Ball Packaging Europe in Serbia Quenches Thirst for Booming Can Demand [VIDEO]
By Lianna Brinded | October 8, 2013 8:32 PM EST
The can manufacturer for giant brands, such as Pepsi and Heineken, sealed a deal with Libya that ended up doubling Serbia's container exports for the entire of 2013.
Speaking exclusively to IBTimes UK in Belgrade, Ball Packaging Europe's plant manager revealed how Serbia enabled the group to create a factory and start producing products all within a year.
"Ball Packaging Europe's decision to choose Serbia as a place to start a business was a simple one," said David Banji, plant manager.
"We really needed to be close to our customers and of course have an available skilled workforce to start straight away."
"We erected the plant in 2005 and 2006 was our full production year."
Balls Packaging Europe produced 1 billion cans in 2012 for major brands such as Heineken, SAB Miller, Carlsberg and Pepsi.
However, the group's Serbian factory has the capacity for 1.5 billion beverage cans from two high-speed production lines and currently churns out 1,900 cans per minute.
Furthermore, demand for beverage cans in countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia and Croatia is tipped to double over the next year, as the sector seems to defy the global slowdown for other products.
"We're recession resistant but not recession proof. But think about it this way, in the developed countries, people stopped going to the pub and instead went to supermarkets to buy six-packs," said Banji.
"This worked well for us as the European can market is still growing for us by 3-4% annually."
Building Business in Serbia
Ball Packaging Europe is adamant that Serbia was, and still is, one of the most opportune places to build or grow a business.
"We originally came over here in 2004 and yet in 2013 we still don't see any major competitors and I really don't understand why not?" said Banji.
"I thought, by now, there would be much bigger names and much sexier industries out here, but is not the case.
"All I can say is that people have not bothered to see what opportunity there is here. All they do is listen to the bad press and think we are some god forsaken black hole or something. It's ridiculous."
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, "Serbia is forecast to make the largest improvement in the business environment in the region of Eastern Europe between 2009 and 2013."
"Out of 16 countries included in the research, Serbia will be leading the region in terms of business reforms by a wide margin."
Furthermore, the Serbia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SIEPA) unveiled a raft of key tax incentives and impending governmental reforms in a bid to make the region one of the most attractive countries in the emerging economies to invest in.
Other Western giants have also set up shop in Serbia and have applauded the government for its efforts to streamline foreign direct investment.
Italian carmaker Fiat has become such a driving force for the Serbian economy that its presence accounts for a 1% slice of the country's GDP.
Fiat Automobili Srbija (Fas) was established in 2008, which is a joint venture between Fiat (67%) and the Republic of Serbia (33%), and now employs over 3,000 people.
Both Fiat and Ball Packaging Europe has cited the ready-made workforce in Serbia as key reason for establishing a business in and around Belgrade.
"We also came here for the skilled workforce and have become a major employer for locals. We do not have any expats left at the company. We invest in our people and want people to stay here for 15 years or so," said Banji.
"We need the Serbian economy to recover and this will happen if more people do business here. We love telling our story as we are a huge success here."
For the full interview, check out IBTimes TV or the video at the top right hand side of the page.
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