TradeMalta assists local companies to showcase their culinary delights at Gulfood 2024

TradeMalta is once again coordinating the Malta Pavilion at Gulfood 2024 taking place between 19 – 23 February.

Now, at its 29th edition, Gulfood continues to serve as the top platform for uniting food and beverage communities globally. With over 5,500 companies hailing from more than 190 countries, Gulfood remains the largest food expo in the Middle East, providing unparalleled opportunities for industry players.

This year, Malta is showcasing its capabilities with the participation of 11 food and beverage companies, each showcasing diverse range of culinary delights including beer, soft drinks and energy drinks, snacks, biscuits, crackers, ready-made dishes, cakes, sauces and condiments, dips and powder mixes for cakes and custard.

Anton Buttigieg, CEO of TradeMalta commented,”TradeMalta is delighted to lead the coordination of the Malta Pavilion at Gulfood, as this underscores Malta’s commitment to fostering international trade and showcasing the excellence of our food and beverage sector on a global stage. We look forward to continuing advancing Malta’s presence in the global marketplace by assisting Maltese companies to engaging with industry peers and forging new partnerships.”

Gulfood presents an excellent opportunity for Maltese companies in the food and beverage sector to network with industry leaders, explore emerging trends, and expand their reach into new markets. By participating in this event, Malta reaffirms its position as a hub of culinary innovation and excellence, well positioned for international success. Visitors are invited to explore the Malta Pavilion, located at the Dubai Trade Arena between the 19 – 23 February, to experience firsthand the exceptional quality and innovation that Maltese producers bring to the table.

For more information about the services offered by TradeMalta visit www.trademalta.org or call on Tel: 22472400.

Need for a balanced approach in addressing late payments in the EU

ALISON MIZZI – PRESIDENT – MBB

Towards the end of last year, the European Commission published a revision of the Late Payments Directive that is now being proposed as a Regulation, which would result in a more harmonized application across the EU. The proposal, which is a key component of the SME Relief Package, has stirred controversy due to the stringent requirement of enforcing a mandatory maximum payment term of 30 days in business to business (B2B) and government to business (G2B) transactions.

While late payments are a problem and one should strive to achieve an on-time payment culture, it is important to firstly differentiate between late payments and longer payment terms; secondly, it is important to understand how the EU could intervene in a free-market economy through the imposition of mandatory fixed payment term limits on businesses conducting commercial transactions.  This constrains the liberty of private companies negotiating their own payment terms, which would thus restrict their ‘freedom of contract’.

In terms of addressing late payments a distinction should be made between Government procured goods and services, and B2B transactions.  this In the case of the former, the proposed requirement in the Regulation to limit payment terms up to 30 days is a commendable initiative, as Governments and public authorities are normally less constrained with liquidity issues compared to private companies. Therefore, Governments should lead by example and effect payments in the shortest time possible.  On the other hand, in the case of B2B transactions, while swift payments naturally help businesses run more smoothly throughout supply chains, there are diverse business realities that vary by sector, size, lifecycle, and the international economic climate, among others, that need to be taken into consideration. Therefore, in the case of the private sector, the issue of late payments cannot be resolved through this new requirement, which is considered as a one-size fits all measure.

On the other hand, long payment terms are an accepted practice and essential in certain economic sectors, for example where companies operate with low margins or when cash flow depends on the selling of supplied goods. In such cases, longer payment terms can provide companies, particularly SMEs, more time to make sales and pay their suppliers over time, especially if they do not have the resources to buy stock upfront. Although the possibility of requesting financing from credit institutions exists, this may not be an option for all companies depending on their different circumstances, and during times of increasing interest rates this adds the pressure on profit margins significantly.

There are also cases of other forms of flexibility that exist in some value chains, such as with upstream suppliers agreeing to longer payment terms, particularly with businesses with whom they have a long-standing, trust-based business relationship. SMEs also benefit from this type of flexibility.

