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INTERVIEW

Issue 73

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April 27, 2017

Distributed with Times of Malta

PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER BLANCHARD – SMS GROUP

Having recently acquired the entirety of BOV’s 8.92 per cent shareholding in MIDI plc, British entrepreneur Mark Weingard reveals why the Maltese islands continue to attract his investment. see pages 8 and 9 >

NEWS Economist and MISCO co-founder Joseph F.X. Zahra teams up with his daughter for a brand-new consultancy venture. see page 5 >

Maltese company conquers 85% of Miami cruise traffic Marie-Claire Grima A family-owned Maltese company, SMS International Shore Operations, has grown to become the agent of 85 per cent of cruise liner business in Miami, handling most of the traffic in the cruise capital of the world. Samuel Mifsud, the former chairman of the Malta Tourism Authority and currently the Managing Director of SMS, took over the responsibility of the family firm’s overseas operations in 1996. The network expanded to Miami in 2012. “At the moment we are handling more than 2,000 cruise calls,” he told The Business Observer. “We usually have around 30 ships arriving between Friday and Monday, during a

“e number of cruise passengers stopping in Malta has been increasing year after year and we feel that with its geographical location, it can become the main cruise hub of the Mediterranean.”

normal weekend. Since we handle all passenger check-ins, transportation logistics and meet and greets at the airport, we employ 900 people in Miami alone.” Think of any cruise line you or anyone you know has been on recently in Miami, and chances are that they’re handled by SMS. These include Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Oceania Cruise, Regent Seven Seas and Fathom Cruise Line. Today, the company is the second-largest company of its like, offering services to all ports in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Civitavecchia in Italy, Continued on page 3

NEWS Following bumper months for tourism in January and February, figures in coming months will continue to be ‘impressive’, predicts MHRA President Tony Zahra. see page 6 >

NEWS Malta’s first crowd-funding platform manages to raise more than €90,000 for 32 different projects through public contributions. see page 20 >


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Malta can become cruise hub of the Med Continued from page 1 Miami, Port Everglades, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Catalina Island and Astoria in the USA and Vancouver, Victoria and Prince Rupert in Canada. “We have been in the tourism business for years and we were one of the pioneers to start working with cruise liners in Malta. We used our knowledge of operating ships to open an office in the main cruise markets and concentrate on home-porting,” Mr Mifsud says. Having been in the industry for so long, Mr Mifsud knows all about the importance of keeping up with trends that have rapidly skewed towards cheaper and higher frequency over the past 20 years. “The tourism industry is changing every day and one needs to evolve with the times. Some of the major changes in the past include the advent of lowcost travel and the use of the internet to make travel bookings. As a result, the cruise industry has undergone significant changes over the years, both in terms of availability and pricing.” He also notes the potential that Malta has as a cruise passenger hub has been recognised and can be even further exploited. “The number of cruise passengers stopping in Malta has been increasing year after year and we feel that with its geographical location, it can become

the main cruise hub of the Mediterranean.” Mr Mifsud says that over the next few years, the company will focus on consolidating its current offices around the world and expanding only in a handful of destinations in the US and Europe. “Setting up SMS in Miami was one of our greatest challenges. But I consider the most rewarding part of my daily routine to be driving to the port of Miami every morning and seeing every day that the vast majority of the cruise liners in port are handled

“I consider the most rewarding part of my daily routine to be driving to the port of Miami every morning and seeing every day that the vast majority of the cruise liners in port are handled by SMS.”

How is the cruise liner business doing in Malta? Total cruise passenger traffic during the first quarter of 2017 increased by more than double over the corresponding period last year, officials statistics show. A total of 85,215 passengers visited Malta in the first three months this year, an increase of 116.4 per cent over the same period last year, according to the National Statistics Office. There were 34 cruise liner calls during the first quarter, 17 more than last year. On average, every vessel that berthed in Malta carried 2,506 passengers, 190 more than last year. Visitors from EU member states comprised 68.1 per cent of total traffic, the major markets being Italy, France and Germany. The total number of passengers from non-EU countries stood at 27,184, of whom 28.1 per cent came from the United States. The largest share of passengers fell within the 60-79 age bracket and were followed by those aged between 40 and 59.

SAMUEL MIFSUD, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF SMS INTERNATIONAL SHORE OPERATIONS


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NEWS

Joseph F.X. Zahra building Surge Advisory after selling MISCO shareholding After co-founding MISCO and serving as its managing director for nearly 34 years, leading business personality and economist Joseph F.X. Zahra has sold his shareholding in MISCO to cofounder Lawrence Zammit and has taken up a new challenge. Over the past three months, Mr Zahra and his daughter Maria Zahra have been busy setting up Surge Advisory, a new boutique consultancy company. Mr Zahra has occupied prominent positions including that of Chairman of Bank of Valletta, Middle Sea Insurance and GO plc. He is also one of five members on the International Audit Committee of the Holy See  and the  Vatican State. In July 2013,  Pope Francis  named Mr Zahra the President of a new  Pontifical Commission, the  Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, chartered to investigate current accounting practices among Vatican offices and bodies, and to help devise new strategies for greater fiscal responsibility and transparency. Renowned for acting as a consultant for a large number of leading businesses in Malta, especially family businesses, Mr Zahra has teamed up with his daughter Maria – who also left MISCO – to set up a new consultancy agency. “We were seeking a relationship-based advisory service focusing on a small clientele,” Ms Zahra, the company’s managing director told The Business Observer. “We are thinking more on

long-term relationships; less transaction-based and thus, more relationship-based. We believe in partnering with businesses and always aim at being open, transparent and genuine in the way we work with them.” With Mr Zahra’s wide-ranging expertise in issues related to economics, corporate management and directorship, and her own 15 years of HR and business advisory experience, Ms Zahra says that there is a lot of complementarity in the two directors’ capabilities. “This includes finding solutions to complex issues of organisational restructuring, change management, succession planning and the strengthening of governance in family business and SMEs where you need a strong competence in processes and performance which are both HR-led.” What Surge offers includes strategic and business planning, transformation management, succession planning, organisation restructuring, corporate governance advice, human resources and capital advice, many of which were services pioneered in Malta by MISCO. However, with Surge, the focus has shifted towards a more targeted and personalised approach. “Advisory services need to be customised according to the challenges and situations our clients are facing, therefore whilst committing to offering services areas, there is no menu of services that we provide. Each organisation has its own complex challenges and it is our responsibility to understand each business and the context in

“Advisory services need to be customised according to the challenges and situations our clients are facing.” which it operates and give insight and advice according to what is required. Consultancy services are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’,” says Ms Zahra. Mr Zahra has said that his new role will allow him to dedicate more time to his directorships in Malta and abroad, which include

Medserv Malta, United Finance, Curmi & Partners Limited and Pendergardens Development. He is also one of five members on the International Audit Committee of the Holy See and the Vatican State, and a board member of the Vatican-based Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation.

Meanwhile, MISCO, now under the headship of co-founding partner Lawrence Zammit, and what Mr Zahra warmly describes as “a formidable management team” continues to grow in Malta as well as other countries including Cyprus and Italy.


