerging industries that are stretching our local workforce thin. We have also noticed a significant shortfall of workers in the catering, construction and distribution industries, with a lack of chefs, front-of-house staff, bar staff, drivers and construction workers to name a few. While this expected influx of people may put a strain on the local infrastructure, with Malta already being one of the most densely populated countries in the EU, as an employment agency, one of our biggest concerns is the processing of work and residence permits for third-country nationals seeking employment in Malta. JobsPlus and Identity Malta have already improved their response times in this regard, with the Prime Minister noting that 3,000 work permits were issued in June alone, the equivalent of the first five months of the year, however our clients are still noticing delays in the process. Although the processing of these permits

has been accelerated, companies are still required to promote their jobs locally, if the occupation or sector is not listed in the vacancy exemption list by JobsPlus, before opening applications for third-country nationals, to safeguard Malta’s standing with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU at a mere three per cent compared to the euro area’s 8.3 per cent average. At the time of writing, the sectors allowed to advertise jobs to foreigners immediately are: Healthcare, Technical & Building, IT, Finance, iGaming and Education. cc If you have anything to add, Broadwing looks forward to hearing from you with any experiences, feedback or concerns you may have. Sources: Eurostat, NSO, European Commission, JobsPlus, Times of Malta


Style Review


04. Fall florals Who said florals were only for spring? This year, florals have taken over the fall collections of major designers like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Dior and Valentino, which featured everything from delicately hand-painted numbers to applique.

01. Classic fabrics

05. 80s style

02. Oversized layering Outerwear has got to be oversized this season, and the more you can layer on, the better – great news for cold weather sufferers! Brighten things up with a pop of colour and eye-catching colour combinations that will bring a smile to your face, whatever the weather.

03. Folk aesthetic Folksy details and fabric treatments like patchwork, quilting, and crochet are making a distinct appearance this fall, with floor-grazing dresses, shearlings and chunky knits gracing the runways of designers like Calvin Klein, Etro, Chloe and Missoni, to mention a few.

The bold silhouettes and power shoulders of the 1980s are back this season, and they’re bound to suit power women everywhere to a tee. The fabric of choice has got to be black leather, with variations being spotted in collections by Marc Jacobs, Saint Laurent, Christopher Kane and Givenchy.

06. Minimal white The antithesis of the bold 80s trend is a minimal, predominantly white aesthetic that’s undeniably chic for fall. Silhouettes are slim and maxi length, with elegant, flowing details like scarf-tied necklines and columnar skirts. cc


04. 02.

Dolce & Gabbana


We can never quite get enough of the classics, and the coming fall season embraces the traditional fabrics that have come to be synonymous with Saville Row. Think herringbone, plaid and houndstooth to add richness and texture to your wardrobe ahead of the cold season.

01. Todd Snyder

As we start to make our way to autumn, it’s time to change up our wardrobe. Sarah Micallef discovers the latest trends for the cooler weather.

Isabel Marant

05. SEPTEMBER 2018

Jil Sander


Sensi Studio



NEWS Events & Initiatives

01. Spring COPRES discusses business issues in the EU The spring BusinessEurope Council of Presidents for 2018 was held in Sofia in May, and was hosted by the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA). Leading the Maltese delegation, Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia and Anton Borg had an exchange of views with the President of Bulgaria, H.E. Rumen Radev. At the outset of the COPRES meeting held the following day, President Emma Marcegaglia acknowledged the contribution of Mr Borg during his time in the COPRES, and particularly during his two-year term in the Group of Vice Presidents. The COPRES joined Ms Marcegaglia in thanking Mr Borg for his active participation, in particular during sensitive internal discussions on Brexit. The meeting immediately went on to ratify the election of Pierre Gattaz – President of the French Delegation (MEDEF) as incoming President for the forthcoming two-year period. The term of Mr Gattaz commenced on 1st July 2018. The remainder of the agenda for the Council meeting was characterised by intense and profound discussion on a number of prevailing issues in the European Union. These included the economic and political situation in a number of EU member states, international relations, the priorities for the forthcoming European Parliament elections and the next Commission and Brexit. The meeting was also attended by Malta Chamber Director General Kevin J. Borg.

01. 02. Can Malta leverage more EU funds? Businesses and institutions gained insight into the expected updates to the business-financing landscape in Malta during an event titled Leveraging EU Funds: A Development Bank Perspective, organised by the Malta Chamber and BOV p.l.c. The event, which was supported by the European Commission Representation in Malta and Enterprise Europe Network Malta, focused on the new Multi-Annual Financial Framework for the period 20202027, the European Fund for Strategic Investments and most notably the newly established Malta Development Bank. In his opening address, Malta Chamber Vice President Andrew Mamo noted how EU Budget discussions “generate significant interest and serve to mobilise all stakeholders to play a part in leveraging EU funds, even more so now that as a small but growing island economy, Malta really does recognise the direct and indirect

benefits of the millions of euro derived from European Union funding in recent years.” Chief Business Development Officer (Credit) Albert Frendo highlighted BOV’s pivotal role in ensuring that risk sharing financial instruments reach their ultimate objective, which is to ease access to finance for SMEs. “It gives us great satisfaction to note that through the BOV JAMIE Financing package, we have so far assisted over 1,000 SMEs in broadening their horizons. This has been achieved by providing them with credit facilities at favourable interest rates and low collateral requirements.” Parliamentary Secretary Dr Aaron Farrugia stated that leverage will be crucial and that “across the EU, it is likely that the traditional mix of ESIF and government own funds to finance projects will not be enough to sustain the growth momentum, especially as most governments remain fiscally constrained. Even though Malta’s government believes that financial instruments must complement grants, it recognises that the use of financial instruments will assume greater importance in the next EU Budget."

02. SEPTEMBER 2018


CC news

03. Chamber makes presentation to Opposition on labour market Following the presentation made to the Cabinet of Ministers in May, the Malta Chamber presented its report on the labour market to an Opposition delegation which was led by Dr Adrian Delia in June. President Frank V. Farrugia noted how the Chamber was once again taking a proactive approach to a problem which was affecting the day-to-day operation of thousands of businesses in Malta. “As the potential alternative government, it is in our members’ interest to keep you abreast with the challenges being faced by our businesses, as well as the solutions we are proposing to mitigate the situation,” Mr Farrugia told the Leader of the Opposition. The Labour Market in 2018 and Beyond – Demographics and Trends Characterising Malta’s Labour Market and Workable Proposals To Alleviate Labour Gap Pressures was compiled by the Policy Unit within the Malta Chamber. Through his presentation, Nigel Mifsud, Policy Executive, explained how the challenges most relevant to the business community, as a result of the year-on-year growth experienced by the economy, were the present labour market conditions. “Malta currently has the largest labour force in its history, a significant increase in the domestic supply of productive hours, the largest cohort of foreign workers and the lowest level of unemployment rates. Despite this, Malta’s employers face a severe lack of labour supply, further aggravated by falling levels of productivity,” Mr Mifsud said.

04. Chamber business portal wins prestigious national award The Malta Chamber portal has received a prestigious award as part of the National Enterprise Support Awards in June, organised by the Commerce Division. The Chamber’s online business portal – www. – was recognised in the competition for its support for business and enterprise in Malta. Malta’s first business portal aims to provide the business person with an unparalleled online experience. Created and managed by Content House Group, it features national and international business news updates, insights on national issues and notifications from the Malta Chamber. It was formally launched on 2nd May 2016, and in two short years, the portal 66

03. has established itself well in the local information scene, providing timely and regular stories relating to the endeavours of the Malta Chamber, as well as the business sector, both local and international. The National Enterprise Support Awards are organised by the Commerce Department within the Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses. This was the eighth consecutive year of the competition.

05. New deal for consumers – a dialogue session in Malta with Commissioner Jourova “The European Union already enjoys amongst the strongest consumer protection laws in the world,” said Andre Fenech, Malta Chamber’s Head of Policy, during a panel discussion as part of a

dialogue session on the new deal for consumers organised by the European Commission and the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA). The new deal for consumers is the latest proposal by the European Commission to change and update the current consumer protection legislation. The main principles behind the proposal include strengthening consumer rights online, giving consumers the tools to enforce their rights and get compensation by introducing the possibility of collective redress and introducing stricter penalties on those traders which do not abide by rules, including a maximum penalty of four per cent of a traders’ turnover in extreme cases of abuse. During the debate, which also included representatives of the DG Justice and Consumers within the European Commission, European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Malta, Association for Consumer SEPTEMBER 2018

CC news

06. Rights and GRTU, Mr Fenech explained that none of the traders' representative organisations were questioning the need to protect consumer rights. He said that nevertheless the focus of the new proposal was directed towards enforcement and penalties on traders. He said that this proposal has a disproportionate impact on the smaller and micro enterprises which do not have the necessary resources to keep up to date with the new rules with the chance of infringement being higher.

06. GO4Industry Teacher Internship Programme launched The Manufacturing Economic Group within the Malta Chamber and the Ministry for Education and Employment launched the GO4Industry Teacher Internship Programme pilot project on 26th June. The first edition of the GO4Industry Teacher Internship Programme is aimed at exposing teachers of science subjects in secondary schools, to the opportunities and the cutting-edge technologies in Malta's manufacturing industry, in order for them to be more knowledgeable and better positioned to guide their students towards their future careers. Welcoming guests to the Chamber, President Frank V. Farrugia said that

currently, and for the foreseeable future, the main issues faced by businesses were related to the shortages of labour. “Most companies have vacancies and opportunities they are unable to fill, and this translates into lost business and lost economic growth for the country as a whole,” he said. Taking the podium, Patrick Cachia, Chairman of the Manufacturing Economic Group Executive Board said that the GO4Industry Teacher Internship Programme was one of a number of ongoing projects with the aim to increase exposure to the many interesting career opportunities that exist in industry.

