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Home Page > Business > International Business > ALBANIA – Foreign Investment in an emerging market

ALBANIA – Foreign Investment in an emerging market

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ALBANIA – Foreign Investment in an emerging market

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By: Konstantinos Barkoukis

About the Author

Konstantinos (Kosta) Barkoukis is an Australian born Greek national who works as a global IT consultant and property developer. His native ancestry is traced to Epirus, and the Greek state of Macedonia, just like Alexander the Great.

(ArticlesBase SC #1412402)

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/ALBANIA – Foreign Investment in an emerging market





Albania is a South Eastern Balkan country situated on the eastern Adriatic Coast in Europe. The country borders the former Yugoslav provinces of Montenegro, FYR-Macedonia, Serbia and Greece to the South. The capital is Tirana. (The World Bank Group, 2009).

Personal foreign direct investment (FDI) interest in Albania is derived from closely monitoring Albania’s transition into a NATO country and prospective European Union (EU) member. The process of accession of Albania to the EU started in January 2003. Albania’s admission to the EU depends on the countries future economic and political stability. Albania has been engaged with EU institutions and joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) April 1, 2009. (Wikipedia Contributors cited 2009). Albania formally applied for EU membership 28 April 2009.

Ranked as one of the poorest European countries, numerous Albanian ex-patriots reside and work throughout the EU and Switzerland. A contributing high birth rate, the country has vast foreign direct investment potential considering its prospective EU status, geographical and geopolitical location. Albania is a distinctive classification of an emerging market and future currency change from the Lek to the Euro (improving the countries purchasing power and wealth), reveals there is a vast monetary opportunity for multinational Australian business to invest in a venture with a controlling interest.

FDI occurs when a firm invests resources in business activities in countries outside its home base (Hill 2009, p11), such as Albania. The main foreign direct investment areas that Australian Multinationals should be considering are Construction (highways, infrastructure), Property, Renewable Energy, Finance and Tourism. The types of companies that may be interested in this type of investment are the likes of Origin Energy, McMahon holdings, Raine and Horne.

Historically, most FDI has been directed at developed nations. FDI into developing or emerging nations has traditionally increased substantially (Refer to Graph 1, Appendix 1) since 1990 (Hill 2009, p243-244). Therefore Albania is an excellent FDI opportunity that may provide substantial profitability for Australian firms. Most recent inflows have been targeted at the emerging economies of South East Asia, hence there is an unexplored potential for Australian firms to invest in Albania.

Real GDP in Albania has averaged 6% in previous years due to a surge in public investment. Consumer price inflation is under the 4 per cent upper limit of the central bank’s informal target. (Refer to Graph 1, Appendix 2). The Albanian LEK will continue to be supported in 2009 by large foreign-currency remittances from Albanians living abroad as well as relatively high interest rates. Exports should grow relatively strongly in 2009 and forecasted current account deficits averaging around 11% of GDP. (Business Eastern Europe, 2008). (Refer to Table 2, Appendix 2).

The feasibility of the client company to enter the Albanian market is positive. The democratic Albanian government encourages foreign investment, thus in an ongoing effort to privatize public enterprises, the government is seeking qualified foreign investors in key sectors, including telecommunications, energy, oil and gas, finance, and construction. (Foreign Investment Climate, 2008)

Albania’s infrastructure is currently inadequate, and there is little budgetary money for improvements. The government inherited a poor highway system from the Communist period. Major road building projects are currently underway, and an estimated 6000 kilometres of roadway will be implemented by 2013. (Euromonitor International, 2009). Therefore there is an immense opportunity for Australian based Civil Engineering/construction firms to tender for a substantial sector of work, and scope for profitable investment.

Feasibility of the client company entering the Albanian markets in a Greenfield capacity is varied. Currently, Albania ranks 89th out of 183 countries in the benchmark of Ease of doing business. Starting a business, Albania rank’s 68th in 2009 and set to move to 46th in 2010. (Refer to Table 1 in Appendix 3). The average time in days for Starting a business is 5 days as compared to 13 days for the overall OECD Average. This demonstrates that the Albanian government is moving in a positive direction to attract foreign investment. (The World Bank Group, 2009). However, the cost of starting a business Cost (% of income per capita) is substantially higher than the OECDAverage (Refer to Table 1 in Appendix 4).