The above is not meant in any way to dilute the issue of late payments, which exists, and is of great concern for many companies. Abuse should be addressed, particularly if certain companies use their size as leverage to coerce SME into extending payment terms. To this effect, there should be more efficient redress instruments for companies, including strong alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

One should also look at improving discipline in commercial transactions and in fact the proposal for a Late Payments Regulation puts forward several solutions to this effect. For instance, that the procedure of verification or acceptance of goods or services should not exceed 30 days from the date of the reception of the goods or services is a good step towards the behavioural change for a culture of prompt payments.

Another important form of discipline is the application of 8% interest rate on late payments and a fixed Eur50 administrative fee towards recovery costs. Businesses ought to have a right to negotiate payment terms according to their needs, but once agreed, the terms should be respected. The application of interest rate and administrative fee therefore serve as a deterrent for companies from abusing their position and especially from attempting to use late payment as a form of cheap financing. On this point however, while the proposal forbids creditors from waiving their right to obtain interest and recovery cost, there could be challenges for this to be applied or enforced in practice, particularly for SMEs. For this reason, competent authorities should be provided with sufficient resources enabling them to investigate and apply sanctions where it results that abuse is taking place.

To conclude, an on-time payment culture is essential both for individual companies and the economy in general. One should strive towards creating the right economic conditions where businesses thrive and are able to make payments when they are due. At the same time, that longer payments terms also have an economic purpose ought to be recognised, and where this does not result in abuse, it is imperative to preserve room for contractual flexibility to accommodate specific circumstances. This was also a key request by the European Parliament, where it called on ensuring a balanced approach that preserves the freedom of contracts when addressing payment delays, in its resolution on the state of the SME Union published in July last year.

As the Regulation is now being negotiated in the EU Council and the European Parliament, one hopes that the right balance is found between improving payment discipline, respect for the ‘freedom of contract’, and allowing flexible solutions that businesses may require in specific circumstances.

Alison Mizzi is the President of the Malta Business Bureau. The MBB is the EU business advisory organization of The Malta Chamber and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. It is also a partner of the Enterprise Europe Network.

This article was first published on the Sunday Times of Malta on 18th February 2024.

BOV launches revamped cutting-edge website

BOV.com – bank of values: Faster, easier, Safer! Valid reasons to fall in love with our new website, a portal designed to enhance the customer experience

Bank of Valletta has launched a newly designed website, accessible on www.bov.com, which offers an enhanced customer experience built around the preferences of the modern savvy online user. The revamped site offers a comprehensive platform that puts the Bank’s revamped digital identity to the foreforent with a fresh and clean design that minimises distractions and allows the user to foucs on what is most important. With a fully responsive interface, the revamped site will offer a seamless customer experience across all devices, including mobiles, laptops, and tablets.

Other notable characteristics of the new website include intuitive navigation, by which a user may effortlessly explore the site through a navigation system that prioritises user preferences, an enhanced customer support function, through which users can experience fast and easy ways of connecting with the Bank for assistance, as well as a fully-fledged learning hub that equips users with all the knowledge required to make informed banking decisions.

Kenneth Farrugia, CEO at Bank of Valletta spoke about this important milestone. “I am highly pleased to announce the launch of our newly revamped website. After months of dedicated research and meticulous development, we are now offering our customers an enhanced digital experience, empowering users to interact digitally with the Bank from anywhere, through any device both desktop and mobile. This initiative is yet another example of how we are continually putting the customer at the centre of everything we do, as this new digital experience is crafted exclusively with customer feedback and input. With close to eight million visits to our website last year, I now look forward to welcoming even more users to our enhanced digital banking experience.”

In his remarks on the launch, Theodoros Papadopoulos, Chief Digital Officer of Bank of Valletta, emphasized the pivotal role of customer-centricity in the creation of their new website. “At BOV, we redefine customer service, focusing on creating memorable experiences. The launch of the new bov.com is a testament to this, offering a design that’s not only clean and fresh, but also deeply rooted in user feedback and interaction. Our commitment to a customer-first approach is evident in every aspect of the site – from its intuitive navigation, tailored to be user-friendly across all devices, to the inclusion of a learning hub. We have prioritized empowering our users with the tools and knowledge for smarter banking decisions. This website, with its advanced digital banking technologies, represents more than just an online presence – it’s a collaborative achievement, co-designed with our valued customers. It’s a secure, state-of-the-art platform, that reflects our dedication to not just meet, but exceed user expectations. This launch marks a significant milestone, celebrating our ongoing journey towards customer-focused digital innovation.”