07. Prime Minister answers Malta Chamber members' questions Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat took questions from members of the Malta Chamber during a dialogue session on 6th July. The dialogue session, Question Time with the Prime Minister, offered members with a unique opportunity to voice their concerns to the Prime Minister who was accompanied by senior members of the cabinet of Ministers. Welcoming the Prime Minister, Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia noted how the Chamber prides itself with being centrally placed to continuously offer

ideas and suggestions for the benefit and competitiveness of the country. “Our proposals are always prompt, genuine, objective and meaningful, and more often than not, we prefer to discuss them directly with you and your team, away from the cameras,” Mr Farrugia said. The President said that the dialogue session exposed the Prime Minister and his team to the issues being faced by the business community. Listing topics that were on the national agenda, he mentioned the traffic situation and the negative effects this was having on businesses, acute labour shortages, public holidays falling on a weekend, the introduction of carers leave, the importance of upgrading the island’s infrastructure, the simplification of bureaucratic practices, the preservation of the country’s reputation, abuse in free movement of goods, as well as waste and other environmental challenges. Mr Farrugia also made reference to the matter of energy tariffs for business, as he noted that Malta’s businesses remain with among the highest commercial energy rates in Europe, to the detriment of competitiveness.

08. Malta Motorways of the Sea and the Malta Chamber renew partnership agreement Malta Motorways of the Sea and the Malta Chamber have renewed their partnership agreement, extending a long-standing collaboration between the two organisations. The agreement was signed on 11th July by Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia and Grimaldi Lines Director Eugenio Grimaldi in the presence of Kevin J. Borg, Ernest

07. SEPTEMBER 2018


CC news

Sullivan, Karl Sullivan and Manuel Portelli. Addressing those present, Mr Farrugia said that the maritime sector in Malta has always played a very important role. “Being an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, our country has historically needed reliable and efficient links to the mainland.” “This dependence on such maritime connectivity is only compounded by the development of the country’s economy, which, as you know, is experiencing unprecedented levels of growth.” Addressing those present, Dr Grimaldi congratulated the Chamber for its work in favour of Malta’s business community. Dr Grimaldi spoke about the investment the company was carrying out in a new fleet of ships that would allow it to provide a better service and better connectivity between Malta and the mainland. This was in keeping with the improved track record the company was registering in maritime transport of cars, rolling cargo, containers and passengers to and from Malta.

09. Temporary Authorisation to Work introduced Following recommendations from the Malta Chamber, Identity Malta has introduced Temporary Authorisation to Work. The authorisation, which came into effect on 23rd July, will allow successful still-abroad applicants to immediately start working with their prospective employer once they have finalised their application in Malta. “This was one of recommendations in an attempt to ease the process of employing third country nationals for our members. There were other proposals but this is certainly a positive step forward,” said Kevin J. Borg, Director General of the Malta Chamber, commenting on the introduction of the new initiative by Identity Malta. “As a Chamber we have been in constant discussions with the relevant authorities in order to voice our members’ concerns, and their difficulty in sourcing employees. We shall now concentrate on assisting the authorities to implement other proposals we made and which are listed in our position paper titled The Labour Market in 2018 and Beyond – Demographics and Trends Characterising Malta’s Labour Market and Workable Proposals to Alleviate Labour Gap Pressures, concluded Mr Borg. For more information, contact the Identity Malta Customer Care team on 2590 4000 or via email on 70

08. 10. Blockchain – the new regulatory framework

11. Budget should be approached from a multi-annual perspective

The Malta Chamber in collaboration with EMCS organised an information session on the new Blockchain legislation which was recently approved by the Maltese parliament. “Blockchain has the potential to create new foundations for global economic and social systems rather than be a disruptive force towards traditional business models,” said Frank V. Farrugia as he was addressing Blockchain – The New Regulatory Framework. The President welcomed the recently approved regulatory framework which he called a first step in the right direction. “Malta is being among the first countries to implement regulatory frameworks to attract new investments as it has done in the past in financial services, aviation, pharmaceutical companies and remote gaming,” he concluded. Addressing the seminar, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation the Silvio Schembri said that Malta became the first world jurisdiction to offer a holistic approach to regulate Distributed Ledger Technology. “The establishment of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority will focus on innovative technology arrangements and their use cases.” He also spoke about the Delta Summit – the Malta Government official Blockchain event that is going to be organised between 3rd and 5th October. Silvan Mifsud, Senior Manager – Advisory Services, EMCS, delivered an overview of the Virtual Financial Assets Act. In a technical presentation, he explained the definitions of DLT assets under the Act, licensing process of ICOs and of VFA service providers, the financial instrument test and anti-money laundering requirements. In his concluding remarks, Stefano Mallia, EESC Vice President – Employers, said that with this a very important step, as with it Malta gained the first mover’s advantage on the international stage. He argued that it was important to find the right balance of regulation in the sector. Under-regulation or over-regulation could both be detrimental to a potentially important sector.

During a meeting of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) in August, Director General Kevin J. Borg outlined the recommendations put forward by the Malta Chamber as part of the consultation period leading up to the Budget for 2019. Mr Borg said that future budgets should be approached from a holistic multiannual perspective which incorporates a thorough impact assessment of the carrying capacity of the country in terms of economic, societal and environmental considerations. “This multi-annual exercise could initiate preparations of new medium-to-long term economic and development plans on where the country wants to be post-2020. Consequently, the country could benefit from efficiencies that allow it to increase output and wealth sustainably with a constant level of applied resources,” Mr Borg said. The Director General also mentioned some of the 60 recommendations which the Chamber compiled after a consultation process with its members, and presented to the Ministry of Finance.

12. New leave rules suspended after employer bodies declare boycott of the ERB Following a declaration of a boycott of the Employment Relations Board (ERB) by the four employer bodies of the country, Government has decided to suspend the four legal notices which were introduced by stealth on the eve of the feast of Santa Marija, 14th August. This decision was taken following a press release issued by Malta’s leading employer bodies declaring that they would boycott any future meetings of the Employment Relations Board, in a sign of protest to the way the legal notices were introduced without any form of consultation. The Malta Chamber, together with the GRTU, Malta Employers Association and Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association declared their dismay at the introduction of four legal notices related SEPTEMBER 2018

CC news

10. to industrial and employment relations. The four organisations lamented the fact that the publication of the legal notices expressed a significant departure from the spirit of healthy social dialogue which existed so far at the ERB. “In fact, these four legal notices were never discussed at ERB, a board which was established in the role to advise the Minister concerned on any matter related to conditions of employment – a practice that so far was always observed,” the joint statement said. The four organisations officially requested Government to put the legal notices on hold, and propose them for discussion at ERB, subject to any amendments proposed during the period. “Only then would the four organisations return to the ERB discussion table,” the press release said.

13. Ferrero, Buffa, Grimaldi to headline Chamber conference Ferrero R&D Chief Briano Olivares, Buffa Founder Paolo Buffa, and Grimaldi Lines Director Eugenio Grimaldi shall headline the national conference about family businesses which is being organised by the Malta Chamber on the occasion of its 170th anniversary. A Family Affair – Safeguarding Malta and Europe’s Beating Heart, shall celebrate as well as discuss family businesses and their important role in

the Maltese and European economy. The conference, which will take place on 1st October 2018, will discuss themes revolving around issues of shareholding, structure, governance, procedure, finance and succession. The Malta Chamber is proud to welcome among its stalwart members, household names which in most cases flourished into their first-tier player status from family businesses. The Malta Chamber owes a great deal of its existence to family businesses and on this happy occasion, it wishes to recognise their great work. Briano Olivares is Strategic R&D and Soremartec Chief Global Brands Officer at Ferrero SpA. He joined the company in 1996 as Global President of the premium chocolate category but he very quickly took on the position of Mr Ferrero’s principal assistant, working mainly on R&D, marketing and research. In 2015, he was appointed Executive Chairman, as Global Brands Chief Officer, Director of Worldwide Media and R&D, and head of the recently opened Innovation Lab of Singapore. Ferrero Group is present in 55 countries. Their products are sold in more than 170 countries, and produced in 23 production plants in five continents, eight manufacturing plants and six agricultural companies. In a few decades, Ferrero reached the number three position in the world ranking of confectionery companies, and is known worldwide for its range of products, most notably Nutella, Kinder, Rocher

and Tic Tac brands, among others. Paolo Buffa is the founder of Buffa Srl. Starting the business in the late 1970s, Buffa developed the company into one of Italy’s leading companies in the sector of construction materials, paints and related services. The company is present in numerous countries including Canada, Pakistan and the North African region, among others. Buffa specialises in finding innovative and effective solutions to the needs in the sector, through an extensive research and development effort that allows it to propose new products and services which would be tailor-made for the end-users’ needs. Eugenio Grimaldi is a Director of Grimaldi Lines SpA. Established in 1947, Grimaldi is a fully integrated multinational logistics group specialising in the maritime transport of cars, rolling cargo, containers and passengers. Wholly owned by the Grimaldi family, the group is led by members of the family, who are complemented by a highly skilled international management team, based both at the group’s headquarters in Naples and at subsidiary companies and branches located in over 25 countries. The international speakers shall be joined by a line-up of leading Maltese entrepreneurs who have made a success of their family businesses. The conference forms part of a series of events that the Malta Chamber is organising to mark its 170th anniversary. A Family Affair – Safeguarding Malta and Europe’s Beating Heart Date: 1st October 2018 Time: 08:30 – 16:30 Venue: The Exchange Buildings, Republic Street, Valletta Bookings are now open! Malta Chamber members €39. Non-Malta Chamber members €89. Book your place by sending an email to

13. SEPTEMBER 2018



NEWS Internationalisation

01. Maltese companies participate in Malta Chamber trade mission to Poland 20 Maltese business representatives from Malta-based companies participated in a successful trade mission organised by the Malta Chamber, the Polish Chamber of Commerce, the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development and the Polish Ministry of Economy in June. The mission included a well-attended high-level Poland-Malta Business Forum which was addressed, among others, by the Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, Chris Cardona, and Marcin Ociepa on behalf of Jadwiga Emilewicz, Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology of Poland, later followed by a business-to-business meeting between the Maltese and Polish companies. Frank V. Farrugia and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Arendarski signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two Chambers to strengthen business ties in the interest of respective members. This event, which registered over 160 business-to-business meetings, was facilitated through Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), a network helping companies thrive internationally, within which both The Malta Chamber of Commerce Enterprise and Industry, and the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development are members.