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NEWS

Tourism figures in coming months will be ‘impressive’, MHRA President predicts January and February of this year were fantastic months for tourism, with figures expected to continue exceeding expectations between March and June, according to the President of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) Tony Zahra. Speaking with The Business Observer, an upbeat Mr Zahra confirmed that the first months of this year saw unusually high volumes of tourists arriving in Malta, and he expects the same pattern to continue for the March-June period. “The increased arrival figures for January and February 2017 are very impressive and will, in my opinion, continue to be just as impressive for the next four months, given that a considerable number of these increases are attributable to Malta holding the EU rotating Presidency.” Considering tourist arrival records from the past seven years, Mr Zahra said he believes that while Malta seems to have reached ‘maximum carrying capacity’ for the peak summer months, there was clearly room for growth in the shoulder period and it was definitely ‘extremely good news’ that Malta is witnessing significant growth now in the shoulder months as well. “Over the last seven years we have seen a record number of arrivals in each consecutive year. Last year the arrivals were just under two million. For such a small island these are indeed very impressive figures. The arrivals always peak in the months of July and August, and traditionally we have suffered in the periods from November to mid-December and from mid-January to a week prior to Easter.” “The increases in the low months are extremely good news for the industry as a whole as they ensure that

“e increases in the low months are extremely good news for the industry as a whole as they ensure that the industry is working to higher capacity in the low months.” the industry is working to higher capacity in the low months. This is indeed good news for the industry and increases in revenue in low and shoulder months will see increases

in bottom line since enterprises will be getting more revenue with only marginal increases in costs.” As to whether the first months of the year point to another all-

time record year, Mr Zahra said it was still too early to say. “To assess how the rest of the year will span out, one needs to assess the seat availability to Malta. I understand that in the second part of the year, the increase in seats to Malta on 2016 is around five per cent. Consequently the percentage increases we are seeing in the first part of the year probably will not be maintained in the second part of the year, because of the seat capacity, and in any case the island is now reaching, if it has not already reached, its maximum carrying capacity in the peak periods.”

So far, the National Statistics Office has published information on the first two months of 2017. According to the NSO, inbound tourist trips for the first two months of 2017 reached 207,968, an increase of 25.4 per cent over the same period in 2016. Total nights spent by inbound tourists went up by 13.9 per cent, surpassing 1.4 million nights. Total tourism expenditure was estimated at €140.7 million, 14.3 per cent higher than that recorded in 2016. Total expenditure per capita stood at €677, a decrease of 8.8 per cent when compared to 2016.


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INTERVIEW

Malta could mirror Singapore as a centre for foreign investment – Mark Weingard Social entrepreneur and investor Mark Weingard may not be certain about everything in life, but he is convinced about one thing in particular: Malta is going to be his home for the rest of his life. Jo Caruana “I am a big fan of this place,” Mark Weingard says buoyantly. “I have bought a home here, set up businesses here and invested in projects here. I really love being in Malta and believe the country has a strong future ahead of it.” Mr Weingard is well-known in local business circles. From his pop-up restaurant Aziamendi 100 to his more recent acquisi-

tion of an 8.92 per cent shareholding in MIDI plc, he has put his money where his mouth is when it comes to building his local portfolio. “I have money to invest and I want Malta to be part of my legacy,” he says, adding that he considers himself a social entrepreneur, with an equal interest in building businesses while also leaving his mark on the country’s social capital. Mr Weingard sees Malta as one of the hottest investment opportunities in Europe.

“It is vital that, when it comes to property development, the market is drip-fed not overwhelmed.”

“There are a number of things that make the islands very attractive to foreign investors,” he says. “Integration is one of them. There are very few countries I have experienced that will accept you as easily as Malta will. I have lived in Switzerland, Thailand and Spain, to name a few, and always felt like a foreigner, as 95 per cent of my friends were expats. I have now lived in Malta for four years and 95 per cent of my friends are locals so I feel like a local. That is very important to me.”


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INTERVIEW

Mr Weingard cites other benefits – including the tax reductions for foreign investment – as among the reasons why he became interested in Malta in the first place. “This sort of activity helps to put Malta on the map; the passport scheme, the taxation regime and the openness of doing international business here. Local authorities have rolled out the red carpet for foreign investors and this has been a success, as it has attracted huge swathes of people who are excited to live in this beautiful place. There’s a lot to love about living here and doing business – the English-speaking workforce, the social life, the close proximity to the rest of Europe. The combination of the good financial climate and the good weather makes Malta very attractive. Prices may have gone up but I still see opportunity here.” The entrepreneur goes so far as to say that he believes Malta could compete with the likes of Singapore. “In my opinion, Malta is going to become a centre for innovation and investment, and it will keep attracting foreign investment in the same way it has done recently. Beyond that, the Maltese are also themselves very entrepreneurial, which will help to provide a solid base for the economy as it continues to develop.” As for the sustainability of Malta’s future, though, this is where Mr Weingard admits it may be prudent to apply the brakes a little. “I’ll admit I am not a big fan of high-rise buildings, and not just because of the way they look in an environment like this,” he says. “It is vital that, when it comes to property development, the market is drip-fed not overwhelmed. If ten massive developments

“I have seen a lot of criticism of developers in Valletta but, trust me, it’s not easy to work within these walls and it takes dedication.” suddenly come onto the market at the same time, then that is potentially unsustainable. It’s all about the age-old play of supply versus demand, and one cannot afford to tip too far in one direction. I don’t think there’s room for 10,000 new units to come onto the market – that would be too much. But there is room for two or three thousand. I am not concerned yet but I am keeping an eye out,” he says. Mr Weingard is monitoring things environmentally, as he believes too much development could make Malta uninhabitable, “which would be a real shame.” This is where his passion for social entrepreneurship strides in. He aims to lead by example when it comes to the sort of projects he believes could make up the framework for Malta’s sustainable future. He is especially interested in Valletta, and has bought a number of buildings within the walls that he is currently restoring, including a hotel. “The results will be part of the regeneration of this incredible city, and our aim is to invest

money that will in turn recirculate and lead to more projects. I have seen a lot of criticism of developers in Valletta but, trust me, it’s not easy to work within these walls and it takes dedication; if you wanted to develop for the sake of it, you would avoid Valletta as it is so much more expensive and complicated. That leads me to believe those working in Valletta are doing so with the right intentions – to make the capital as beautiful and dynamic as it can be. Currently I have to say that it’s a real pleasure watching it all come to life.” Finally, another important project for Mr Weingard has been the creation of the

Social Impact Awards, in partnership with Joe Gasan, chairman and chief executive of the Gasan Group of Companies. “The first edition of the event last year was very well received, and our second edition in October will build on that success. They will be an important platform for putting great ideas into society and making them happen. We hope to have €100,000 available in grants for the successful start-ups, as well as very exciting mentorship opportunities. We’re currently looking for fellow donors and organisations willing to help make that change.”