“Foreign firms obtaining credit” and “protecting investors” demonstrates that Albania is advanced in certain business investment areas – projected ranking 15th out of 183 country’s in both these facets in 2010, placing Albania in the top 10%. On the contrary, dealing with construction Permits (173rd in year 2010) and Employing workers (105th in year 2010) demonstrates that the foreign direct investment firms specialising in renewable energy and civil construction will need to take these important factors into consideration when investing and starting a Greenfield project. (The World Bank Group, 2009).

 The types of business ventures that are attractive for FDI are centred on construction infrastructure and energy. Albania’s energy crisis has been caused by the annual growth rate in the demand for power. The rate has been in excess of 8% and generation has struggled to keep pace. In a recent EU report it is acknowledged that Albania had undertaken some bold steps to restructure and liberalise the energy sector. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) indicates that it will provide immense financing for new power generation. Therefore, renewable energy is also an extremely attractive foreign investment option. (GMB Publishing 2009).

Hydroelectricity generation has historically provided the majority of Albania’s energy capacity and continues to represent its main generation source. Through a lack of investment funds, only 35 per cent of potential capacity for development is currently being exploited. (GMB Publishing 2009). Australian based hydroelectric energy firms have a substantial advantage in expertise in exploiting the Albanian market. Studies show that Albania has a good solar energy potential. There are no large scale PV projects currently in operation; however the installation of major solar energy projects in planned by the Albanian government in 2015. (GMB Publishing 2009). Australian solar firms have the opportunity to explore Greenfield solar energy projects.

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Various US Asset Management firms are launching into the fledgling Albanian property market to take advantage of the growing mortgage market. Albania is set to benefit from its planned accession to the EU, which it expects to be completed by 2014 and has already received €100m in funding. A 2007 World Bank report highlighted Albania’s high GDP growth and a dramatic decrease in poverty. Albania has received significant investment from international bodies such as International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. (Hirst, T, 2008). Commercial and residential property is an area of foreign direct investment that is attractive with the high power of the $A as compared to the Albanian LEK currency. Currently A = 85.01 ALL (Albanian LEK) and 1ALL = 0.1177 $A. (Quick Cross Rates, 2009). When Albania enters the EU zone, their currency will become stronger and inline with Euro zone parity.

Albania’s capital markets remain amongst the most embryonic within the whole of the central and Eastern Europe region. There are encouraging steps taken to put in place the legal and regulatory framework to build a functioning stock exchange. This makes convergence with the EU easier and provides financial and banking opportunities through a foreign investment framework to operate within. (Market Access 2008).

Albania recently witnessed an impressive growth in tourism in 2009. The government of Albania announced that there was a 42 percent increase in the number of tourists visiting the country, AENews reported.  Albanian government is claiming its coasts are more beautiful than those of the Riviera. (Forbes S, 2008). With new hotels, resorts, and restaurants, the Albanian private sector in tourism has been growing an average of 30 percent for five years. The Albanian economy had the best growth in Europe; foreign investments in Albania have increased 59 percent this year. Australian firms can invest in the infant tourism industry by providing expertise, with huge profit potential. (New Europe 2009).

The Albanian government has induced an affirmative attitude towards foreign investment; its strategy to strengthen the business environment was incorporated by the removal of administrative barriers to investment. The privatisation agenda is gaining momentum and the government is encouraging foreign investment. Almost one-third of the country’s population works outside the country. The remittances they provide help alleviate poverty and drive a boom in housing construction as well as infrastructure (Euromonitor International, 2009).

Albania’s Albania’s Democratic Party government knows full well that a battle for foreign investment looms and that Albania has some catching up to do. The previous low level of foreign interest is largely due to the fact that Albania’s international image is poor, but wrongly so. Albania’s service sector, especially its restaurants and hotels, are exceptional. The hospitality is great and Albanians are an outward-looking people. They are ready for an influx of tourists. Albania is also rich in natural resources, such as oil, gas, copper, chrome and hydroelectric potential. (Austin RC 2006)

The Albanian government under Prime Minister Berisha has created an excellent environment to attract investors to Albania. Special emphasis was paid improving infrastructure. The efforts on improving the legal system to protect investors also proved significant. It was also reported that many Western European companies have chosen to escape the high taxes in Europe by investing in Albania as the latter offers the best tax system in Europe with a 10 percent flat tax. (NEWEUROPE 2009).