02. Maltese businesses feature prominently in Enterprise Europe Network UK event Over 180 business participants from 21 EU and non-EU countries met in Liverpool in July, during a business-to-business event organised by Enterprise Europe Network, the largest business network in the world. With a dozen business representatives from healthcare, creative industries, real estate and blockchain, Malta featured prominently in the event, being the third-most represented European country, after the UK and Ireland. The brokerage event brought together SMEs across healthcare, Artificial Intelligence start-ups, creative industries, manufacturing, education, propertyrelated services and tourism; all competing to be more efficient or innovative by promoting their latest technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, and how these could be applied in different sectors. 74

01. The Malta Chamber, which forms part of the Enterprise Europe Network Maltese consortium, was event co-organiser with Enterprise Europe Network North West UK in collaboration with Innovate UK. Collectively, the Maltese companies had 50 pre-scheduled B2B meetings over two days, including sessions which took place during the International Health & Life Sciences Day, addressing the development of diagnostics, treatment and management to tackle future health challenges, and Creative Industries Day, in which UK-based companies featured their innovative IT applications to enhance digital transformation of enterprises. The event was supported by the Times of Malta.

03. Enterprise Europe Network Malta takes fashion designers to Torino Fashion Week Maltese companies specialising in the fashion industry participated in a successful matchmaking event held during this year’s edition of Torino Fashion Week in Torino, Italy, in July, with over 35 meetings held over three days. Over 230 business participants from 31 EU and non-EU countries met at the Torino FashionMatch, a brokerage event organised by Unioncamere Piemonte, a member of the Enterprise Europe Network. This event, within which the Maltese companies participated for the first time, was attended by fashion designers, textile manufacturers, retailers, distributors, sales agents, e-commerce agencies, buyers, experts in the fashion industry,

universities as well as R&D institutions. The Malta Chamber, a Network partner and member of the Retail Sector Group, co-organised this brokerage event in collaboration with the Fashion and Textiles Sector Group; the Creative Industries Sector Group and the Women Entrepreneurship Sector Group. Through similar joint activities, members of the Enterprise Europe Network Sector Groups support ambitious companies to tap partnering opportunities, exploit new markets, as well as share knowledge and ideas for innovation.

04. We are open for business more than ever with Japan – Frank V. Farrugia “Malta’s economy is open for business more than ever with Japan. The Malta Chamber will serve as a reliable and influential interlocutor for fostering of existing and new business relations,” said Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia during a trade delegation in Japan in August. Addressing meetings with Japanese business leaders, Farrugia explained how the Malta Chamber actively represents companies from all economic sectors internationally, ensuring that Maltese entrepreneurs would be able to conduct their business on a global scale through a vast array of opportunities. The fact that both Japan and Malta are part of Enterprise Europe Network is of great advantage to the potential for local companies to internationalise. cc SEPTEMBER 2018


Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia: Celebrating Malta’s finest architects Martina Said chats to the architects whose firms’ outstanding work was recognised by the Kamra tal-Periti’s newly-launched awards programme, to find out about the winning projects, the work that went into them and what made them a cut above the rest.


he first edition of the Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia awards, the ceremony for which was held last June, was the fulfilment of a long-held ambition of the Kamra tal-Periti – to run a design awards programme for its members, within which the work of its periti, architects and civil engineers is evaluated and rewarded by their peers. Alex Torpiano, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, asserts that the Premju Emanuele Luigi Galizia is neither promoted by private commercial interests nor by Government agencies, but based on recognition of design quality of the members’ work, by the members themselves. “All our jury members were local warranted professionals. In addition, we wished that the Premju EL Galizia would not be limited to ‘architectural’ work, since that is only a part of the breadth of our profession. In particular, it is intended to celebrate civil engineering excellence, which is an important part of the work of many periti, but also interior design and urban regeneration projects.” Prof. Torpiano explains that the award scheme was deliberately associated to the respected Emanuele Luigi Galizia, a Maltese architect and civil engineer who designed many public buildings and churches – “a personality who, at the turn of the century, when the modern profession was born, was recognised as an excellent architect as much as an excellent civil engineer, in the modern meaning of the terms. Another objective of the awards was to celebrate the final year work of students graduating from the University of Malta simultaneously with that of the ‘senior’ members, as a way of reaching out to the youngest additions to the profession.” The primary aim of the awards programme is to celebrate good quality work by periti – ‘quality’ often being the tough word to define in this regard, says Prof. Torpiano. “Too often, it is limited to the photogenic character of the project. As we asked them to do, our juries made an in-depth assessment of the design problems the project was required to solve, and the skill by which functional, constructional, sustainability as well as aesthetic aspects were addressed.” “In fact, an important aspect of the process was the public presentations that the designers of the short-listed projects were asked to make, during which they also had to answer some rather searching questions from the jury members,” he adds. “These presentations proved to be an important, and popular, feature for all participants and the public alike, even more than we had hoped for.” There’s no tip-toeing around the fact that Malta’s controversial construction boom has given rise to a spate of mediocre, often poorly-designed buildings, which often overshadow quality work


that deserves to be lauded. Prof. Torpiano admits that, in the current construction frenzy, it is difficult for the more insightful and talented professionals to produce quality work, not least because good quality work requires more time and greater attention to detail – “which current clients, in a hurry, often do not have time for. The more talented professionals can therefore lose commissions, unless they cut corners and rush their work. The awards programme was therefore also conceived as a form of moral support, and encouragement, to those periti who strive harder, and who deserve to have their work promoted.” With that in mind, the President asserts that good quality work requires good clients. “We have noted that practically all the winning and short-listed projects were commissioned by private clients. The Kamra strives to promote architectural design competitions for publicly-funded projects, as occurs in other EU countries, where public policy demands that public money is only used to commission good quality design,” says Prof. Torpiano. “This is, after all, our generation’s legacy for the future. In addition, the Awards highlight the fact that there is local talent of the highest quality, and that clients do not need to resort to ‘iconic’ star-architect names to foster a high quality of environment, especially urban, which continues to, sadly, deteriorate.” As for whether better architectural and civil engineering design will foster a higher level of environmental awareness and sustainable development, Prof. Torpiano says that, by definition, good quality design work must include a higher level of environmental sensitivity, and a greater concern of the impact of the design product on the whole. “Unfortunately, it is not easy for individual projects to have sufficient beneficial impact on their own, when official planning policies, that impact at an urban and wider scale, do not effectively promote environmental awareness and sustainable development – and by ‘effective’ I mean not limited to lip service. Nevertheless, more of the better quality architectural and civil engineering design work can only be good for the environment.” The juries judging the projects were asked to base their decisions on the following criteria: Depth of research and detailing; Sensitivity to urban and environmental context; Sustainability; and Energy efficiency, with the President’s Award having been awarded to the project that scored best in these four key criteria. “In general,” he concludes, “the projects that were selected by the juries as worthy of celebration had something extra, something original, which transformed the project into something special, just as sounds are transformed into music, or words into poetry.”



Civil Engineering Excellence Award Farsons Corporate Office – TBA Periti

The client’s brief for the Farsons Corporate Office was a particular one, the firm tells me – the project itself being an extension of a number of floors on an existing building which consisted of a one-storey office, located above warehousing operations, which had to remain in operation throughout. “The additional floors were possible only if we adopted a lightweight structure, mainly based on structural steelwork. But it was also necessary to address a new relocated entrance for the additional floors, to consider how the deep plan of the underlying warehouse could be adapted to the requirements of office use, and how to create a central focus which would give character and order to the new floors.” TBA Periti’s work concentrated on resolving the structural issues by using steel, but also, with the resulting aesthetic, create a new main entrance leading to a top-lit atrium which would contain a grand staircase – in the tradition of the boardroom and staircase in the original 1950 Brewery, which is 78

currently being restored and converted. The firm explains that the structural requirements of the project dictated the use of steelwork for the main structural elements, and the use of cladding on the exterior envelope, which created contrasting continuity with the existing masonry exterior. “For us, it was then obvious that the interior of the building had to reflect these choices, and together with interior designer Robert Farrugia of Dstudio, we worked on the detailing of the structural elements and the enclosure, so that these materials exploited the industrial aesthetic.” The striking staircase is singled out as a major highlight of this project. The firm explains that the idea for the oval shaped staircase, repeated on two floors, evolved from the original idea for a continuous loop, which was based on the desire to consider the staircase as a spiral flow up the atrium. “The structure clearly needed to be based on steel, so that it was not too heavy. The beauty of the staircase had to lie in the

“As the idea evolved, it was amazing to see how the detailing of structure and materials fell into place, almost effortlessly.”



lightness of the supporting structure, but a normal helical solution created problems at the interface with the existing roof slab.” “Eventually, we hit upon the idea of suspending the staircase from the new steel structure around the atrium, by a sort of spider’s web. Detailed analyses were required to ensure that the staircase did not suffer from excessive vibrations. As the idea evolved, it was amazing to see how the detailing of structure and materials fell into place, almost effortlessly. The final product, as a solution to a difficult structural engineering problem, is, we believe, outstanding.” The biggest engineering challenge the firm faced was that of how to provide the best system of vertical movement throughout the


existing and new additional floors. A decision was taken to place the elevator outside the perimeter of the building, as it could not be accommodated within the existing building without disrupting underlying warehousing activities, therefore allowing for the creation of a formal entrance pavilion. “Secondly, it was decided to create a central top-lit atrium, containing the main staircase, to tie horizontally to this entrance pavilion, and vertically through the floors. We wanted the movement up the stairs to be a smooth, natural, comfortable movement, but one that was, at the same time, completely functional. The satisfaction of the client with the final product was the most rewarding aspect of the project.” TBA Periti were the recipients of the Civil

Engineering Excellence Award for their work on the Farsons corporate office – the design process of which took around 12 months, followed by 18 to 22 months for procurement and assembly, including construction and finishing of the additional floors – an honour which they are very proud of. “We believe that the project brief and the detailed functional requirements created a situation that required clever engineering, whilst fulfilling the aesthetic standards that we set ourselves, not least to respect the tradition of brand quality, Farsons,” they assert, adding, “we believe that this project encapsulates the design philosophy of our practice: competent constructional and structural engineering, with careful detailing, to create, paraphrasing Alberti, the ‘greatest of beauty’.”