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

EDITORIAL

Malta is set to be the real loser Nobody in his or her right senses would dispute the fact that the Panama Papers and their aftermath have now escalated into a fullblown national political crisis. And the harsh reality is that in all probability Malta will be the real loser as a result of this mess that has been created by a few individuals. While either Joseph Muscat or Simon Busuttil will certainly win the battle in the next general election, the Panama Papers crisis has exposed Malta to risk losing the war. Make no mistake. This is a different political crisis to what Malta had experienced between 1996 and 1998 when Alfred Sant was Prime Minister and Labour were last in government. It is also intrinsically different from the crisis that had hijacked Lawrence Gonzi’s last legislature in office between 2008 and 2013. Whereas both Alfred Sant’s and Lawrence Gonzi’s crises were predominantly domestic and exposed to local domestic risks, the current crisis has an international perspective and is exposing the nation to serious economic risks both domestic and international. Irrespective of who owns Egrant, the mysterious third company registered in Panama, the harsh reality is that significant damage has already been done to Malta, and undoubtedly to our economy. On a national perspective, the use of offshore companies in shady jurisdictions by top government officials whilst in office – including a senior government minister and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff – is in itself not only unacceptable but disgraceful. The fact that both of them are still in office has strengthened the notion that from a corporate governance perspective, the situation in Malta has deteriorated and reached an all-time low. Secondly, the revelations have already harmed Malta’s reputation as a serious legitimate global financial services hub. Worse still are the recent reports and revela-

tions on the operations of a fully-licensed bank in Malta, the regulator’s role and involvement in investigating claims of serious shortcomings by the bank and the bank’s reported client portfolio. These revelations on their own are indeed very harmful to our financial services industry and lead to legitimate questions on our regulatory framework as well as on the legitimacy in any modern democracy of the modus operandi being adopted by key government members and/or senior officials within the government or within public authorities. Irrespective of whatever outcome the current political crisis will lead to, industry players in the financial services are privately being open about the fact that the Panama Papers and their aftermath are harming our financial services industry. There has already been a change in perception of how Malta is regarded by reputable foreign banks and serious players in the global financial industry. To date, one could argue that Malta’s reputation is being temporarily tarnished until the issue is domestically resolved. One could also argue that any harm already caused has not reached the surface and the public has to an extent been sheltered from this reality. However unless drastic action is taken to restore credibility and trust and to restrengthen the notion that Malta is a legitimate modern EU country that is serious and trustworthy – the likelihood is that the harm that has been and is still being caused will eventually lead to structural problems. These eventually reach the surface and have a material ripple-effect impact on an otherwise very positive economic outlook. It is indeed very sad that the prevailing positive macro economic indicators, achieved as a result of an equally hard-working business community and nation, are being undone by a handful of individuals who should have known better.

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BUSINESS OPINION

Towards competitiveness-driven economic growth

Frank V. Farrugia Taking the helm of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry has so far been an intense experience. While assuring a grade of continuity from the sterling work carried out by my predecessors, I am energetic to keep on facing the challenges of our business community in an ever-changing economic scenario. My first priority as President is to consolidate and strengthen the position of the Malta Chamber as the country’s foremost representative of business. The Malta Chamber has achieved this position over decades of hard work, and I intend to do my utmost to cement it. I plan to do so by maintaining focus on our core business of making policy recommendations in favour of a competitive and

favourable environment for business to generate economic growth. I intend to ensure regular external communications to members and other business and economic stakeholders to position the Chamber as the principal voice of the business community in Malta. It is no secret that our country is doing well from an economic point of view and the recentlyannounced results are praiseworthy. However, as we have been saying all along, we mustn’t stop for a second and grow complacent. The country is facing challenges all the same and we must pay greater attention to detail in order to foresee the challenges of tomorrow. News of a surplus in public finances is most welcome; however, we must see how this

commendable result has been achieved. The resulting decline in capital expenditure, we fear, could hamper our competitiveness and chances of future growth. Much of the country’s infrastructure continues to fall short of the standards expected of a developed and rapidly growing country with great aspirations to establish regional centres of excellence in a number of spheres. Issues also remain in certain areas that may tip the delicate balance the country achieved if they remain untackled. The national airline Air Malta is currently at a crucial point. As a Chamber we have always insisted that the importance of the national airline is not only linked to the tourism sector but also the remainder of the economy, including industry and services.

Manufacturing for example, depends on the efficient and competitive air freight links for the inward just-in-time transportation of raw materials and outbound exports. Our proposal to Government for a long-term solution for the airline includes the reduction of operational costs, the rectification of the company’s current financial situation and opening the company’s shareholding to private investors. Another issue we must ramain vigilant about is the economic and political developments Brexit is bound to bring about. Even after the formal triggering of Article 50 by PM Theresa May, and especially after the announcement of a snap election for 8th June, Brexit remains a major unknown quantity. This is

“Much of the country’s infrastructure continues to fall short of the standards expected of a developed and rapidly growing country with great aspirations to establish regional centres of excellence in a number of spheres.”

new ground all stakeholders must tread on carefully. In fact very little can be said about this subject, but there will surely be changes to the scenario of the European Union as a major political and economic bloc. The results will also be felt in the way we conduct business in Malta and with our international partners. In light of all of the above, Malta is at a very important juncture. The country has arguably entered election mode, and both Government and the opposition have focused their attention to domestic politics. My appeal is for our politicians to maintain focus on the issues that will affect our competitiveness, investment and economic growth. Our political parties must resist the temptation of populist tactics, and should not engage in a race to out-bid each other in making electoral promises that are unsustainable from a financial and national competitiveness point of view. Under my leadership, the Chamber shall remain vigilant and promote the interests of our members and the values of competitiveness-driven economic growth. Frank V. Farrugia is President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.


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CASE STUDY

Bridging the gap between Malta and the mainland Virtu Ferries started in 1988 with its first vessel, a passenger-only ferry which could hold a paltry 300 passengers. A second passenger ferry was introduced a couple of years later, and the two sister ships operated in tandem. In 1993, the company made the leap from the passenger-only market to passengers and vehicles with the introduction of the MV San Gwann. The ferry performed well, and the company decided to test the waters with even bigger vessels in 2006, with the introduction of the MV Maria Dolores, a 68m ferry with the ability to hold four trailers as well as light vehicles. “It was the start of the expansion of our export cargo operations; we would have daily journeys between Malta, Pozzallo and Catania,” says Virtu Ferries’ managing director, Henri Saliba. The expansion continued with the arrival of the MV Jean de La Valette, introduced in 2011, which signified a watershed moment for the company. The 106m-long ferry, which has more space for cargo, could take up to 17 trailers. “It practically changed the entire system of cargo importation into Malta,” Mr Saliba says, with pride. It’s not an exaggeration. Up until quite recently, Malta’s geographic position was a hindrance to its market competitiveness. “Importation was carried out only through unaccompanied trailers, and it involved a very complicated system of paperwork

and double handling. All the costs were shouldered by the consumer,” Mr Saliba says. Virtu’s speed, low prices and efficiency gave many Maltese small businesses the opportunity, for the first time ever to import their own products. “We’ve simplified things and made it easier for traders, no matter how large or small, to import their own products, without unnecessary and costly extra steps in the middle. This was made easier by Malta’s EU membership. The EU not only allows parallel trading, but also encourages it for the end user to benefit. Effectively, we have become a bridge between Malta and mainland Europe.”