BOV.com – Your smart digital love affair begins

Economic Vision 2024

Keen creative digital agency on a visionary re-branding: focusing on purpose, creativity, and impact

In a landmark moment of transformation, Keen digital media agency proudly announces its strategic re-branding, marking a significant milestone in the agency’s 18 year journey. Embodying a vision summarised by the powerful tagline ‘Purpose, Creativity, Impact’, the agency emerges with renewed vigor, poised to redefine industry standards.

Elevating Purpose
With a commitment to purpose-driven marketing and media communication, Keen amplifies its
dedication to its marketing partners’ success by aligning every strategy and initiative with a deeper purpose. The re-branding reflects the agency’s steadfast resolve to make a meaningful impact in an ever-evolving digital landscape that is becoming ever more noisy and where both meaning and impact can be easily drowned in an ocean of information. Redefining and strengthening the connection to purpose is key for any business and for marketing strategies to survive and thrive in an exponentially changing world.

A Canvas of Creativity
Embracing creativity as the cornerstone of innovation, Keen’s re-branding champions bold ideas and imaginative solutions which the team has always upheld through the years through out-of-the box marketing campaign ideas and initiatives. The agency’s creative ethos shines through in every aspect, from its branding projects, international market entry campaigns, to intuitive website designs.

Impactful Initiatives
Central to the re-branding is Keen’s unwavering focus on impact-oriented strategies for positioning brands, with better customer journey flow, and a more holistic business and marketing integration whilst keeping ESG and CSR close at heart. With a keen eye on delivering measurable results, the agency’s comprehensive suite of services aims to drive tangible growth and measurable results for its diverse clientele.

“Over the recent years, Keen has focused on strengthening its long term partnerships with brands as projects grew in scale and expanded across industry verticals and geo markets such as Africa, the United States and Northern Europe. To continue delivering impactful results across rapidly-changing business sectors such as retail, igaming, healthcare, tourism and corporate services, our team has evolved through championing local and international talent, enriching our company’s skill set and expertise.”, Carolin Hyzyk, Director and Head of Business Development says.

“At Keen we have always strived to build strong relationships with our partners, some of which we have collaborated on projects for years. Keen’s re-branding journey signifies a pivotal moment in its quest for excellence. The proven success record exhibits through consecutive awards won at Ad World Masters, among others, and through entrusted brands winning awards for the crafted campaigns. Yet the greatest reward remains to be the success of our clients”, John Falzon, Managing Director of the agency, says.

Grounded in purpose, fueled by creativity, and driven by impact, this agency sets forth on a renewed path, dedicated to empowering clients and achieving mutual success. Stay tuned for what 2024 holds in store. The best is yet to come!

Malta Business Bureau Reacts to 2040 EU Climate Target Recommendation

In its first reaction to the European Commission’s recommendation for a 2040 EU climate target, the MBB reiterated its support towards the EU achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and acknowledges that intermediary targets are necessary to provide a gradual transition for all stakeholders, including businesses; yet cautions on the competitiveness impact and additional burdens that businesses may continue facing.

MBB President Alison Mizzi stressed that; “Businesses are, and will continue to be, at the centre of the green transition through their contribution towards innovation, and their readiness to invest. They are everyday looking into novel solutions to reduce their environmental impact, through renewables, energy efficient solutions, circular economy solutions, and so on, when conditions are favourable.”

“At the same time, it must be emphasised that the current environmental policy drive has already placed great stress on businesses through excessive reporting requirements and disproportionate implementation costs, as well as through risks of carbon leakage which degrades economic competitiveness,” Ms. Mizzi continued.

The MBB urges EU policymakers to ground future climate legislation in realism and account for the different obstacles or limitations faced by specific regions and industries. This includes ensuring that the post-2030 policy framework provides adequate support and incentives for the most affected and vulnerable actors, especially SMEs.