Quality Architecture Award and the President’s Award for Best Overall Project San Pawl tat-Targa Villa – CVC Architecture Studio

This stunning villa in San Pawl tat-Targa replaced an old villa on the same site which had large rooms, but plenty of space was lost as circulation areas, as well as a pool at the lowest and deepest end of the garden which got little sunshine, were rather enclosed by the surrounding building. CVC Architecture Studio says that the brief was to create a family home with further space for guest accommodation as well as a swimming pool. A direct connection from the main living spaces and kitchen to the outdoors was a prerequisite, and a more secluded bedroom zone was also a requirement. “Our design first and foremost is a result of a thorough analysis of the actual site and the quasi-rural context within which it sits, directly opposite land which can be developed as two storey villas. Large walls built in reused stone blocks were designed to screen the house from the public’s view as well as from the direct south sun,” the firm’s partners SEPTEMBER 2018

explain. “The house was essentially split into two wings and entered at the corner, therefore achieving a clear distinction between these different zones. The natural slope of the site was fully exploited to create a raised large pool deck area directly linked to the living spaces, therefore achieving long distance country views from this area.” The context within which the house sits was a starting point to the design aesthetic and choice of materials. They explain that the villa area was traditionally characterised by its rural nature and low density constructions – winding rubble walls retaining the soil in fields, the use of traditional stone in the elegant villas together with significant amounts of vegetation created a palette of natural tones consistent with the local Mediterranean landscape. “This house seeks to respect its surroundings by fusing traditional materials with contemporary lines. Long, solid walls of local, recycled and natural stone created

a series of vertical planes, whilst the cantilevering roof forms a crisp, contrasting horizontal plane, together giving depth and texture to the form of the building. Timber cladding conceals the entrances to the house, whilst ample endemic vegetation completes the palette used throughout the project.” The firm explains that breaking away from a more typical villa façade – with windows overlooking a front garden and instead creating large, stone screen walls – was a bold move, and an exceptional one at that. “The house has an ‘introverted’ character to it, and leaves the outsider wondering what lies within. The powerful identity of the different planes creates a strong narrative on approaching the house from the road, thus creating a striking and bold building that sits comfortably within its context.” This same striking feature was also one of the greatest challenges of this project; that of realising the large screen walls using old stone. 81


“The house has an ‘introverted’ character to it and leaves the outsider wondering what lies within.”

“We managed to engage a contractor who patiently sifted through many blocks, selecting those that had a nice patina but were not badly chipped or damaged,” they assert. “Convincing ourselves that our idea would ultimately look good was also a challenge, but we were definitely rewarded on completion.” The project took 18 months to reach completion, the end result being a marvellous villa that earned CVC Architecture Studio the Quality Architecture Award and the President’s Award for Best Overall Project. The firm’s partners assert that, as architects, they should create comfortable and beautiful spaces for their clients to live and work in. “It is always a challenge to strike the right balance between the client’s wants, design aesthetics and functionality, whilst always considering efficiency and sustainability, not to mention cost! With this project, we feel that we managed to touch on all these points and harmoniously brought them together successfully.” “Quality in architecture not only refers to the actual choice of materials used to realise the project, but equally to the design and meticulous detailing of all smaller elements which create the bigger picture,” they say. “Having been entrusted to take this project from conception to completion, including all finishes, gave us the opportunity to fine-tune all aspects of the project to ultimately end up with a spectacular home. This success would obviously not have been possible without the dedicated team at our studio and our clients who courageously gave us that crucial free hand to design.” 82



Interior Spaces Award and Emerging Practice Award eCABS Booking Office – Valentino Architects

“Being entrusted to renovate this very personal space carried a certain amount of responsibility.” SEPTEMBER 2018

Photos by Alex Attard

The sleek and unpredictably intriguing eCABS booking office needed to achieve a specific goal in line with the client’s needs: that of creating a space which appealed to the end user, which was durable due to intense use and foot traffic, and which was suitable for its function – that is, creating a space which would generate an experience out of a task which is otherwise mundane (i.e. waiting). It also needed to allow people to wait as close as possible to the street, where the cab would pick them up from. “The client also wanted to create a space which would instil a sense of pride in the eCABS staff and drivers, in line with eCABS’ thinking of continuing to change the stigma which previously existed within the local cab industry,” the firm explains. Valentino Architects’ design centred on three crucial aspects in order to fulfil the brief: durability, appeal and function. Durability was achieved through the overarching choice of material; large slabs of precast terrazzo with few joints, which is easy to clean, using curved joints between floors and walls that are also easy to wipe – a system, they explain, which was used in the past in local British barracks. “We also positioned heavy-duty gutters in the floors to make cleaning easy and fast, bearing in mind that the booking office is open 24/7. This concept was carried into the bathroom, including the choice of fittings, namely the stainless steel WC and wash hand basin.” As for the office’s appeal, they explain, “the general monolithic approach and aesthetic for the interior was designed to appear as if it is carved out of one block, including the reception desk; while the design of the canopy with a mirrored underside created an opportunity for the end users to interact with the space. The use of neon signage is suggestive of the office’s Paceville location.” The monolithic carved interior was achieved using pre-cast terrazzo blocks which were then carved into the slabs and the curved components using water-jet technology. “In addition, and to contrast against the concrete-looking interior, wood was used for seating, and mirrored surfaces were used beneath the projecting canopy to heighten the feeling of space at the entrance.”



Photos by Alex Attard

Crucially contributing towards the space’s function in order to create space and shelter are the main glass doors and the canopy that extends onto the street. The glass doors, which tuck away into a partition when the office is very busy to avoid breakages, can be pushed inwards, while a canopy extends outwards onto the street, creating a fairly large and sheltered waiting area directly beside the street. “This ensured that end users waited directly beside the street and as close as possible to the pick-up point,” the architects explain. “The reception desk was also designed to be immediately visible from the pavement to help with the end user’s orientation. Across from this is a long bench, positioned to allow people to wait inside, still close to the main entrance.” The firm’s greatest challenge for this project was achieving detail within a small space in the shortest time possible. “The contractor didn’t have the luxury to measure up on site once the original office was gutted – every built element had to be prepared before, based on a survey drawing. This was necessary due to the short implementation timeframes which were important for the client’s operation,” they assert. “In fact, eCABS even set up a temporary desk outside the office whilst works 86

(which sometimes took place at night) were being carried out.” Despite the small scale of the project, the architects say that it was a very personal one to the client, who started the business from that same office with only three cars, and today has grown to a fleet of around 160 cars. “Being entrusted to renovate this very personal space carried a certain amount of responsibility – the main reward is primarily the client’s satisfaction on a personal level and recognition that our intervention added value on an operational level.” Valentino Architects were awarded the Interior Spaces Award for their work on the eCABS booking office project – the design process for which started in September 2015, followed by works on site which started in January and were completed in March 2016. The firm also won the Emerging Practice Award, in recognition of its work over the past three-and-a-half years. “We feel that the project was successful in the way that it satisfied the main three crucial points within the client’s brief,” they say, “and added the element of experience for the end user, i.e., transforming the mundane task of waiting into a more exciting experience.” SEPTEMBER 2018


Urban Regeneration Award Phoenicia Hotel regeneration – Architecture Project (AP)

Photo by AP

The regeneration of the 1930s Phoenicia Hotel took place within the context of the rehabilitation project for the area spanning between City Gate, the former bus terminus and the Floriana former parade ground. Konrad Buhagiar, AP’s Executive Director responsible for the Phoenicia regeneration, says works included the restoration of the façades, the renewal of the back-of-house, the provision of new terraces on the roof of a new wing housing the spa, and the requalification of the surrounding gardens and pool area. “AP’s design was aimed at creating a contemporary experience that provided continuity with


the prestige and glamour of the hotel’s past, and that payed tribute to both the Art Deco structure and the 16th century fortifications.” He explains that the extension of the stair towers on the façades and the creation of a copper cornice to unify the additions done in the 1990s, whose frontispieces and roof structures were replaced with sky suites, form part of an overall Masterplan for the requalification of the hotel’s grounds, including the spectacular new pool area. “An infinity edge blurs the boundary between the pool and the sea beyond, and shallow steps running along the

“For the first time in its lifetime since its construction, the hotel can be read as an architectural whole with integrity.”



whole length of the pool create the effect of a beach at the foot of the bastions. The springboard for the regeneration of the hotel therefore was the Art Deco overtones of the authentic architectural style,” Mr Buhagiar asserts. “This was reinterpreted to provide continuity while adding to the rich historical stratification of the original structure. Copper, that provides the highlights on the façade, was married to hardstone. Together with the corroded softstone of the 16th century bastions, the water of the new pool and vegetation of the landscaped gardens, they create a harmonious composition of essences and materials that determines the new magic of the place.” Mr Buhagiar highlights the design of the new infinity pool as an exceptional piece of the puzzle in this project, in that it connects the sheer scale of the bastions with the view of Marsamxetto Harbour beyond, “to provide a pool experience in a historic setting that is unrivalled. The discreet additions of the façade are also of considerable outstanding value – they eliminate the impression of two sets of additions that had, over time, fragmented the façades and contributed to their loss of proportion and elegance. For the first time in its lifetime since its construction, the hotel can be read as an architectural whole with integrity.” While works on certain parts of the hotel are not yet completed, Mr Buhagiar admits that the biggest challenge was working on such a delicate historic site. “This was a task of great entail, not only because of the responsibility of working with the existing structures in such a way as to enhance their qualities, while keeping them abreast of the new demands of a contemporary lifestyle, but also because of the onerous bureaucratic procedures, and, consequently, delays that this entails.” Architecture Project was awarded the Urban Regeneration Award for its work on the Phoenicia Hotel, helping to restore and cement its iconic status within a rapidly developing city. “The work on the façades has provided a stunning, scenographic backdrop to the newly created plaza fronting the new entrance to Valletta, giving the latter the aura of the grandiose developments that accompanied the dawn of luxury tourism in the world,” he says. “It is reminiscent of the grand place hotels that continued to be built from the fin-de-siècle all the way up to the immediate post-war period, when this niche phenomenon was replaced by mass tourism. The restoration of the old-world glamour in this area of town has brought to life an urban jewel that has been all but forgotten in recent years.” cc 90