Virtu’s ferries operate every day, with double trips four times a week. A trailer with goods leaving Ragusa or Catania in the morning arrives in Malta the same morning – quicker than it would arrive in another Sicilian province – and it returns back home in the evening ready to start all over. “Sicilians have come to think of the Maltese market as if it were an extension of their own market. They have a different pricing strategy through the economies of scale and volume, allowing them to work on low margins, producing very attractive prices for the Maltese consumer. Commercially, there has been a radical change,” Mr Saliba says. The company has also managed to solve the issue of

“We’ve simplified things and made it easier for traders, no matter how large or small, to import their own products, without unnecessary and costly extra steps in the middle.”

storage, by linking Maltese importers up with partners in Sicily, and allowing them to use their storage facilities. “The products leave the supplier accompanied. For perishables, temperature is monitored, even if the trip is an hour and a half; guaranteeing the freshest produce possible. And nowadays, importers can also buy in much smaller quantities and re-order as soon as the stock is sold. There’s less risk that you will end up with unsold stock on your hands.” Meanwhile, Virtu’s passenger market contains a mix of segments, many of which the company helped nurture through its excursions and package deals. “Our job is to create a demand for our services, and we have made it a point to sell our destinations – both Sicily and Malta. We’ve made Maltese clients aware that Sicily has so much to offer, so what used to be a one-day shopping trip is now included as part of a larger itinerary – adventure trips, gastronomic getaways, farm tourism and so on.” On the other side, Malta has now become included in many two- or three-part package holidays, with several coaches from Northern Europe driving through Italy, sailing to Sicily and finally arriving in Malta. “It no longer takes a day to get to Malta – it takes just as long to get to another village in Sicily.” Virtu’s tour operator, Viaggi Maltesi, is the largest Malta specialist tour operator of its kind, and offers all kinds of hotels and packages for Sicilian travellers. Virtu has also made it its mission to act as a broker between Maltese companies and potential Sicilian partners, introducing likely matches with no brokerage fees. Using


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the Virtu Ferries Terminal & Business Centre, companies from Sicily visit the island and exhibit their wares to prospective clients. “We have agreements with various chambers of commerce around Sicily where we invite them over, give them our area for free and allow them to organise their exhibitions. It’s basically a showcase for all Sicilian companies that want to operate in Malta.” This initiative was welcomed with enthusiasm by the Italian authorities. The business centre is also at the heart of Virtu’s newest batch of expansion plans. In October last year, the company placed an order for a new 110m fast ferry, which will be able to take up to 24 trailers, cars and vans at a cruising speed of 38 knots, representing a

€75m investment. “Over the next 18 months, we will be preparing for the arrival of the new vessel, and the business centre is key to that preparation. We will be using it to expand our market and promoting different products so that when the new vessel arrives, we will have a base of new niche markets to build upon, and increase the volume of cargo for the new vessel. Our company is made up of excellent, professional people and we take pride in our younger employees who we mould into our system to ensure continuity in the coming years. All our management and staff are in top gear and looking forward to our new challenges. Our focus remains on our many loyal customers and on offering the best service possible with state-of-the-art vessels.”

THE VIRTU FERRIES TERMINAL AND BUSINESS CENTRE

VIRTU FERRIES MANAGING DIRECTOR, HENRI SALIBA


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INDUSTRY FOCUS

‘Spotlight on property and construction’ Property and construction is big business in Malta – but what does it offer in terms of growth and incentives? And how does it contribute to the local economy? Industry leaders share their thoughts with Sarah Micallef on different aspects of the industry and what lies ahead for their companies and the sector at large. RE/MAX MALTA

Jeff Buttigieg Chief Operating Officer What’s your take on the current property market in Malta? What do you foresee for the local industry in the coming year? “At the moment, the industry is as solid as ever. We haven’t seen such strength in the industry for a while, and we see it continuing as such for 2017 and beyond. There are a multitude of reasons behind this growth, including the Individual Investor Programme (IIP). Apart from this, there is a general positivity in the market – many companies, particularly within the gaming sector but within other sectors too, are setting up in Malta. Apart from buying and renting office space, they bring with them employees that require housing in Malta. With all this happening, the wheel is well and truly turning. “RE/MAX will be opening a number of new offices in 2017 to accommodate for the growth in the sector. We have plans to open two offices in Marsascala and an office in Qawra, and we’ve just opened offices in Swieqi, Msida and Zebbug too. All our offices offer full service, focusing on both sales and rentals.”

SAPPHIRE REAL ESTATE SERVICES

Jane Chircop Managing Director

You’ve recently inaugurated your new Sapphire Real Estate office in Muscat, Oman. What’s your take on the current property market in Malta, and what led you to choose Oman to promote property in Malta? “Sapphire Real Estate Services formed part of a Women in Business in Oman trade mission organised by Malta Enterprise in February 2016. Oman is a very safe and avant garde country, a gateway to all GCC Countries and the Far East whilst Malta is strategically positioned in the centre of the Mediterranean and a gateway to Europe of some of MENA countries, so it is perfect for investors to expand their businesses logistically. “During the mission, my Omani business partner showed great interest and bought the franchises of Sapphire Real Estate Services, Only Made in Malta and Only Made in Gozo, so

Sapphire Real Estate Services was internationalised and represented in all GCC countries territory and the Far East. The innovative Residency Destination Tourism was created to get investors through a special VIP tour for orientation and viewing of our unique heritage private estates, and to try to save them as much as possible, as these investors will be restoring and preserving part of our history. Another aim is to promote Malta and Gozo as a destination for all kinds of businesses. Meanwhile, our two offices were set up as business hub offices where Maltese business persons can meet their counterparts and eventually make their deals at our base. “Maltese businessmen have a lot of opportunities in construction, real estate, manufacturing, IT, etc, and at the moment, they can participate in all the Omani government’s major projects, as Oman diversifies its economy based on the European Vision of 2020.”

FRANK SALT REAL ESTATE Grahame Salt Company Director

What is the message behind your current Let’s Be Frank campaign? How does this reflect your values and what do you bring to the local property sector? “We wanted to launch a new corporate campaign for Frank Salt Real Estate that would, first of all, reflect everything we represent, and at the same time be flexible enough to be used in ways that would appeal to different audiences. We therefore set out to come up with something fun that our clients could relate to whilst passing on our message and brand promise. Our group has a reputation for honesty and a great work ethic, and of course, Lets Be Frank is a fun play on words using the company name, the name of the company’s founder – Frank Salt – and also our reputation locally. Our different target audiences are quite varied – first-time buyers, second-time buyers, over-

seas buyers, local investors and of course property owners placing their property on the market. Each artwork therefore incorporates imagery that reflects the intended audience as well as a concise message, such as, “our experience will sell your home faster”. We are a long-established local real estate company with almost 50 years of experience, and at the same time, we have an amazing international network of agents with whom we work very hard to promote Malta and the local property market. This is why every artwork ends with the tag line ‘Local. Experienced. Personal. Frank.’ Now it is up to us and our clients to have fun with this new campaign!”

DHALIA REAL ESTATE SERVICES Chris Grech Executive Chairman

It has been nearly ten years since the start of the 2008 global financial crisis. How did the crisis affect

the property market in Malta? How did the market recover? “Up until the years between 2008 and 2011, the performance of the local property market was consistent. Property prices never decreased and steadily increased, irrespective of the economic situation of the island. This situation made the Maltese people confident in the opinion that property prices would never go down. “Everything changed after the financial crisis, which had a direct impact on all sectors of the market. Prices of highly sought-after property became stabilised while other properties decreased in value between 10 per cent and 30 per cent (depending on location). This has had a lasting effect on the overall assessment regarding the property market, with the realisation that external factors can have a direct effect on property prices – which can change in any direction. “We are currently working in a sellers’ market where supply of Continued on page 16


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INDUSTRY FOCUS

‘A sellers’ market with prices on the increase’ Continued from page 15 well-finished properties in soughtafter locations is limited, and prices are on the increase. The future looks positive for the next five to seven years, with steady growth, an increase in supply of residential and commercial properties, and a strategy in place to attract overseas investment.”