The Albanian government has worked to make it easier to invest and do business in Albania, instituting a one-stop shop for registering a new business. Education is also emphasized, particularly by the private sector. Since the fall of communism, Albania has been an ally of the US, supplying troops. Its positive foreign policy attitude, economic and anticorruption successes are models for other Muslim nations. (Forbes S, 2008).

 Foreign firms experience various investment restrictions in Albania. Despite some recent improvement, Albania’s business freedom remains constrained by a burdensome regulatory environment. Even though starting a business is relatively quick, obtaining a business license requires 24 additional procedures and almost 100 more days than the world average of 225 days. (The Heritage Foundation, 2009).

Foreign and domestic firms are treated equally under the law, and nearly all sectors are open to foreign investment. Agricultural land may not be purchased by foreign investors but may be leased for up to 99 years. The Albanian state can expropriate an investment or asset for the purpose of public interest, but there are no legal provisions for compensation. This can be a deterrent or restriction for an Australian firm specialising in niche Albanian markets. Non-transparent regulations, inefficient bureaucracy, and corruption also restrict and discourage foreign investment in Albania. (The Heritage Foundation, 2009).

The financial system is relatively underdeveloped by western standards, even though progress has been made. Even though many banks have expanded their services, the use of cheques and credit cards is still not widespread. Although short-term credit is available, it is extremely expensive and difficult to obtain without large collateral security. This can restrict foreign investment for an Australian firm. In addition customer service is relatively poor compared to western standards. (Macro-Accessibility 2007).

The government has separated the Tirana Stock Exchange from the central bank, but the stock market remains inactive, and no shares are listed yet. Australian financial investment firms are currently restricted considering the Stock exchange is at an infant stage. Albania’s judicial system enforces the law weakly and is one of the country’s most tainted institutions. Judges are often appointed strictly for political reasons and can be corrupt. Protection of intellectual property rights is weak, and violations of copyrights and trademarks are common, therefore Australian and foreign firms with patented investments are subject to infringements without legal protection. (The Heritage Foundation, 2009). Land rights are not well defined, especially in coastal areas, and 70 percent of all civil court cases involve property disputes. This could have adverse effects for civil engineering organisations. (The Heritage Foundation, 2009).

Corruption in Albania is perceived as widespread. Albania ranks 105th out of 179 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2007, a very slight improvement from previous years. Corruption pervades all sectors and levels of government. Albania is a major transit country for the traffic in arms, narcotics, contraband, and humans. (The Heritage Foundation, 2009).

There a vast advantages and gains of FDI into Albania. It stimulates economic development and has helped developing countries such as Albania when faced with economic hardship previously. (Economy Watch 2009). Multi-billion dollar projects are underway in the energy sector to produce energy from wind, and solar sources, in addition to road and infrastructure construction. With FDI in the tourism industry, construction jobs in hotels and resorts are underway, also generating employment in the Albanian services sector. (New Europe 2009).

FDI into Albania permits the transfer of technologies and assists in competition between producers within the local market. Gains in the economy include the development of skills, and human capital resources by Albanian employees of Energy, Construction and Engineering firms receiving training on the operations ofa business. The creation of new jobs, and increases the salaries of workers leads to lifestyle enhancement. (Economy Watch 2009).

The profits that are generated by FDIs that are made in Albania can be used for the purpose of making contributions to the revenues of corporate taxes. FDI allows for the development of the manufacturing sector. (Economy Watch 2009).

The Albanian economy has been on the rise, with an average annual GDP growth higher than anywhere else in the region. Such impressive growth has been largely due to controlling inflation in addition to investment. Previously, Albanian professionals would immigrate to other nations. “Brain drain” is used to describe the phenomenon of emigration of highly qualified professionals from Albania to other EU nations. FDI in Albania contributes to positive economic growth, and professionals are a source of capital for developing countries such as Albania. Reversing the brain drain has had positive effects on education, income distribution and economic welfare. (Centre for Social and Economic Studies, 2006)

A country’s balance of Payments accounts calculates its payments to and receipts from other countries.  If the FDI in Albania is a substitute for goods and services, the effect can positively improve the current account of the host countries balance of payments. (Hill CW, 2009). According to a UN report, inward FDI by foreign multinationals has been a major driver of export led economic growth, which can be utilised by Albania.