Photo by AP

Photo by Johannes Buch

Photo by AP SEPTEMBER 2018


Drying the damp


f there is one almost-omnipresent issue that property owners in Malta have to face it would be ‘the damp’. From centuries-old character houses to decadesold apartments, most of us know the sinking feeling that comes from watching a damp patch creep up the wall – and the ensuing challenge that develops as you try to treat it. In fact, some would argue that Malta’s damp problem is one of the trickiest to treat anywhere in the world. However, one international company with a base on the island has brought forth a solution that is producing fantastic results. It’s called Aquapol, and was founded by Austrian engineer Wilhelm Mohorn in 1985. As a mathematician and physics specialist, as well as someone with a background in the natural sciences, he came to the realisation that energy is poorly understood. This realisation, as well as the rusting drums in his cellar, provided the inspiration for him

“On a fact-finding mission in 2016, the Aquapol team discovered Malta has a very real issue with rising damp.”


to research the field of alternative energy forms with regard to energy conversion. It led to his breakthrough in the field of wall dehydration – the sector that Aquapol now specialises in. “In the last decade, Aquapol has expanded quickly through the South of Italy, and has had a large number of successful projects there,” explains the company’s Malta-based consultant Paul Alan Cardona, adding that the team then started to look further south for expansion opportunities, but thought Malta might lack a market for humidity solutions. “They found that they were so wrong! As they discovered on a fact-finding mission in 2016, the island has a very real issue with rising damp,” he says. It was at that point that Paul was drafted in as a consultant and, together, they soon started to see results for homeowners and business owners with a damp problem. The key thing with Aquapol is that it uses a non-invasive method – meaning there is no wall cutting or chemical injections involved. Beyond that, no electricity is required, there are no operating costs to make the device work, and no maintenance is needed. “For the process to be successful, the water molecules in the wall gradually move downwards and the dry effect becomes permanent,” Paul explains. “Beyond that, the wall is subject to a positive desalination effect, as some of the salts found in the wall move downwards along with the water molecules. The results then remain stable for decades to come.” Today, the Aquapol team – both locally and internationally – is proud of the company’s 33-year history and its many installations, which number into the tens of thousands. In Malta, there have been many success stories, including the recent renovation of the Palazzo Bifora boutique hotel in Mdina. “We chose to work with Aquapol because we strive to provide a top-quality customer experience to our guests and, as Mdina is so humid, we needed an effective solution for the property’s visible humidity problem,” explains Omar Magri, the hotel’s owner. “From the moment we approached them for advice, the Aquapol team was very professional and gave us a very detailed explanation of how it all works. The fact that the device requires no maintenance, lasts for decades and is a one-time solution that actually targets the source of the problem interested us a lot.”

Photos by Alan Carville

If rising damp is posing a challenge to your property, you may well be looking for a fail-safe solution. Here, Jo Caruana speaks to Aquapol consultant Paul Alan Cardona to discover why their technology really does provide a solution that works – year-after-year.

Aquapol achieves all this by being the first wall drying company in Europe to monitor drying effects using the scientific DARR method. This means that the moisture content of the masonry is determined by comparing the weight of the test specimen both before and after drying. And Mr Magri says that he has certainly noticed a difference, when comparing the results of using Aquapol with what was there before. “Prior to the installation of the product, we would notice water droplets on the windows due to the humidity, both in summer and in winter,” he explains. “Once the product was installed, we gradually saw that the humidity was decreasing and that it kept decreasing. Today – two years later – SEPTEMBER 2018


Tackling damp walls? These are Aquapol consultant Paul Alan Cardona’s tips for overcoming them in your property. n Firstly, research the products on the market that resolve humidity and carry out a comparison between them. n Question whether the solution tackles the problem long term, and whether it is non-invasive. Also look into what guarantees are provided, and whether maintenance is needed. n Remember that old masonry requires care. For instance, when salts are visible on the surface, you should brush them off. Salts are hygroscopic (they attract moisture from the air), and they actually attract more humidity to the wall. n Use caution when applying products on damp walls, whether it is a plaster or a so-called ‘treatment’. Damp walls have less adhesion, so anything applied to them won’t hold for long.

you would never guess that there had been a humidity problem there in the first place. And, based on the water measurements, we noticed a decrease of between 30 and 45 per cent moisture in the wall year-on-year. “In hindsight, we actually thought it might be too good to be true! Now though, we look back on it as a fantastic decision for all sorts of reasons, not least because of the results and the fact that it is eco-friendly, doesn't have any running costs, needs only one device to cover the whole building, is noise-free and dust-free, and has a 20-year guarantee. We are very happy,” Mr Magri adds. Meanwhile, the Aquapol team is also pleased with the results of this project and SEPTEMBER 2018

many others, as well as with how well the technology has fared in Malta. “We know the technology so well and have constantly developed and improved it since 1985; the latest model was developed in 2014 and is called the Pyramis. Today, we are excited about the future and about how we can continue to bring Aquapol to properties in Malta and beyond – as well as to new sectors, like agriculture. We have no doubt that it will continue to help both home and business owners to solve the problems with damp, giving them the opportunity to enjoy their properties even more.” cc To contact Aquapol, email or call 9942 1158. 93


Inject more verve into your office interiors – and your team – with the latest design trends. From biophilic arrangements to motivating artwork, the modern workplace can project your corporate identity in the most surprising ways. Rebecca Anastasi has the latest. 01. Colour, colour, colour There was a time when offices looked dreary and grim, as if to radiate an impression of professionalism which was as subtle as a sledgehammer. Today, bright energy is being splashed onto the walls, settled onto chairs and popped onto accessories. Violet is a current favourite, with strong shades of green and blue retaining their strong position.



02. Collaborative spaces Ways of working have changed drastically over the past 10 years and the capitalist hierarchy of the 1980s has slowly become more decentralised. Encourage communication by creating more collaborative spaces, with easily-adaptable furniture set-ups, where members of the team can share winning ideas.

03. Biophilic design With much focus being given on the way human activity is affecting the earth’s climate and ecosystems, it’s no surprise to find out that bio-concerns are diffusing into the workplace. Make sure your office space respects the environment through the use of natural materials – as opposed to plastic – and natural elements, such as light, using large glass panels.

04. Plant it Growth can come in many forms and landscaping the office with indoor plants has been shown to encourage productivity. While this has always been the case, the current focus on biophilic design means more is more. Think leafy fronds and lush grasses to take your space from drab to fearless, but with the following caveat: pick greens which are low maintenance or ensure you have the resources to adequately take care of them.

FOX Architects Ron Blunt

Office Trends


05. Motivating artwork Today’s employees need more than a nine to five package to be motivated. Give them a sense of purpose with artwork which motivates them and inspires them to push and achieve. Photos of pioneers in your field or signage which shows them direction are ways in which you can encourage them to strive for more.


06. Home away from home No, this doesn’t mean they need to work all the hours God sends. Rather, imbue the office environment with creature comforts, such as bean bags, a sofa and a television. And, don’t forget to throw in some great coffee, if you want to keep your team happy to work. cc Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

05. SEPTEMBER 2018


06. 95


Tech Trends



Spy-style suitcases, high-tech pens and pet cameras – it can only be the round-up of the latest gadgets in the world of technology. Marie-Claire Grima shares some of the most interesting finds the internet has to offer.

While we tend to live on our tech devices nowadays, there’s still room for a perfectly-crafted writing instrument, such as the Cross Peerless TrackR pen, which actually combines the best of both worlds. Powered by TrackR technology, the pen has a built-in Bluetooth tracker, and will connect to your smartphone and send you notifications when you leave it behind. It can also help you track your smartphone. The mechanical parts of the pen have a lifetime guarantee, and you can get it in black or blue.

01. Sony WF-SP700N True Wireless Earbuds


04. Cross Peerless TrackR B ​ allpoint Pen​​

Tired of getting your earbud wires all tangled up? Sony’s SWF-SP700N earbuds are not only completely wireless, but they’re also capable of delivering excellent noise cancellation. Besides a comfortable and secure fit, they have an original, eye-catching design, and come in four snazzy colours.

05. Sony LSPX-S1 Glass Wireless Speaker​​​ This gorgeous glass speaker by Sony is so elegant, it barely looks like a speaker. Oh but it is – delivering flawless 360-degree sound, and making a fabulous addition to the ambiance of your home. The speaker’s LED filament light delivers a soft glow like a candle or a lantern, perfect for lighting up those cosy nights indoors.

02. Anker PowerWave 7.5W Fast Wireless Charger Whether you’re an Android user or an iPhone person, Anker’s PowerWave fast wireless charger has you covered for those urgent ‘battery low’ moments. It supports fast charging for Android smartphones and Apple iPhones, and includes a built-in cooling fan and a discreet charging indicator. A Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0-compatible wall adapter is included with the charger.

06. Petcube Bites Pet Camera and Treat Dispenser Are you the kind of pet owner who wants to keep tabs on their furry friend at all times? The sleek Petcube Bites pet camera has Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing users to keep their pets in sight at all times through a smartphone app, and a built-in laser pointer, so you can play with them even if you’re miles away. The camera can also dispense treats, with a two-pound container for your pet’s favourite snacks, which you can deploy right from your smartphone. cc

03. Victorinox Lexicon Hardside Frequent Flyer Smart Suitcase

For people who spend most of their days travelling from one country to the next, the Lexicon Hardside Frequent Flyer suitcase by Victorinox is a must-have. Sleekly designed, with impeccable ergonomics, the carry-on has a single USB port with a pre-installed cable and a special pocket for your favourite battery pack. It also includes a SIM card pin, which allows international travellers to easily change their carrier when abroad. Available in titanium and black.