REGUS

Andrew Grech Area Manager, Malta Do you feel that the demand for serviced offices is growing locally? What are the benefits of such? “With the constant influx of foreign clients seeking to set up, transfer or expand their business locally, opting for flexible office space instead of committing to expensive long-term leases allows companies to reduce overheads, invest in growth strategies and maintain a healthy cash flow, since no upfront capital investment is required. This is key, especially for start-ups and SMEs. “After eight years operating out of the Swatar Centre, the recent opening of our second Regus Centre in St Julian’s is testament to the

ever-growing demand for serviced offices. With 3,000 centres worldwide, we also offer a global reach to all markets for our clients. “Offering 24/7 access to fullyfurnished private offices and coworking areas, having IT and telephony, front desk duties included, meeting room facilities, kitchens, server room and common area, the serviced office business model allows clients to focus on their work while everything else is looked after for them. It also makes a great place for networking. From only €300 per month, one can benefit from all this.”

IQBLOC

Joseph Sullivan Director How do you feel the recently launched IQbloc will benefit and impact the Maltese construction industry and home owners? “We realised the need in Malta for Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) like the IQbloc two years ago. One of the directors was living in a brand-new penthouse where mould and humidity increased consistently, resulting in several weeks of illness and eventually, his moving out. We found the so-

lution that could solve the current mould and humidity problems in Scandinavia, where ICF blocs have been used since 1970. Over the past two years, the IQbloc was developed for the Maltese market, and is now ready to revolutionise the local construction industry. Imagine a construction with minimal dust pollution, less noise pollution, no mould and humidity! “IQbloc is without doubt an added value to both home owners and the construction industry. Within the next three years, the EU is implementing strict rules for construction, known better as nearly zero energy houses. IQbloc offers home owners and developers the opportunity to construct healthy homes with lower energy costs, ready insulated walls with energy performance U-value of 0.18 (Malta’s requirement today is 0.86), stronger disaster resistance buildings, and sound proofing with an overall comfort and living quality thus resulting in higher sales value properties. “In practice, better insulation means 30 to 45 per cent less energy costs in IQbloc buildings. The faster construction speed will enable faster cash flow and an increase in the turnover rate for construction companies. Additionally, the con-

struction workers don’t need to handle 25 to 40kg stones/concrete blocks – the weight of an IQbloc is only 1.2kg!”

BELAIR REAL ESTATE Ian Casolani Managing Director

You are sole agents for 14 East – what does the development consist of and what’s the target market? “We are proud to have been entrusted as sole agents to market 14 East – a mixed-use unique tower development – and even prouder to have achieved the results we did in such a short time. 14 East is expected to be a forerunner in Malta’s architectural landscape, combining modern technology and eco-friendly methods to create a one-of-a-kind venue to live, work and socialise. “Apartments will enjoy a spacious three-bed plan over 175sqm of living space, as well as 100sqm terraces, taking advantage of the spectacular views of the nearby marina, historical Manoel Island, Valletta and beyond, while interiors are being finished to exceptionally high specifications. The last two apartments are expected to be placed on the market within the

next month. Meanwhile, the office spaces on the first nine floors offer spaces for rent, ranging from 250sqm to a total of 4,400sqm of state-of-the-art facilities. Based on flexible open-plan layouts, they are served with an in-house café and multi-level car park. “In August 2015, we sold the first phase, which consisted of eight floors of office space which we have just started to lease out on an exclusive basis on behalf of the new investors. The second phase was launched in January 2017, and included the sale of the first eight apartments, which were sold in a matter of days. As far as I can remember, there has never been an agency to take a whole tower development on board on an exclusive basis, and more importantly been so successful in the 100 per cent sell out in such a short period of time.”

ENGEL & VÖLKERS SARA GRECH Benjamin Grech Manging Director

Does the Maltese rental market need to be regulated? What is the current situation and can it be improved or worsened? “The total number of active rental units in the private sector has increased by 20 per cent over the past five years. With growing industries whereby non-Maltese nationals are requiring rental accommodation, the buy-to-let sector has taken off considerably and the majority of new developments being constructed and sold on plan are being purchased for buyto-let options. There is a concern regarding the number of units being constructed which arises from the oversupply of rental property on the market, which has been an ongoing topic due to the large number of vacant properties on the island. “The increase in rental prices comes directly from landlords seeking tenants through internet portals. Through new social platforms, landlords are able to find a tenant themselves through streams like Airbnb, Booking.com and Facebook. The majority of the properties being leased through these sites are mostly for shortterm rentals which require a short-term rental license from the MTA. The majority of landlords avoid applying for this license due to complicated bureaucracy or the system not being readily available, as well as paying income taxes on rental income. Regulating the prices is something that cannot be enforced, as it is an individual’s decision, however, if all landlords want to rent their property and tenants can only rent from registered owners, this will help regulate prices across all residential property.”


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PROPERTY INSIGHT

BENJAMIN GRECH, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ENGEL & VÖLKERS SARA GRECH. PHOTOS BY ALAN CARVILLE

Property sales in Malta expected to reach €6.5 million every day Martina Said 2017 will be another impressive year in Malta’s real estate industry, with property sales expected to amount to €6.5 million every day, according to estimates by Benjamin Grech, Managing Director at Engel & Völkers Sara Grech. “Based on current transactions and statistics – as unfortunately, there are no official numbers published – with an extract from the total revenue of stamp duty estimated for 2017 from the government budget, the property transaction volume

with reference to 2016 and as a projection for 2017 is in the region of €2.4 billion, which works out at over €6.5 million in sales every day.” “Positive figures recorded in the last seven years are due to various reasons – tax incentives for first time buyers had a big impact, the situation in Europe, the attractiveness of our island, the growth of the gaming and financial services industries, and the growing number of companies investing in Maltese property,” Mr Grech says. While the Federation of Estate Agents, which was set up in the 90s, has its own

“e way I see [estate agent] regulation is that it seeks to level out the playing field and bring more of a standard to the agents who are involved in the industry.”

statute and code of ethics that agencies or individuals affiliated with it abide by, over time it became apparent that, as the real estate industry’s contribution to Malta’s economy continued to grow, there was a stronger need to level the playing field and higher industry standards. Last year, Parliamentary Secretary Jose Herrera announced the launch of a White Paper aimed at instituting a legal framework that regulates estate agents, following the long reign of a free market, where no regulation of real estate agents ever existed on a local level. Mr Grech is strongly in favour of this regulation.