The European Commission has recommended to reduce the EU’s net greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 90% by 2040, compared to 1990 levels. This is being considered a significant step towards achieving climate neutrality by 2050, which is at the heart of the European Green Deal. The target is also in line with the Paris Agreement to limit temperature increases to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The MBB emphasised the importance of an open and constructive dialogue with business stakeholders, to help identify potential concerns and adequately address them in future EU proposals. The MBB shall remain committed to engage with the EU institutions to put forward the Maltese business perspective. Only through a collaborative and participatory approach, one can ensure a smooth, and competitive transition to a climate-neutral Europe.

The Malta Business Bureau is the EU business advisory organisation of The Malta Chamber and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. The MBB is also a partner of the Enterprise Europe Network.

Geo-political tensions persist, but low public debt and high bank liquidity help

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry organised a conference in collaboration with Bank of Valletta to explore the recent and expected economic developments and trends, in the context of the baseline trajectory for the Maltese economy, and the upside and downside risks surrounding this outlook.

In his opening speech, Nick Xuereb, Deputy President of The Malta Chamber, highlighted the key challenges and economic realities that businesses will face in 2024. “We should help and support businesses in improving their efficiency and productivity. As inflation shows signs of decreasing, it is crucial to implement the right measures proactively, positioning ourselves ahead of the curve rather than lagging behind. Since human capital will remain a persistent challenge in 2024, the overarching goal should be to steer our country towards emphasizing quality over quantity. Given that our businesses operate in a broader competitive landscape, we cannot afford to ignore external developments. With this being said, critical investment in digitalisation is imperative for both the private and public sectors and should be actively encouraged,” stated Xuereb.

“Malta’s economic growth remained strong in 2023, in contrast with the sharp deceleration recorded abroad. The current consensus suggests that over the next years, Malta’s economic momentum will continue to exceed that in the euro area. This benign outlook reflects the transformation undertaken over the years, which has made the economy more diversified and thus more resilient. Geo-political tensions continue to create uncertainty, but this is compensated for by the fact that the low public debt ratio and the high bank liquidity made it possible to dampen the international energy and interest rate shocks which occurred post-pandemic,” noted Malcolm Bray, Senior Manager (Economics) at Bank of Valletta.

During a panel discussion on the resiliency of Malta’s economic landscape, The Malta Chamber CEO, Dr Marthese Portelli emphasised on the concept of imported inflation which is manifesting in various facets within Malta’s economic landscape. “The Malta Chamber has highlighted several factors contributing to inflationary pressures, including increased air freight and sea transport costs, reliance on imported raw materials, imported labour, and regulatory burdens from the European Commission. Additionally, deficiencies in water and energy infrastructure and traffic congestion exacerbate these pressures. The Malta Chamber has been very vocal on the importance of addressing these multifaceted challenges while providing tangible examples on how to mitigate such challenges,” she noted. Dr Portelli emphasised the substantial growth opportunities in current sectors, particularly tourism and manufacturing, which have shown remarkable resilience. A key strategy for enhancing productivity in these sectors is to optimize efficiency by accomplishing more with fewer resources. This approach not only fosters sustainable growth but also enhances competitiveness and overall economic performance.

In his closing address Mr. Kenneth Farrugia, Chief Executive Officer of Bank of Valletta, stated that “We do hope that you have found this event to be insightful and relevant to your own operation and do trust that this will inspire meaningful action and drive positive change. As Malta’s leading Bank, we are delighted to have co-organised this event with The Malta Chamber as this has enabled us to share our views and thoughts on the national economy and in the process stimulate an interesting exchange with key economic actors”.

Mr Farrugia also stated that over the past decades, the country’s economy has gone through significant positive developments, this despite the challenges that emerged in the process, which in truth have tested our resilience. He went on to state that at this juncture, the future strategic thrusts supporting our economic development need to be driven by the critical principle of sustainability within an overarching ESG context. This focus will in turn undoubtedly bring about social wellness and stronger governance. Finally, Mr Farrugia said that “We all need to play an active role in shaping the future of our economy and where we constantly need to ask ourselves whether we are doing anything, or enough, in the process. Bank of Valletta intends to remain an important catalyst in this regard to foster greater engagement and collaboration between the key stakeholders for the benefit of generations to come.”