​​Mitigating export risks through insurance Export credit insurance is a mechanism that mitigates many of the risks involved with shipping goods abroad, and puts exporters’ minds at rest. Yet, a comparatively small number of Maltese exporters make use of it. Marie-Claire Grima dives into the history of export credit insurance in Malta, finds out why take-up is so low, and whether all this may be about to change.


years ago, in 2003, the Malta Federation of Industry (FOI) – which in 2009 merged with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry – launched the 42nd edition of its half-yearly Industry Trends Survey (ITS). One of the questions in this edition of the survey was non-standard. It was about the level of utilisation of the services provided by Malta Export Credit Insurance Co Ltd (MECI), a Government-owned insurance company specialising in credit insurance. MECI, which was started in the 1990s, operated and offered its services to Maltese manufacturers of goods under a management services agreement with Middlesea Insurance Co Ltd. The survey sought to identify the reasons brought forward by those who did not make use of this service. The survey’s results were dismaying – it found that only six per cent of the mainly export-oriented firms and 20 per cent of the mainly local market-oriented ones had used the services offered by MECI. “Most of the firms which do not use the service just do not need it,” the report stated. “However, a few do not do so because they find the service too expensive, or because MECI does not extend a cover to those countries where certain firms export their goods.” By 2004, Government had taken the decision to wind down MECI, and a replacement was never instituted. However, 2003 was certainly a different time, and 15 years is quite a stretch when it comes to business. It may once again be an opportune moment to reintroduce the services that MECI used to supply to the Maltese business market – in a way that more adequately serves the needs of the local export community in 2018. In fact, Malta Enterprise confirmed that it is in the process of reintroducing such a scheme, although the agency remains tight-lipped about the details, insisting that it would rather give more accurate information further down the line, when more has been confirmed. Yet with the experience of hindsight, there are plenty of lessons to be learnt from the failure of the first export credit scheme. “The company restricted its products to the insurance of goods and would not insure

services,” says Peter Grima, Director of FirstUnited Insurance Brokers Ltd. “It also limited its business to the export element of Maltese manufacturers and its objects and insurance programmes would not permit it to insure the credit risk of local market credit sales. By its very structure and also because of the profile of its Malta-based clients, it was never able to generate sufficient premium income to make the company viable.” Export credit insurance, Mr Grima explains, provides pre-contract screening services on the creditworthiness of clients and of countries. “It also provides funding for losses incurred because of commercial defaults, either simply for commercial risks or, in addition, for political risks. Clients are therefore insured against the risk of nonpayment or delayed payment. The insurance of receivables improves the robustness of the insured company from the risk of defaulting customers.”

Mr Grima says that as brokers, the sort of demand the company receives is too often for risks to countries and companies, and for business volumes which fall outside the risk appetite of insurers who specialise in this market. However, he is realistically upbeat about the prospects for such a service, if it is to be reintroduced. “In the early years, the uptake is likely to be poor, but if the new credit insurance facility will be properly priced and marketed sensibly, it should prove attractive to small and mid-sized exporters of goods and services, and provide the necessary collateral and liquidity to their business model.” Finally, he warns that care has to be taken not to repeat the same mistakes made when the first scheme was active. “The principal flaw in the MECI business plan was the word ‘export’. If Malta Enterprise intends to try to revive the same business plan, it will struggle to generate reasonable business volumes.”

“The insurance of receivables improves the robustness of the insured company from the risk of defaulting customers.” – Peter Grima, Director, FirstUnited Insurance Brokers Ltd. SEPTEMBER 2018



“If [export credit insurance] is deemed far too costly, or coverage is restrictive and limited to low-risk clients, it is understandable that the take-up from exporters of such coverage remains limited.” – Norman Aquilina, Group Chief Executive, Farsons Norman Aquilina, Farsons’ Group Chief Executive also remembers the limited take-up of MECI, when it was active, by local exporters. “Today, I believe local banks provide limited export credit insurance cover. This limited cover is the result of the banks’ cautious approach, which are naturally more open to providing cover to those clients that are deemed to be low-risk. Hence, my understanding is that the take-up of such a service by exporters is limited.” Mr Aquilina, who freely states that Farsons

does not have a lot of experience with using export credit insurance, says that other countries have used export credit insurance schemes more widely given that they are sometimes under-written by their respective governments in order to promote and facilitate exports to markets that would be considered ‘risky’ if viewed in strictly commercial terms. “Export credit insurance is a helpful tool when exporters start to venture overseas. However, if it is deemed far too costly, or coverage is restrictive and limited to low-risk clients, it

is understandable that the take-up from exporters of such coverage remains limited.” One Maltese company that has been using export credit insurance for several years is the printing company Gutenberg. Mario Magro, the company’s Chief Finance and Administration Officer, says the company has been exporting books for more than 15 years. The company’s speciality is smaller runs of print, ranging from 5,000 to 10,000. “We’re not printing any Harry Potters in the millions here,” Mr Magro chuckles. “The bill rarely tends to run into the tens of thousands.” “Although we have clients in mainland Europe, including Italy and the Netherlands, our clients are mostly UK-based publishers that order books, which we prepare according to their requirements, and then issue with credit. The UK is a major consumer of printed matter – if you look at the statistics, it’s second only to Germany. Besides preparing books for the UK market, you also have British publishers which prepare products for export to other countries, including the US.” Estimating that the company exports around €5 million worth of product every year, Mr Magro says that Malta’s advantage in exporting to the UK is that Britain, like Malta, is an island. “It’s

“The small exporter needs to have [export credit insurance] in place. Whenever we were overconfident, we were bitten.” – Mario Magro, Chief Finance and Administration Officer, Gutenberg 100


CC IN DEPTH difficult to compete with printers in mainland Europe. To send a product from Poland – one of our biggest competitors - to Germany, it only takes a couple of hours by truck. But it’s more difficult for a Polish publisher to send it to the UK. That’s where our competitive niche lies.” Traditionally, Mr Magro explains, there are several mechanisms that a bank has in place to help exporters trade – “but it’s often prohibitively expensive to open a letter of credit and go for that product, unless you’re exporting more than €100,000 worth of goods. Since our purchases are generally limited to up to €10,000, it’s difficult. Nowadays, if we need to compete with an English printer, we need to mitigate our position, exceeding even the services of a UK-based printer, if possible. And the only thing that can help us put our minds at rest is export credit.” He says the company has been using export credit insurance – which is provided by a British insurer – since the very beginning. “Credit insurance is a regulator so that you don’t risk too much. It involves a credit check, to check if the client is credit-worthy, amongst other things, and it’s useful both for new clients whose track record hasn’t yet been tested, as well as existing clients which might be doing badly. The small exporter needs to have this in place. Whenever we were overconfident, we were bitten. One time, we had a new client, who racked up around €90,000 worth of orders. Naturally we were very pleased, but we only had insurance cover for up to €10,000. When it came to actually paying us, the client declared bankruptcy and didn’t pay a penny of what he owed. It was a scam – one of the shareholders bought the company, kicked everyone out, and transferred the stock at a pittance to his own company – but unfortunately, it was all completely legal. Laws vary from one country to another. But when we calculated the cost of taking legal action in the UK, including lawyers, courts and so on, it would have been too expensive for us. When you’re working with exports, litigation expenses are quite high, and it’s not easy. In the end, we were paid a fraction of what we were owed through insurance, but nowhere near the total.” Philip Hendy, Associate Partner at Rycroft Associates LLP, a credit insurance specialist firm, states that most local businesses he has spoken to have been very interested in using

export credit insurance. “The dynamic in Malta is a bit different to the UK as the UK is a more mature market place for export credit insurance. The key is volume. As a single broker, I do not have the overheads that a larger company would have and the costs that go with it. A stand-alone business may need 500 cases to break even, but I do not believe there are that many cases available on the island just yet. I, on the other hand, would need to see a much smaller number of cases to make it viable.” “The key to credit insurance is the mitigation of risk,” Mr Hendy says. “Whether the debt is domestic or export, the transfer of goods from one party to another is the key point at which the risk is entailed. Companies which use export credit insurance tend to be able to mitigate this risk by ensuring that payment will be made whatever happens during the process of transferring ownership of the goods. It’s not really about feeling the need for the insurance but more of making

it part of the process. It protects against nonpayment either by default or by insolvency, and also helps a business to understand the buyer’s background and historic ability to pay more easily before they sell them anything.” Finally, Mr Hendy says any company would wish to mitigate the risk of non-payment, but stated that further to that, there were other benefits of export credit insurance to consider. “Banks and finance companies are often more willing to provide cash into business when they utilise export credit insurance. This can be to cover the cost of raw materials or just for basic cash flow. Whatever it is used for, credit insurance is used to leverage increased funds for the business usually on the understanding that the funder is accepted as a loss payee on the policy – in other words any payments are made to them. Also, usage of export credit insurance often allows a business to offer longer terms than they would normally do, which gives them a greater competitive advantage over competitors.” cc

“[Export credit insurance] protects against non-payment either by default or by insolvency, and also helps a business to understand the buyer’s background and historic ability to pay more easily before they sell them anything.” – Philip Hendy, Associate Partner at Rycroft Associates LLP SEPTEMBER 2018



Cycling for life With just weeks to go before this year’s cyclists are off on their next incredible journey, Jo Caruana speaks to Foster Clark LifeCycle Challenge 2018 founder Alan Curry about the motivations behind this outstanding organisation, and his hopes and plans for it in the years to come.





ou may well have heard of LifeCycle – an international expedition that takes cyclists on the journey of a lifetime to raise funds to assist renal patients in Malta. The first one in 1999 took the team from Malta to Newcastle. Since then, they have cycled as far afield as Greece in 2005, Syria in 2009, Japan in 2014, and Tanzania in 2017. This year’s journey – one of the most adventurous to date – will take them from Dubai in the UAE to Salalah in Oman. With this in mind, it is no surprise that LifeCycle is considered one of the toughest and most gruelling challenges anywhere in the world. Of course, LifeCycle has featured hundreds of cyclists since it was first formed. But at the centre of all of them is Alan Curry – the organisation’s founder, and the man who continues to ensure its mission grows and develops year on year. Alan’s desire to raise funds for this cause is actually a very personal one – it all started in December 1998 when his wife suffered kidney failure. “The staff at the Renal Unit were so caring that I thought I’d repay them by doing a long distance cycle ride back to my village in England,” he says.