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“I agree 100 per cent that there’s a need for estate agents to be regulated – I couldn’t feel more strongly about it. Few countries in Europe have a real estate industry that is regulated, among them are Holland and Italy, whereas France, Germany, Spain and the UK, for instance, do not. The way I see regulation is that it seeks to level out the playing field and bring more of a standard to the agents who are involved in the industry,” he asserts. “From a commercial perspective, I believe regulation will better position agents or agencies, who are looking to improve their standards, to be able to charge for their services. The role of the broker can develop and change according to the service offered, and can go into a lot of detail. There are many disciplines that come together when trying to conclude a sale – you need information from architects, lawyers and notaries, and agents expect to be paid a commission without a certain level of understanding and professionalism,” he explains. “On the residential side, Malta has a unique market. From the United States to the rest of Europe, one agent normally represents one seller. Locally, you have ten agents representing the same property, which causes confusion and often results in a lot of lost time when trying to conclude a deal. Regulation will improve the standard and dynamics of how the market works, make the process more efficient, protect the buyer, protect the seller, and get parties to a point where they actually trust the agent for a reason.” Speculation from agents – that is, the signing of a konvenju by an agent who

“From an aesthetic perspective, a big problem we are going to face is the lack of houses as there are now a lot of apartments. Every built environment needs a good mix of apartments, houses, fullydetached houses, terraced houses, townhouses and commercial properties.”

then sells the rights to another buyer – should also be regulated, says Mr Grech. “Speculation from agents happens a lot – they can be the first ones to see a property, make an offer to the seller and, if not valued at the right price, will lead to them making a handsome profit, more than a commission. I don’t see why agents shouldn’t be allowed to buy a house to knock it down and develop it, but selling

a konvenju to somebody else should be regulated and should be part of the code of practice.” In the last few years, Malta has experienced a construction boom, much to the dismay of many locals who feel that Malta’s aesthetic is being thrown to the dogs. Mr Grech, an architect by trade, agrees, but adds that the issue of aggressive construction is more of a political matter rather than one linked to the commercial private sector. “From an aesthetic perspective, a big problem we are going to face is the lack of houses as there are now a lot of apartments, and every built environment needs a good mix of apartments, houses, fully-detached houses, terraced houses, townhouses and commercial properties,” he asserts.

“However, an even bigger problem linked to a deteriorating aesthetic is not what’s being built, but the streetscape. Wires in the streets, wires hanging between buildings, off-street parking, bad pavements and delayed garbage collection – buildings will look much better if services are passed underground and if there’s greater care for our streets. There’s only one town in Malta that got it right, and that’s Birgu. I commend the Mayor of Birgu, John Boxall, because he’s been pushing it for years and has done a fantastic job. As a result, the property market in Birgu has justifiably increased in value, because there’s quality in the built environment. Will it impact Malta negatively if we don’t address the issue? Yes, for sure. But it’s not too late. A lot can be done, and quite quickly.”


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NEWS

Malta’s first crowd-funding platform raises €90,000 Marie-Claire Grima In just over a year, Malta’s first crowd-funding platform Zaar has managed to raise more than €90,000 for 32 different projects by sourcing contributions from members of the public. “We’ve had a 63 per cent success rate, meaning that nearly two-thirds of the closed projects were successful in reaching their target. This is well above the industry standard worldwide,” Zaar manager Matthew Caruana told The Business Observer. He remarks that the company saw a 300 per cent growth in funds raised between the first four months of 2016 and this year, as the idea of putting money behind an idea continues to gain traction. The Zaar initiative was launched as a collaboration between the Malta Business Bureau and the University of Malta. It has made headlines over the past year for helping fund philantropic initiatives including a cabin for patients at Mater Dei Hospital where they can hang out with their pets while they’re in recovery, XFM Radio’s charity drive and Murphy, a marathon runner who runs for Hospice Malta in a pink morphsuit. However, apart from donation-based crowdfunding, the company is operating a reward-based system of crowd-funding which can be used for more entrepreneurial initiatives including start-ups and business enterprises. “A new start-up can hold a crowd-funding campaign on Zaar and offer rewards such as pre-sale items and early bird offers to entice donors,” Mr Caruana says. Besides raising working capital before expenses, entrepreneurs who carry out crowd-funding projects successfully have the benefit of engaging loyal customers, getting market validation for their ideas, while at the same time promoting and marketing their company. Yet this kind of crowd-funding has its own limitations. Many backers and would-

“At the moment, because equity and loan-based crowdfunding is not available, we are limiting the number and type of projects that can benefit from crowd-funding advantages.”

be investors would prefer to stake a decent sum of money and get equity within a new venture that they believe in, rather than promotional items or discounts in exchange for a smaller amount of cash. Mr Caruana knows this, and says that the company has been advocating from the beginning of its existence for the introduction of a regulatory framework for investment-based and lending-based crowd-funding, which does not exist at the moment. “Crowd-funding is an excellent source of pre-seed and seed capital loans and can be used to provide for ideas and businesses where other traditional financial instruments typically fail. It can fill in the funding gap after personal and family funding, and before the business becomes bankable or attractive to business angels.

In 2015, over €2.3 billion worth of capital were used using crowd-funding in Europe. At the moment, because equity and loanbased crowd-funding is not available, we are limiting the number and type of projects that can benefit from crowd-funding advantages,” Mr Caruana says. Zaar’s advocacy led the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to issue a discussion paper on this matter last November. The consultation process closed in March 2017. “We have also organised a stakeholders’ discussion meeting which was very well

attended. I was informed that a number of stakeholders submitted their feedback and replies to MFSA and now MFSA will be evaluating this feedback and will be working to establish this framework.” The urgency of having the framework in place is apparent – not only will Maltese entrepreneurs find themselves back on an equal footing with their European counterparts, but Malta will save its best and most talented from taking their bright ideas to other platforms in jurisdictions where such funding systems are already in place.


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CASE STUDY

Express Trailers delivers three of Malta’s milestone projects

“Without a trusted logistics partner, no project can be completed seamlessly and successfully.”

Within the first four months of the year, Express Trailers was trusted with three major projects which are currently underway, namely the transportation of the steel structures that will support the Kappara junction flyover, the transportation of the Triton Fountain at City Gate to Florence for restoration and the delivery of 20 artistic mosaics from Rome to Ta’ Pinu. “Any project can feature the best and the latest in engineering and manufacturing but without a trusted logistics partner, no project can be completed seamlessly and successfully,” says Franco Azzopardi, Chairman and CEO of Express Trailers. “These business opportunities do not happen by chance but are the result of the experience, the capabilities and the people who over the years have made Express Trailers the most trusted company when it comes to

transport and logistics. More importantly, our experience has given us a unique insight into how best to handle all the risk involved at all stages of such complex operations.” Referring to the on-going Kappara flyover project, Mr Azzopardi explains how last week saw Express Trailers transporting the first eight of the 16 steel girders that will support the bridge deck and placed throughout the whole extent of the flyover at Kappara. These measure over 30m length and had to be carefully transported from the port to Kappara. “One needs to acknowledge the unique challenges that this operation is presenting. Besides relying on teamwork and constant communication with all those involved in the project, being adequately prepared requires us to read through all potential scenarios. You have to

think of all the things that may go wrong and make sure you are prepared for any eventuality by putting on the field all the resources available. For this operation in fact, we had our main pick-up van leading a convoy of another seven vehicles namely a tractor unit, followed by the first trailer, a tools truck, the second trailer, a crane and two vans with support mechanics and personnel. Together with the police and Transport Malta personnel, we studied the most ideal route and proposed the best action forward,” explains Mr Azzopardi. Another important project entrusted to Express Trailers was the transportation of the monumental Triton Fountain at City Gate outside Valletta to Florence in Italy where this bronze work of art is currently being restored. “Offering total logistics solutions means that we do not only offer transportation from one