Adverse effects of foreign investment in Albania mean that enhanced competition as well as being a positive aspect could drive indigenous companies out of business. Additionally, foreign multinationals could raise prices, causing inflationary pressure within the Albanian economy. Key decisions affecting the host country’s (Albania) economy may be made by a foreign investment company that does not have total commitment to the Albanian economy. (Hill, CW, 2009)

Considering there are minimal well established incumbent enterprises in Albania, a Greenfield investment may be an option, even though there may be benefits in acquiring an existing firms skill’s, embedded competencies and culture through purchasing an established organisation. (Hill 2009, p506). However, the process of setting up a new Greenfield hierarchy may be the only viable mode in certain instances in Albania within engineering and construction due to lack of infrastructure and expertise in an ex-communist nation.

Appropriate entry modes of investment into Albania include investing with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) which is a US government agency that sells investment services into emerging markets. The most important fund for the region is the $US 150 million Southeast Europe Equity Fund (SEEF), managed by Soros Private Funds Management. (Macro-Accessibility 2007).

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The Trade and Development Agency is also a US government agency which promotes private sector participation in developing countries. In Albania, TDA has recently financed projects to implement roads, ports, the energy sector as well as various private sector projects. (Macro-Accessibility 2007).

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is a member of the World Bank Group that offers a full array of financial products to companies in developing member countries such as Albania. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) promotes competition, privatisation and entrepreneurship taking into account different stages of transition of developing countries. The EBRD has equity positions with the Albanian National Commercial Bank, and the Albanian Reconstruction Equity Fund and the Italian-Albanian bank. (Macro-Accessibility 2007). In addition to acquiring an existing company, obtaining finance from these corporations is a feasible entry point for an Australian firm entering a Greenfield project in Albania.

 Poor transport, telecommunications and other infrastructure are considered to be the main obstacles and barriers to investment. Albania was Europe’s poorest country, but levels of per capita income have more than doubled over the past 10 years. Despite this, the economy remains vulnerable on several fronts due to a culture of tax evasion, significant amounts of long term domestic debt and weak anti-money laundering laws. (Euromonitor International, 2009).

Corruption issues within the government and a weak judiciary system pose problems in Albania’s efforts to achieve greater cooperation with the EU. The EU’s members are concerned about the countries commitment to improving the rule of law and crime. (The World Bank Group, 2009). Multinational businesses may consider the lack of law as an impediment to a foreign direct investment.  (Euromonitor International, 2009).

 A major barrier to investment may be the issue of developing free trade zones to attract foreign investment. Existing law provides the authority to establish free trade zones and a special zone commission has been established by the Albanian government to identify potential free zone sites. However, no free trade zones have yet been established. (Macro-Accessibility 2007).

Apart from the monetary opportunities and profit yields that Australian firms and the home countries establishing FDI’s receive, there are opportunities for the host country (Albania) of such foreign investments. Albania’s young, literate populace represents a surplus of labour, reflected in the unemployment rate of 14 percent. While some members of the labour force are highly skilled, many work in inefficient industries with outdated technology. Via foreign firms investing in Albania, the skill sets and technological capabilities of the Albania’s young work force is enhanced. (Macro-Accessibility 2007). Albania’s are rapidly learning market economic practices and often display impressive entrepreneurship. (Macro-Accessibility 2007). There are definitely significant opportunities for the host country Albania through FDI.

 

References

 

 

Austin RC 2006, ‘Albania’s new investment strategies’, SETimes.com, viewed 22 October 2009,

 

Business Eastern Europe, 2008, ‘Business outlook – Albania’, 10 Oct 2008, Vol. 37 Issue 377, p3-3.

 

Centre for Social and Economic Studies, 2006, ‘From Brain Drain to Brain Gain: Mobilising Albania’s Skilled Diaspora’, Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty, University of Sussex, UK

 

Economy Watch, 2009, ‘Benefits of Foreign Direct Investment’, viewed 23 October 2009, < http://www.economywatch.com/foreign-direct-investment/benefits.html>

 

Euromonitor International, 3 Jul 2009, ‘Albania: Country profile’ viewed 21 October 2009,

 

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Forbes, S 2008, ‘Muslim Success Story’, Business Source Complete, 4 Jul 2008, Vol. 181 Issue 7, p15-16

 

Foreign Investment Climate, 2008, ‘Albanian Investment Overview’ Albania Review 2008, viewed 21 October 2009.