Photos by Alan Carville SEPTEMBER 2018



“LifeCycle is considered one of the toughest and most gruelling challenges anywhere in the world.”

“I planned for it to take 21 days, and hoped to raise some money to give them a boost. As it turns out, we raised thousands (€100,000 approximately), and the whole thing just took off from there.” Alan has always been motivated by the desire to ‘do good’. In fact, one of his earliest memories is of walking the full marathon for charity at school in the UK. “The people sponsoring me back then were so impressed with what we were willing to do, that they didn’t really care what the money was for. LifeCycle gets that reaction too – people are impressed with what we are willing to do, and they support it. Beyond that, though, the fact their money is going to renal patients is very special.” The challenge itself covers an average of 2,000km in a mere 10 days, and is held annually in October. This year marks its 19th anniversary. But looking back, Alan admits that the first-ever team – which took on the challenge in 1999 – was probably quite naïve. “None of us had ever done any charity work on this scale before; we had no official committee, no intention of going beyond the first year, and were just running on adrenaline.”

Nowadays, LifeCycle has a foundation headed by three supervisory council members including Alan, Tony Bugeja (who was originally in charge of the Renal Unit and had been on the first trip) and Alan’s great friend Tim Peco. The organisation also has a working committee led by Dr Shirley Cefai, who has been involved for the past 10 years and is also its chairperson. “Currently, we’re in the midst of forming a fellowship that will be for money coming in from foreign sources and used solely for research purposes,” Alan explains. 106

“At the moment, we are also among the finalists of the Social Impact Awards, which we hope will see a fully-fledged campaign on the awareness and prevention of this life threatening disease come to fruition.” After all, awareness is such an important part of the stellar work that LifeCycle does, and its main aims are to educate people about renal disease, raise funds for the treatment of renal patients, and to increase research into the causes and possible cures for renal failure. SEPTEMBER 2018


With that in mind, Alan and his core team always meet the medical staff at Mater Dei before each campaign starts, who then provide a ‘wish list’ of their needs. Regardless of the focus though, the funds will be used to help fight the difficulties faced by renal patients, which include fatigue, tiredness, bloating, water retention and obviously the treatment itself. Looking back on what has been achieved, Alan says he hopes that, today, there is more flexibility in the treatment available thanks to the machines purchased through LifeCycle funds. “I think there is definitely more awareness on the issue today, as well as prevention,” he continues. “In the case of SEPTEMBER 2018

“Next we will continue with our investment into research so that the local conditions leading to renal failure are better understood, and will be able to raise awareness in that specific direction.”

prevention – which is so important – we have a whole campaign about to be launched. Next we will continue with our investment into research so that the local conditions leading to renal failure are better understood, and will be able to raise awareness in that specific direction.” As for the future of the event, Alan says he would like to think that this is very bright – “but it will take hard work, that’s for sure!” he

asserts. “That said, our passion for the task in hand is still as strong – actually even stronger – than it was back in 1998 when we started. I truly believe there’s no limit to where we can take LifeCycle for the benefit of renal patients and the families that also suffer with them. We are always pushing the boundaries. Taking the easy option has never been something we do – and that’s exactly what we will be focusing on as we go forward.” cc 109

Food Trends

From the rise of exotic cuisines to unusually coloured foods, Martina Said highlights some intriguing culinary trends to look out for. 01. Local produce Over the last few years, there’s been a growing awareness for shopping local across multiple industries, including the food sector. In an increasingly growing trend overseas, including at Michelin-star restaurants, chefs are adopting a sense of ‘localism’ in their cooking, which sometimes even means sourcing ingredients within walking distance.

02. Activated charcoal With so many colourful food trends around – rainbow, unicorn, you name it! – it was only a matter of time until a dark alternative hit the market, and it’s come in the form of pitchblack foods caused by activated charcoal powder. The powder is the (safe) by-product of burning coconut shells, wood and other plant materials to give food, ranging from hamburger buns to savoury crackers to icecream cones, a dark and unexpected hue.

03. Poke bowls Traditional Hawaiian poke, pronounced ‘po-kay’, bowls include heaps of fresh, cubed seafood and fish, often raw but also cooked depending on the fish, mixed with other zesty ingredients such as green onions, sesame oil and seeds, and soy sauce over rice. The popularity of this dish has moved to mainland US and beyond, and new versions of this meal have been conjured, including poke wraps and salads.


Wide Open Eats


04. Probiotic foods Eating consciously and with the aim of improving digestive health has been a huge deal in 2018, with many increasingly turning to plant-based diets and natural remedies for ailments. There’s also been a rise in the consumption of natural probiotic foods to support digestive and immune health, the likes of kimchi, miso, tempeh and kefir, which – besides being available in health shops – are also appearing in menus across the restaurant industry.

05. Matcha Matcha, a fine green tea powder, has a lovely, vivid green colour, due to the high levels of chlorophyll caused by growing the tea leaves in the shade. It’s been a staple in Japan for centuries, but has made its way into European and American eateries thanks to its high antioxidant properties and potential to colour any dish, from matcha-dipped strawberries to matcha ice-cream, yoghurt and brownies.



06. Peruvian cuisine Two restaurants in Peru made it to the 2018 World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, which is no small feat – a sure sign that Peruvian cuisine is on the rise, attracting foodies who are inclined towards unusual and intriguing flavours, in no small part thanks to the various cultures, including Spanish and Chinese, that have influenced the country over decades. cc


Styled to Sparkle


Maid From Scratch

All Inca Trail

05. SEPTEMBER 2018

Foodie Factor

Matcha Culture


CC make the headlines

Firstbridge becomes an alliance member of BOKS International Firstbridge is proud to announce that it is now a fully-fledged international alliance member of BOKS International, a global alliance of professional firms specialising in tailored financial services. To inaugurate this alliance, Firstbridge joined 48 other delegates from around the world for the launch in London. The event was a huge success, especially when considering that this was the first of its kind. About BOKS International BOKS International Limited is a global alliance of internationally acclaimed professional firms specialising in accountancy, taxation, compliance and advisory services. The technical expertise

HSBC Global Asset Management Malta launches the Lower Carbon Funds range As global awareness of environmental sustainability risks increases and momentum around climate-related investments continues to build, more investors realise the importance of sustainable investment.

“The world needs to move to a lower-carbon economy” SEPTEMBER 2018

and professionalism of its member firms ensures top quality services geared towards seamlessly attending to the needs of local and international clients. Firstbridge services Whether at an individual, start-up or established level, our team at Firstbridge is equipped to bridge the gap between your financial requirements and goals. Regardless of the scale or nature of your commercial activity, our in-house experts from different areas of financial management will study your case from a holistic perspective to offer a tailor-made solution to suit your needs. Firstbridge offers a highly personalised service adaptable to your set-up, in order to allow you to focus on your other business priorities.

HSBC Global Asset Management Malta announces the launch of the HSBC GIF (Global Investment Fund) Lower Carbon Equity Fund and the HSBC GIF Lower Carbon Bond Fund, two lower carbon funds that aim to address climate-related investment risks using robust composite carbon data to achieve a lower carbon portfolio than their respective reference benchmark. Climate change is a material investment issue, creating risks and opportunities as companies are impacted directly or as a result of regulatory changes. By taking a proactive approach, HSBC is offering investors an opportunity to mitigate some of the risks associated with climate change. Wayne Spiteri, Managing Director of HSBC Global Asset Management Malta, which is the official distributor of the HSBC GIF Lower Carbon Funds, said: “HSBC is focusing on a more collaborative engagement with investors with the aim of ensuring that finance is part of the solution to sustainability. We recognise that the world needs to move to a lower-carbon economy to be able to tackle climate-related issues and grow in a sustainable manner.” As a leading fund manager, HSBC Global Asset Management has integrated sustainable investing in its investment management. The implications of climate change and transitioning to a lower-carbon economy are now core investment considerations. The

How will joining BOKS bolster our services? Firstbridge has managed to succeed on a national basis for more than 10 years within a century-old family-run group. The alliance with interdisciplinary firms specialising in financial services, was the next natural step. This enables us to exploit new opportunities while strengthening our position in a market where we already have a strong foothold. Being an alliance member of BOKS will help enlarge our distribution channels and business contact base, as well as enhance our image in a global marketplace. cc Get in touch with our team at Firstbridge on should you seek to tap into foreign markets as we can provide the expert guidance you require.

HSBC GIF Lower Carbon Bond and Equity Funds aim to reduce total exposure to securities and sectors that produce the highest greenhouse gas emissions. In the Lower Carbon Funds, all holdings must pass a carbon-intensity assessment to be eligible for purchase. These funds are managed by HSBC Global Asset Management, one of the largest asset managers in the world. It specialises in investment products both for retail and institutional clients, managing over €400 billion in assets and present in over 26 countries. cc The opinions expressed herein are for retail clients and should not be interpreted as investment advice. The value of the investment can go down as well as up and capital is at risk. Currency fluctuations may affect the value of the investment. Investments should be based upon the full details contained in the prospectus of the respective Fund. The Funds are manufactured by HSBC Investment Funds (Luxembourg) S.A. 16, boulevard d’Avranches, L-1160 Luxembourg (‘the Management Company’).

The Management Company has appointed HSBC Global Asset Management (Malta) Ltd, 80 Mill Street, Qormi, as Distributor of the Funds with the right to appoint subdistributors. In Malta, the Funds are distributed to Investors through HSBC Bank Malta p.l.c. (a sub-distributor of HSBC Global Asset Management (Malta) Ltd). Approved and issued by HSBC Global Asset Management (Malta) Ltd, which is regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority under the Investment Services Act.