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point to another but we handle all the aspects related to the packing and loading of the items, securing them and making sure that there is no risk involved when transporting fragile cargo to its destination. Fragile cargo requires a lot of forwardthinking especially when the destination is overseas and requires the use of third-party transportation. This is where our unique experience and the know-how of our people become the differentiating factors that guarantee a smooth and seamless operation,” adds Mr Azzopardi. The transportation of fragile and perishable items such as delicate cargo and fine art, is a speciality for Express Trailers. This is why earlier this month, Express Trailers was also trusted with the delivery of 20 new mosaic works from Centro Aletti in Rome to Gozo where they will adorn the round parvis in front of the Ta’ Pinu Basilica. Besides bringing a muchneeded new facelift to the main square in front of Ta’ Pinu, which enhances the visitor experience, this project is also important because these new mosaics are by Padre Marko I. Rupnik, a theologian and artist whose work is already present in other

world-famous pilgrimage destinations such as Lourdes, Fatima, John Paul II’s memorial in Poland, Padre Pio’s memorial in San Giovanni Rotondo, the Madrid Cathedral, the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater chapel and others. Therefore, these new mosaics will link the Ta’ Pinu Basilica to major pilgrimage destinations round Europe. These projects continue to strengthen the great legacy that

Express Trailers has been building over the years since the very first major project when during the historic 1989 Malta Summit between Presidents Bush and Gorbachev, which ended the Cold War, Express Trailers was trusted with the transportation of the CBS News crew equipment from the US to Malta to cover the event. Other major projects ensued, such as the high-security transportation of Malta’s first

euro coins and notes to the island in 2007, the transportation of priceless classic racing cars, the precise shifting of major local factories such as Trelleborg and Methode, the US Embassy’s move from Floriana to the new embassy in Ta’ Qali, the delicate transportation of works of art and of a newly-acquired Jacques Braux 1998 harpsichord purchased from Paris by the Manoel Theatre, and more. “These milestone projects entrusted to Express Trailers have gradually shaped our reputation as Malta’s leading transporter,” Mr Azzopardi concludes.

“Fragile cargo requires a lot of forward-thinking especially when the destination is overseas and requires the use of third-party transportation.”


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BUSINESS UPDATES

Over 1,000 businesses join Malta Chamber’s digital business directory In less than a year, the new digital business directory of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry has exceeded 1,000 participants and the numbers are ever growing. The interactive B2B directory is an exclusive and unique product of the Malta Chamber as it is housed within its popular business portal maltachamber.org.mt and serves to connect businesses together with the objective of fostering a culture of networking between businesses. Both the interactive B2B directory as well as the maltachamber.org.mt business portal were launched in May of last year and have been an instant success. Maltachamber.org.mt is now ranked as Malta’s leading business portal with over 300,000 sessions by local businesses conducted in its first year alone. Malta’s ever-changing business milieu has made it imperative for the Malta Chamber of Commerce to stay ahead of the curve in order to provide the best support to its current and prospective members alike. “The Malta Chamber business portal is the first of its kind in Malta, providing readers with business news from Malta and around the world, as well as updates about the Chamber’s work. Through the portal, we have been offering an unprecedented package of online products that have filled a gap in Malta’s online business environment. The first year since the launch of the business portal and the business directory have been impressive,” says Kevin J. Borg, Director General of the Malta Chamber. “The business portal is a source for quality content for every business person in Malta who is interested in staying up-to-date with current business affairs and opportunities as well as leading opinions.”

“The portal is also supplemented by the B2B business directory – the first official one of its kind in Malta. The interactive digital business directory is user-friendly, intuitive and very informative, making it easy for users to exploit the benefit of listings on the directory. Listings are facilitating collaboration between businesses both on a local and an international level, as the Malta Chamber provides its seal of approval to its members on this platform.” Mr Borg adds that the revamped Chamberlink, which was also

launched a year ago, has enjoyed fantastic results. “Chamberlink last year was redesigned to reflect the ambitious goals the Malta Chamber wants to achieve through its renewed online presence. We are offering readers a quality experience, delivered directly to their inboxes on a weekly basis.” The three digital projects of the Malta Chamber of Commerce are run as a joint venture with Content House Group, the exclusive media partner of the Malta Chamber and also a joint owner of The Business Observer newspaper.

“Malta’s ever-changing business milieu has made it imperative for the Malta Chamber of Commerce to stay ahead of the curve in order to provide the best support to its current and prospective members alike.”


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BUSINESS UPDATES

Eurobridge introduces export service EuroBridge Shipping Services Ltd is proud to announce that they will be starting their own export service from Malta to all Europe. The service will incorporate both groupage and full trailers. As EuroBridge’s clients have come to expect from their import service, they are guaranteeing three fundamental points with this new service. Firstly, Eurobridge guarantees groupage export rates at the same prices as groupage import rates, instead of the much more expensive groupage export rates offered by other operators. Second, shipments will still be handled directly from their local office throughout, so clients can get real-time updates on their shipments. Lastly but probably most important of all, deliveries to final consignees will start being done from the Tuesday of the week after the goods are loaded, with a guarantee that all shipments will be delivered within a week from when they are loaded. More details on this new service will be provided by EuroBridge over the next few weeks but if you would like to get to know more about it, they would be thrilled to hear from you. Call on T: 2248 7000 or E: sales@eurobridge.com.mt and they will get back to you immediately.

“Eurobridge guarantees groupage export rates at the same prices as groupage import rates, instead of the much more expensive groupage export rates offered by other operators.”


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BUSINESS UPDATES

HSBC recognises outstanding employees for their achievements During HSBC Malta’s annual townhall, held at the MFCC in Ta’ Qali, seven individuals and one team received the At Our Best Employee Excellence Awards for a range of outstanding achievements. The At Our Best Employee Excellence Awards are a major employee engagement programme within the bank and celebrate excellence achieved by an individual employee or a team. This year’s annual townhall was held in the backdrop of HSBC Malta winning the prestigious Bank of the Year 2016 Award in December. The winners of the seven individual categories were: James Buttigieg and Bernard Grima for the Best Growth Initiative Award, Aaron Zammit for the Cost Conscious Award, Susanne Gambin for the Corporate Sustainability

Award, Mariella Fitzgerald for the Financial Crime Risk Award, Jonathan Polidano for the Outstanding New Recruit Award, Rita Scicluna for the Conduct and Values Award, and Nadia Micallef for the Customer Excellence Award. The team award was won by the Financial Crime Compliance Anti Money Laundering investigations unit. The team members were: Noel Bartolo, Christopher Mitford, Jonathan Attard, Romina Camilleri, Nadine Meilak, Philip Abela, and Tiziana Cassar. The awards were presented by HSBC Malta CEO Andrew Beane and HSBC Europe CEO Antonio Simoes, who was the special guest and speaker this year. HSBC Malta is one of the largest private-sector employers in Malta and is committed to being a great place to work.

HSBC MALTA CEO ANDREW BEANE AND HSBC EUROPE CEO ANTONIO SIMOES (BOTH CENTRE) FLANKED BY ALL THE WINNERS.