Malta Business Bureau Reaffirms its Role as Malta’s Business Gateway to the EU

The Malta Business Bureau (MBB) has unveiled its revitalised brand identity This represents a significant milestone for the organisation, marking exactly 13 years since its last rebranding exercise. MBB’s fresh identity reaffirms its commitment to be always vigilant of the ever-changing trends and exigencies of the business community.

Addressing the launch event, MBB President Alison Mizzi expressed her enthusiasm for the organisation’s transformation. She stated, “MBB has played a pivotal role in the Maltese business landscape by relaying EU policy developments and advocating for the Maltese business interest with EU and national policymakers. Today’s rebranding represents our commitment to continued growth, adaptability, and unwavering support to the local business community to bring it closer to the European Union.”

Chris Vassallo Cesareo and Tony Zahra, Presidents of MBB parent organisations The Malta Chamber and the Malta Hotels & Restaurants Association, also addressed the event to share their views on the MBB’s rebranding. The Malta Chamber President Chris Vassallo Cesareo stated that this rebranding is not merely cosmetic, but it embodies a blend of approachability and professionalism. He added that it embraces a youthful and adaptable spirit that is welcoming for businesses and will contribute to further success.

On his part, MHRA President Tony Zahra explained how the MHRA finds great support in the work offered by the MBB through its knowledge of EU Affairs and the potential implications for businesses. Mr. Zahra stressed MBB’s key role in a very complex legislative process, to put forward the Maltese business position in Brussels to relevant EU officials and legislators, and to intervene where specific proposals may have a negative impact.

This event is considered timely given the major changes taking place within the EU this year, as the current legislature is coming to an end and the European Parliament elections are taking place in June. This will be followed by a new College of Commissioners after summer, which will kick-startthe 2024-2029 term.

In a message delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Funds, Consumer Protection, and Social Dialogue, Hon. Chris Fearne emphasized that in the coming months, in the run-up for the European Parliament elections, we should all unite to promote and defend the principles of democracy that contribute to peace and prosperity. “We must ensure that the new Members of the European Parliament uphold democratic values to continue fostering well-being in our country and throughout the European Union.”

In his closing remarks, MBB CEO Joe Tanti expressed gratitude to all participants for attending the event, and outlined the strategic vision behind the new image. He said, “We are extremely proud with our new brand identity, which reflects our vision, values and mission as leaders in EU-business advocacy for the Maltese business community. This Rebranding reaffirms the MBB’s role as Malta’s Business Gateway to the EU.”

BOV launches ‘Rebbiegħa’ initiative

Bank of Valletta is issuing an open call to all registered NGOs operating within the Maltese Islands to participate in the BOV Rebbiegħa initiative.

This initiative forms part of the Bank’s 50th anniversary activities and is aimed at revitalising and protecting Malta’s environment while fostering a greater understanding and care for the natural environment around us. These actions would, in turn, bring a better sense of well-being for all communities and lead to tangible action to leave a better living space for future generations.

The BOV Rebbiegħa CSR initiative is an open call for proposals for environmental projects that directly impact four important aspects of the environment. These are:

  • Biodiversity in the Maltese Islands – exploring the protection and rehabilitation of Malta’s flora and fauna;
  • Urban Greenery – exploring how through the project proposed urban communities can live in greener areas;
  • Educating our Community – exploring how we can educate our community in bringing positive change to their surrounding environment and
  • Mitigating Climate Challenges – exploring the impact of climate change on our archipelago and how we can mitigate this.

The selected projects will be reviewed by a dedicated team within Bank of Valletta and the final selection will be based on a number of predetermined criteria which include the quality of the proposals, the positive impact they will be having on the environment, and the extent of creativity and envisaged effectiveness of the project.

Submissions can be sent via the following link: The BOV Rebbiegħa Initiative. Any number of submissions can be made by one party, as long as they fall under one or more of the four pillars mentioned. The closing date for submissions is the 30th of April 2024. For more information on how to apply, NGOs may contact the Bank on csr@bov.com.