CC make the headlines

From Baby Boomers to Millennials: the ceek approach The generations have a lot to teach each other; from Millennials sharing their technological skills to the value of building great working relationships shared by the Baby Boomers. The mix of these generations working within an organisation will broaden everyone’s knowledge and make a more versatile environment that will eventually lead to a better product for the customer. Stereotypical characteristics place Baby Boomers as agents of social change, nonconformist, highly competitive and hardworking; Generation X are independent and self-reliant, looking for effective ways of doing things to enhance a work-life balance, whilst Millennials focus on an even better work-life balance than Generation X, are

MeDirect rewards your loyalty… … by paying 0.5 per cent of the value of your investment portfolio if you transfer it to MeDirect. MeDirect is rewarding its customers’ loyalty with a new asset transfer promotion. This will give customers an 0.5 per cent bonus on the value of investment securities transferred from local or foreign banks or brokers to MeDirect, by 30th November 2018. In


liberal, self-expressive and technologically savvy. In recruiting for roles, companies need to ensure that through the recruitment process, one can tailor the communication and style used to address potential employees, irrelevant of what generation they are from. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the characteristics of the various generations in order to be able to engage the candidates and communicate with them in ways that will allow companies to see how they can add value to the organisation. We at ceek provide a personalised and tailor-made approach to the above; we provide our clients with the necessary tools needed that will assist them in the recruitment process: from finding out what makes the candidate tick, to the candidate’s motivation and needs, to assistance in placing the perfect candidate. Regardless of which generation organisations want to appeal to, we at ceek will assist in providing you with quality candidates that will address the skills required for the role whilst ensuring that the culture-fit and values of the individual fall in line with that of the organisation.

addition, MeDirect will refund third-party transfer fees of up to 0.5 per cent of the value of investments transferred. Both the bonus and refund will be paid by 31st December 2018, making for a rewarding end-of-year gift. MeDirect is trusted by over 50,000 customers, and administers €2 billion deposits and €1 billion assets on their behalf. Its high rate of customer retention is built on the solid foundations of superior customer service, professional expertise and state-of-the art technology to offer low-cost banking services. MeDirect customers can view and manage all their savings and investments together on one online account, accessible 24/7 in a completely secure way. Its low banking and investment fees enable customers to save money when trading and executing banking transactions, and to retain a higher share of the returns made of their investments. MeDirect offers a wide selection of investment products, including funds, ETFs, shares, bonds as well as Model Portfolios, which are baskets of investment funds aimed at diversifying investment risk and achieving better returns. With branches in Sliema, Paola, Mosta and Gozo, a Belgian online bank, a London-based team of analysts, and the expertise of Charts, whose wealth management team

We do so by understanding what the needs of the company and department are, filter and interview accordingly depending on the requirements brought forward. Our aim is to find a perfect match between company and candidate first time round. cc For more information contact us on 2703 0133 or visit our website on

has operated in Malta since 1985, MeDirect can effectively support its customers in choosing the investment strategy that better fits their needs. Customers interested in taking advantage of the promotion need only visit one of MeDirect’s branches or log in to their online banking to open an investment account. Once this is done, they need to submit a transfer request together with a statement of holdings, showing their current portfolio. MeDirect will then contact the existing investment custodian to arrange the transfer. New and current MeDirect customers can contact MeDirect by phone (2557 4400) or via email to set up an appointment with one of its branch representatives and kick-start their asset transfer process. cc For more information about the promotion, read the ‘Terms and Conditions of the 0.5 per cent Asset Transfer Promotion’ available on MeDirect Bank (Malta) plc, company registration number C34125, is licensed by the Malta Financial Services Authority under the Banking Act (Cap. 371) and the Investment Services Act (Cap. 370). SEPTEMBER 2018

CC make the headlines

A winning selection of new furniture for QuickSpin head office QuickSpin is a Swedish Casino game software company that prides itself in providing innovative games developed with style and flair. Its products are constantly changing and evolving to meet shifting market demands, and the same can be said for its main office in Malta. Quickspin tasked DEX Workspaces to supply new furniture for its office, including desks with screens, ergonomic swivel chairs, and a fully furnished boardroom, as well as designer pieces for the welcome area such as a coffee table and Panton chairs from the Vitra brand. The team at DEX worked hand in hand with the client’s architect Bernard Vella (il-Periti) to deliver a space at the St Julian’s office that relates to the main headquarters in Sweden, but also adapts to the Maltese context. The client was focused on the aesthetic of the

interior for clients visiting the office, and this was realised through the Vista and Opera ranges from Newform. Furthermore, the client also wanted to fit the space with furniture that was both comfortable and easy for staff to use, and this was achieved through DEX’s Quniti, Slalom, and metalmobil ranges. This project at QuickSpin was very successful throughout its inception up until its completion, despite the fact that the twomonth timeframe was very tight. The client was very much involved in the entire process, and understood how things were going and trusted the team to deliver on its promises. The lead architect on this project, Bernard Vella, specifically chose DEX for this task as it “offers office furniture of quality”, which fit the brief requested by the client. Sarah Jane Vella, Sales Consultant at DEX, indicated that

the working relationship with the client’s architect was clear and smooth, and that both parties “were able to provide for all [the client’s] needs.” Overall, QuickSpin was very pleased with the outcome of the work, and the general feeling towards this project echoes Bernard’s parting statement – “This is a winner.” cc DEX Workspaces is part of Vivendo Group and specialises in creating spaces where professionals can work more comfortably and productively. The company offers a complete range of solutions for offices furniture, including the supply, delivery and installation of workstations, raised flooring, acoustic systems, lighting, and partitions. Contact us at or 2277 3000, or visit our showroom at Mdina Road, Qormi.


Of art and fashion Maltese fashion photographer and visual artist Stephanie Galea, who has had her work featured on the likes of Vogue Italia, Elle and Nylon, chats with Sarah Micallef about what led her to pursue a career in photography, and bringing out the message in her work.


aving dabbled in different art forms growing up, Stephanie Galea’s interest in photography didn’t actually come about until she completed a degree in Chemistry at the University of Malta. “I suddenly felt like I didn’t want to pursue a career in science, and art was always in my life one way or another, also seeing as my mother is a painter,” she explains. While she figured out what her next step would be, Stephanie enrolled in the foundation Diploma within the Architecture Department in Malta, and it was there that she started taking photography seriously. Working hard on her portfolio, she applied at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design (UAL) and got offered a place


on the MA fine art photography course. “I haven’t really looked back since,” she says, having moved to London as she completed her course, to assist photographers in the industry such as Louie Banks and Amelia Troubridge, before venturing out on her own. Speaking of themes she deals with in her work, Stephanie identifies a recurring theme as “women, the female gaze and how it relates to where I’m from,” where she feels a little conflict exists. “When I photograph women it’s not just about the clothing and everything looking ‘pretty’ and seemingly fine. It’s more about the story behind it. I feel like the photography industry is obsessed with sexualising women, but things are changing. It’s about allowing women to SEPTEMBER 2018


“I feel like the photography industry is obsessed with sexualising women, but things are changing. It’s about allowing women to sexualise themselves if they want to, and hand them the torch.”

sexualise themselves if they want to, and hand them the torch. Everyone should be fine with that,” she maintains. With a preferred subject matter of fashion and art, and the ways in which they interject, Stephanie goes on to explain her creative process, which very much depends on whether she’s working on an assignment or a personal project. “In my fashion work, I could be inspired by a location or by a collection, and then it becomes a theme. I then research imagery and literature associated with the theme and start making a board and move on from there. On the other hand, my fine art projects stem from a feeling I have, things which have made me feel uncomfortable over the years and want to address,” she says. SEPTEMBER 2018



The fashion photographer and visual artist finds inspiration in “strong women, beautiful places, imagery and literature,” and is also inspired by her past, and the environment in which she was brought up. Asked whether there are any artists she looks up to, she names Viviane Sassen, Harley Weir and Jack Davidson, adding, “their work plays with surrealism and photography in a contemporary way.” I go on to ask what it is about fashion photography that captures her interest above other forms, and Stephanie explains that it’s mainly got to do with the aggressiveness of fashion, and also the form. “It’s unapologetic, exciting, fast-paced and also beautiful. I am very inspired by the industry, and often pieces or collections would inspire an idea for a shoot too. I feel like it almost happened naturally,” she maintains. Apart from her fashion work, Stephanie also pursues fine art photography, and explains that she’s currently working on a few projects which relate to the Maltese


culture as well as sex, guilt and religion. “My personal work differs from my fashion work as there is no emphasis on the clothing or designer, especially if it’s a commercial client, there are no guidelines. My work is about my vision and the person I’m photographing and their take on life,” she affirms.

“[Fashion] is unapologetic, exciting, fast paced and also beautiful. I am very inspired by the industry, and often pieces or collections would inspire an idea for a shoot too.”



So would she consider her photographs to tell a story, I ask, and if so, what is that story? “My story, possibly? I’m not sure as art is really subjective, but I try to make beautiful imagery with an underlying, possibly not so beautiful, story. My nude work is ‘beautiful’ you could say, but it stems from the stigma surrounding the female body and being brought up in such a religious and conservative country. It’s me trying to tell other women to be unapologetic about who there are,” Stephanie says. Moving on to whether she feels that art and photography can be a career, Stephanie believes it to be a career “if you’re willing to work hard at it and if you believe in yourself,” asserting that, “art doesn’t just happen, you’re not just ‘inspired’, and even if you are, it takes more than inspiration to start and finish a project.” Looking back on the highlights of her journey into photography so far, she maintains that every time her work gets published is a highlight: “when I get to work with talented people and when projects come to fruition.” And having had work published on huge industry players like Vogue Italia, Vogue Arabia, Vogue Arabia Man, Tank, I-D, Elle and Nylon, as well as having worked with brands like Dior Homme, Dior Beauty, Dunhill, Kate Spade, Ted Baker and Victor & Rolf, it’s not hard to see why! Finally, asked what her advice to aspiring photographers would be, Stephanie asserts, “as cliché as it sounds, be yourself and try to get away from the noise. There are lots of things other people are doing and it can be overwhelming. Take time to invest in yourself, keep your mind open and really be aware of what you’re interested in and what you’d like your work to be about.” cc 122


The Commercial Courier - September 2018  
The Commercial Courier - September 2018