Accelerate Business Growth with Acumatica ERP Dashboards Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) dashboards, such as those found in Acumatica, offer business leaders a focal reference point where they can quickly digest key information about their company’s health. These dashboards typically present key, high-level data in the form of tables, pie charts, and other graphical visualisations. However, ERP dashboards offer much more than summarised views of important information. Users can customise their main dashboard so that it only displays the data that is most relevant to their role. A personalised, real-time dashboard lets you accelerate business performance with automated processes, accurate data collection and analysis, and forecasting capabilities that drive better business decisions. Another benefit of ERP dashboards is that they highlight points of strength,

Sparkasse Bank Malta achieves Direct Participation and Membership in STEP2 and TARGET2 Payments while also isolating areas for growth. Tailoring your ERP software to fit your exact needs enables you to turn data into meaningful information which makes it possible to manage operations more effectively and grow at a quicker pace. Acumatica’s dashboards provide customised views of real-time results from across your organisation, and thanks to cloud and mobile technology you can access them from any device. With company data always visible, and at your fingertips, you too can finally regain control over the course of your business. Find out more about ERP dashboards and the reporting capabilities available in Acumatica by calling 2149 0700, visiting www.computimesoftware.com/acumatica or emailing info@computimesoftware.com

Sparkasse Bank Malta plc has proudly announced the completion of another milestone development in the construction of its payments infrastructure with the acquisition of full membership and direct participation in the STEP2 SEPA Credit Transfer Service (SCT) and TARGET2 payment systems. “The bank believes this to be a momentous leap in the strengthening of the infrastructural foundations supporting its payment processing solutions and a strong sign of confidence in the bank by the European Banking institutions from whom the bank had to obtain approval and qualify for participation,” said Paul Mifsud, Managing Director at Sparkasse. “The STEP2 SEPA Credit Transfer Service (SCT) is identified by the European Central Bank as a systemically important payment system that allows for the sorting, routing, delivery, clearance and settlement of Single European Payments Area (SEPA) credits for all banks in Europe. Sparkasse Bank Malta plc

now becomes one of only 175 banks globally that participates directly in this system and one of only two banks in Malta to be a direct participant.” He explained that Sparkasse had concurrently obtained membership to TARGET2, the second generation of the Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross Settlement Express Transfer system, giving the bank access to one of the largest payment systems globally with over 1,004 direct participants processing an average of over 343,000 payments daily and average daily value of €1.8 trillion. “Whilst being evidence of the reputational, governance and systemic qualities that characterise Sparkasse’s business, the bank is confident that these new platforms will allow it to continue enhancing customer experience, increase efficiencies in the relevant settlement cycles and offer segments of its core customer types the infrastructure and payment solutions necessitated by the particular needs of their business,” Mr Mifsud concluded.


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BUSINESS UPDATES

AXON Gaming – reach out to your players when they need you most Nobody should catch you snoozing on the job, especially if you’re an iGaming company. It’s a bad look for your brand and a bad deal for your players. When split-second decisions make the difference between a new sign-up or a lost player, a new game or an ended session, a raving VIP or a disgruntled high roller, you need to stay on your toes and do everything in your power to nudge players towards a positive outcome.

AXON Gaming helps you achieve results by enabling you to automatically intervene during various stages of the user journey. It could be when a player encounters difficulty while creating an account or using the online payment system, or when a player makes a new deposit or a withdrawal request. The key is to notify your players right away, and offer them an alternative before the situation has time to worsen. With an automated, real-time communication solution such as AXON

Gaming, you can instantly reach out to customers just when they might need you the most. This real-time engagement could help you increase sign-ups, deliver a better service, maximise retention, and make personalised content suggestions. Find out more about tracking and acting upon critical player data in real time with AXON Gaming by calling 2149 0700, visiting www.computimesoftware.com/axon-gaming or emailing info@computimesoftware.com

JM Vassallo introduces new range of steel reinforcing meshes

Would you like to launch a new business but need access to finance? Whether you’re looking to launch a new business venture, need access to finance to develop your innovation or would like to invest in research and innovation, you are invited to the Innovative Enterprise Malta Conference 2017 – ‘Access to Finance for Research, Innovation and SMEs 2017’ on the 1st and 2nd of June. Innovative Enterprise Malta 2017 is a conference organised by the European Commission in collaboration with the Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business to raise awareness on the European Union’s various finance and investment support programmes. It will be a platform for European entrepreneurs, innovative enterprises, researchers,

start-ups, and investors, policy makers and financial intermediaries to meet, network and discover a world of possibilities to make their businesses successful. Organisations and enterprises are able to benefit from programmes such as InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators, the European Fund for Strategic Investments and instruments at national and local level as well as alternative sources of finance, such as crowd-funding. This year we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Research and Innovation Financial Instruments, and more than 100 financial intermediaries under InnovFin SME Guarantee.

JM Vassallo Vibro Steel Ltd has announced the launch of their new electro-welded steel reinforcement mesh plant. This new line offers the possibility to produce electro-welded steel mesh with wire diameters ranging from 5mm to 12mm in both directions. The short time required to change wire diameter, spacing and panel dimensions makes it economically feasible to supply customers with orders both in small and large quantities in an efficient manner. Innovation using the latest technology JMV manufactures a wide range of electro-welded meshes with high quality HD (high ductility) steel, where properties are guaranteed with stringent checks performed throughout the whole manufacturing cycle. They can be used for mesh panels for casting in-situ and prefabricated elements, panels with irregular transversal wire spacing, as mesh for pillars and ring beams, inclined, L-shaped and segmental meshes, meshes with double welded transversal wires, meshes used for structural footings or pile caps or fabric laps using made-tomeasure extended (flying-ends) overhangs.

High Ductility and Seismic Mesh JMV meshes are produced from High Ductility Hot Rolled Steel and certified to MSA EN 1992-11:2004 Quality B500C. High ductility steel has high elongation, anti-seismic properties. Mesh produced from high ductility hot rolled wire has superior quality characteristics than that produced from cold drawn wire due to inherent advantages in its chemical composition. In the above illustration, one can clearly see the higher ductility properties of hot rolled steel in comparison with the conventional cold worked steel. It is important also to note that Grade B500C and B500B can only be achieved using hot rolled steel.

JM Vibro’s latest investment should make supplies of electrowelded steel wire mesh more and more efficient with a wider range of solutions to the local construction industry. JM Vassallo Vibro Complex, Mdina Road, Zebbug. T: 2146 7421; W: www.jmvibro.com

Introducing Range Rover Velar The fourth member of the Range Rover family, Range Rover Velar has arrived. Range Rover Velar is a new addition to the Range Rover family, filling the white space between the Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Sport.A mid-size luxury SUV that delivers new levels of refinement, elegance and technology. Range Rover Velar goes on sale this winter from Muscats Motors, the only Jaguar Land Rover dealer in Malta. The luxury SUV was created in 1970 when Land Rover launched the original Range Rover. Almost half a century later that spirit of innovation continues with the introduction of the fourth member of the Range Rover family. Elegant simplicity, a visually reductive approach and pioneering consumer technology are the hallmarks of the new Range Rover Velar. For more assistance or to book a test drive, contact the Range Rover sales team at Muscats Motors on T: 2326 4505 or E: info@mml.mizzi.com.mt


Profile for Content House Group

The Business Observer Newspaper 27th April  

The Business Observer Newspaper 27th April  

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