The CEO of BALFIN Group, Edlira Muka, has recently given an interview for the annual publication “The 100 top companies in Southeast Europe”, a highly regarded report prepared by the prestigious SeeNews.
In her interview, she showed the progress of the Group in all the countries where it is present, focusing especially on the companies operating in the Southeast Europe region, which are also the focus of the publication on the 100 largest and most successful companies. Asked by SeeNews journalists, she answered their interest about BALFIN Group’s main investments for the future. In her answer, Edlira Muka focused mainly on the banking industry, retail trade, construction and the future of tourism.
You can read her full interview with the largest economic media in the region, SeeNews, for the publication “The 100 Top Companies in Southeast Europe for 2022”, below.
In the Western Balkans Countries, BALFIN Group holds a prominent position as a significant economic player. How would you summarize the Group’s performance in 2022?
BALFIN Group has maintained a steady growth throughout 2022, with our banking, real estate and retail industries leading the way, despite the fluctuations of the international markets. Our economic activity reached a 11% increase compared to the previous year. We manage to serve over 80.000 clients each day, in more than 230 points of sale or offices in all countries where we operate.
The main reason of this positive performance is a series of investments as part of a long-term strategy. Approximately 85 million euro were invested in 2022 and most of them in Austria, Switzerland, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and North Macedonia.
Another essential factor in our continued success is our dedicated workforce, over 5,000 professionals spread across ten countries. They play a pivotal role in overcoming challenges and proactively pursuing new opportunities.
How is BALFIN Group’s performance progressing in 2023?
2023 marks a significant milestone for us, as it signifies the 30th anniversary of the BALFIN Group. This year, we anticipate growth across all our companies, and the current figures bolster our confidence in achieving this year’s objectives.
Our retail business is experiencing growth through a multi-faceted approach. We’ve expanded our physical presence by adding new points of sale that offer a wider array of products and services, while also increasing the square footage of our shopping malls. Simultaneously, we’re actively transitioning our services into the digital realm. Our shopping malls in Tirana and Skopje continue to witness a consistent year-over-year increase in visitor footfall.
Tirana Bank is performing very well this year, consistently exceeding industry benchmarks and demonstrating remarkable financial stability. Tirana Bank is the fastest growing bank in Albania.
Our real estate development projects in the Balkan region and Austria are advancing according to schedule, encompassing both residential and commercial properties. We are currently spearheading distinctive initiatives that introduce novel concepts and innovative solutions to cater to our customers’ evolving needs.
BALFIN Group is present in 10 countries and in different industries. How would you assess the business environment in the Balkan region?
Although the Balkan region offers a diverse landscape for businesses, with each country possessing its unique opportunities and challenges, the region has been on a collective trajectory for several years, aligning itself with larger economic markets such as the EU. Different countries in the region are progressing at varying speeds, but they are all moving in the same direction.
Recently the region has witnessed significant growth potential, driven by its strategic location as a gateway between Europe and Asia. The presence of a diverse range of industries, including banking, services, hospitality and tourism, real estate, manufacturing, and technology, reflects the region’s versatility.
The region has made substantial strides in improving the regulatory frameworks, in align with EU recommendation, enhancing infrastructure, and attracting foreign investments, making them more conducive to business expansion. We feel it in all the countries we are present and other countries we are considering entering.
In terms of opportunities, the Balkans offer a burgeoning consumer market with a growing middle class, which presents an attractive prospect for industries ranging from retail, real estate to financial services. Moreover, the region’s commitment to infrastructure development, including transportation and energy projects, opens up new avenues for investment and collaboration.
For investors, navigating the Balkan business environment successfully requires a tailored approach for each country and build strong relationships with local partners. Our group’s diversified presence across industries and countries positions us well to leverage the opportunities while effectively addressing the challenges that come with operating in this dynamic region.
Could you share some insights into BALFIN Group’s upcoming plans for the near future?
At BALFIN Group, our vision is centered on investment in innovative concepts, the exploration of new projects, and the creation of novel opportunities. We are strategically focused on consolidating our core industries, including retail, real estate, and banking, which have been the cornerstones of our success over the past three decades. Our proven track record as a trusted partner for international companies investing in the Western Balkans gives us the confidence that our future partnerships will prosper, benefiting from our deep regional expertise and extensive network.
One such area of opportunity lies in the premium segment of the tourism and hospitality industry, which remains relatively untapped in some countries from the region. In partnership with global leaders like Marriott and Accor, we are making strategic investments in luxury hotels. Ambitious projects like Green Coast and Vlora Marina are poised to transform and elevate the tourism offerings not only in Albania but across the wider Western Balkans region.
Real estate continues to hold a pivotal place in our group’s portfolio and our forward-looking investment strategies. Our companies are at the forefront of pioneering and presenting innovative concepts in residential developments, mixed-use properties, tourist complexes, commercial infrastructure, and hotels. Alongside our ongoing commitments, we are actively exploring future investment opportunities in markets such as Croatia, Greece, and the United States of America.
Within the retail sector, we are expanding our network and elevating our digital footprint to address the evolving needs of our customers more effectively, particularly the younger generations. Collaborating closely with our international and regional partners, we aim to introduce fresh brands and innovative services to the countries we are present. Notably, our successful introduction of the retail park concept in Albania is a model we intend to replicate in various cities across Albania and North Macedonia.
Furthermore, Tirana Bank is not only enhancing its digital services but also considering the possibility of expanding its operations into new markets. Our commitment to expanding the bank’s portfolio reflects our proactive approach and willingness to explore new horizons.
We are proactively exploring the opportunity to invest in renewable energy sources, with a specific focus on harnessing solar and wind energy to generate electricity. By considering investments in renewable energy, we aim to contribute to a greener future while simultaneously diversifying our portfolio and seizing opportunities in the evolving energy sector.
As logistics gains increasing prominence in the region, owing to the strategic location of the Balkans, we are actively engaging in collaborations with international partners and aspire to expand our presence significantly. Our aim is to scale up our operations and leverage the strategic advantage of the Balkan region to its fullest potential.
I want to emphasize our enthusiasm for the future of the region and our firm commitment to exploring new horizons and opportunities. At BALFIN Group, our mission is clear: to establish robust companies, foster innovation, promote equal opportunities for all, and make a lasting positive impact on society. We look forward to contributing to the continued growth and prosperity of our region and beyond, in all the 10 countries we are present, and are excited about the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.