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Linas Libikas, JTI General Manager For The Western Balkans

Stability, Transparency And Predictability More Needed Than Ever

The increase in foreign investments in Serbia over the last few years is a clear sign that multinational companies recognise Serbia as a stable and secure country. This trend is positive thanks to Serbia’s position and economic conditions, as well as the country’s links to important markets

At a time when everyone is thinking about the crisis, JT International has once again invested in production. This prompted us to ask Linas Libikas, JTI General Manager for the Western Balkans, to reflect on the company’s expectations when it entered into this venture and the current developments in which it operates today.

“We live and do business at a time that contains a lot of unknowns – that’s why it is important that we always try to be a step ahead, to anticipate and then adapt to different situations in the best possible way. The previous year has brought numerous challenges for the whole economy; conflicts in Ukraine, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all of which have led to a significant disruption in global supply chains. Market instability, a lack of raw materials and rising energy prices clearly indicated that this is the right time for us to redefine our plans, become more flexible and strengthen partnership relations,” says Mr Libikas.

“In order to continue the uninterrupted supply of our products – not only on the Serbian market, but also across the Western Balkan region, we installed a new production line at our Senta factory, announcing the launch of a five-year investment cycle worth 51 million euros.”

For which markets is this production intended?

In addition to the production line, which will double our capacities, the investment cycle will include the construction of two modern cigarette and tobacco warehouses that cover an area of more than 2,000m2. This investment will contribute to increasing our factory’s export potential, which will impact directly on Serbia’s positive foreign trade balance. Due to the expansion of capacities, we’ll have ten new job openings that will contribute to another important field of our business: increasing employment in the local environment. Having in mind the fact that we export our products to the markets of Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania and Georgia, as well as the EU, we expect the production increase to lead to exceeding last year’s results, when we reached a record in the number of exports and realised a surplus.

Our investments will contribute to increasing our factory’s export potential, which will have a direct impact on Serbia’s positive foreign trade balance. They will also create new job opportunities

Bearing in mind that these are the type of investments we did not have in the previous decade, this is a great success for us, and we look forward to the period ahead.

You announced that part of the investment will be dedicated to construction of the Development Centre. Can you tell us more about that? Will this new centre rely on Serbia’s academic capacities? That’s right –part of the investment cycle will be dedicated to the construction of the Development Centre, within which we will develop unique modular and flexible machines for the production and packaging of cigarettes over the next two years.

These machines will be exceptional, not only in Serbia, but across the whole JTI system worldwide, and the modernisation will have a great effect on increasing the efficiency and speed of work.

One thing that makes Serbia distinct are its hardworking and talented professionals who are eager to progress and improve. They form the core of every company, as the most valuable resource, which should be nurtured by investing in their constant development. Accordingly, this investment cycle will not be an exception and will open the door for ambitious people who want to develop and advance professionally, and they will always be welcome at JTI.

How do you rate the investment climate in Serbia?

In these challenging times, in which global changes have a huge impact on local economies, the need for stability, transparency, predictability and the consistent application of high-quality regulations is greater than ever.

The increase in foreign investments in Serbia over the last few years is a clear sign that multinational companies recognise Serbia as a stable and secure country. This trend is positive thanks to Serbia’s position and economic conditions, as well as the country’s links to important markets.

Serbia has also had one of the largest inflows of Japanese foreign investments in the region, which exceeded 300 million dollars in 2022 alone. Looking at all the business potentials of our market, companies coming from Japan bring additional value – technological knowhow and new technologies, thereby providing a significant contribution to the development of the economy, but also to technological development.

One thing that makes Serbia distinct are its hardworking and talented professionals who are eager to progress and improve. Ambitious people who want to develop and advance professionally will always be welcome at JTI

How do you, as a company, tackle the issue of labour shortages, which is becoming characteristic of Serbia? It is a fact that the many challenges worldwide, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, have influenced changes on the labour market, and thus led to increasing labour shortage – not only in Serbia, but also around the world. Changes in the way of working and the suspension of numerous activities are just some of the reasons young people are more often opting to work abroad.

At JTI, people really do come first – we are aware that employees are the most important segment of our company and that they are the most influential source of our competitive advantage. It is for this very reason that we invest constantly in the development of our incentivising system of promotions and rewards, private healthcare – not only for employees, but for their closest family members – and we also offer employees the chance to learn more and develop abroad, which is an additional motivational factor for them.

To what extent do innovations at the company demand the improvement of employees’ knowledge, and how do you meet these needs?

As a company, we firmly believe that investing in our people is the true path to success, and that employee satisfaction is of outmost importance.

Year after year, we establish ambitious goals in this area, striving to provide employees with growth and development opportunities at all levels and to elevate the standard of people management practices. Growth and development are not exclusively related to external training and development, but also to following new business trends and introducing modern tools and work systems, which help our colleagues to more easily perform everyday tasks.

That’s why we are the winner of the prestigious Top Employer certificate for the eighth consecutive year, which is awarded to companies that demonstrate an excellent performance in terms of offering the best working conditions for their employees and fostering the development of talent at all levels.

Photo: Georg Wilke

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