 

GM Publishing, 2009, ‘Renewable Energy in SEE – Albania, viewed 21 October 2009.

 

Hill, CWL, 2009, International Business – Competing in the Global Marketplace, 7th edn, McGraw-Hill Internation Edition, Washington USA.

 

Hirst, T, 2008, ‘Fund Launch’, Fund Strategy, viewed 20 October 2009.

 

Macro-Accessibility 2007, ‘ICON Group International, Inc’, viewed 23 October 2009,

 

Market Access, 2008, ‘Albania: Building a Stock Market’ viewed 20 October 2009,

 

NEWEUROPE 2009, ‘Albania has the world’s best growth in tourism investment’, neurope.eu, viewed 23 October 2009,

 

Quick Cross Rates, 2009, ‘XE.COM exchange rates’, viewed 25 October 2009,

 

The Heritage Foundation, 2009, ‘Index of Economic Freedom – Albania’, viewed 22 Oct 2009,

 

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The World Bank Group, 2009, ‘Doing Business in Albania’ viewed 18 October 2009, <http://www.doingbusiness.org/ExploreEconomies/?economyid=3>

 

Wikipedia Contributors, 2009 September 30, ‘Accession of Albania to the European Union’. [Internet]. Wikipedia The Free Encyclopaedia, viewed 21 October 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Accession_of_Albania_to_the_European_Union&oldid=305088136

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 1

 

 

 

Graph 1 – Foreign Direct Investment Inflows by Region ($US Billions). (Hill 2009, p244).

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 2

 

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Graph 1 – ALBANIA. GDP and Consumer Prices % Change, Year. (Business Eastern Europe, 2008).

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2. Albania – Data and Forecasts. (Business Eastern Europe, 2008).

 

Category

2008 Rank

2009 Rank

2009 Rank

Population, mn

3.10

3.11

3.12

Exchange rate ALL/EUR

120.25

119.40

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119.45

Imports, US$bn

4.50

4.90

5.30

Exports, US$bn

1.30

1.50

1.70

Trade Balance, US$bn

-3.20

-3.40

-3.60

Current account, % of GDP

-6.90

-5.50

-4.20

Forex reserves (gold) US$bn

2.50

2.95

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3.43

Foreign debt, % ofGDP

18.2

17.5

16.3

 

 

Appendix 3

 

 

Table 1. This table shows summary Albania Doing Business 2010/2009 data for the selected economy (out of 183 countries), and the rankings by each topic. (The World Bank Group, 2009)

 

 

Ease of…….

Doing Business 2010 Rank

Doing Business 2010 Rank

Change in rank

Doing Business

82

89

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+7

Starting a Business

46

68

+22

Getting Credit

15

12

+3

Protecting Investors

15

14

-1

Employing Workers

105

105

0

Dealing with Construction permits

173

170

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-3

 

 

 

Appendix 4

 

 

Table 2. This table shows the challenges of launching a business in Albania. Included are the steps entrepreneurs can expect, the time it takes on average, and the cost and minimum capital required as a % of GNI capital. (The World Bank Group, 2009).

 

 

Indicator

Albania

Eastern Europe & Central Asia

OECD Average

Procedures (number)

5

6.7

5.7

Time (days)

5

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17.4

13.0

Cost (% of income per capita)

17.0

8.3

4.7

Min. capital (% of income per capita)

0.0

21.5

15.5

 

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(ArticlesBase SC #1412402)

Konstantinos Barkoukis
About the Author:

Konstantinos (Kosta) Barkoukis is an Australian born Greek national who works as a global IT consultant and property developer. His native ancestry is traced to Epirus, and the Greek state of Macedonia, just like Alexander the Great.

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Konstantinos (Kosta) Barkoukis is an Australian born Greek national who works as a global IT consultant and property developer. His native ancestry is traced to Epirus, and the Greek state of Macedonia, just like Alexander the Great.

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