Austrian investors forge eastern connections

While crisis has gripped the EU and the eurozone, Austria has been mapping a new future with central and south-eastern Europe.

Across the economy – from banks to utilities – Austrian institutions and companies are selling more to Central & eastern Europe (CEE) and developing stronger ties with the countries across the region.

National (Central) Bank of Austria Governor Ewald Nowotny, who is also a member of the governing council of the ECB, told a visiting group of investors that Austria remains closely connected to Germany, which still accounts for 30% of Austrian exports.

But Vienna, boasting an enlarged airport, is also positioning itself as a business and investment hub for a wider Europe. The capital is increasingly the location for cross-border deals in many sectors, and investors are realising the potential.

“Austria as the preferred access point into the growth opportunities in CEE as distinct from other regional investment plays (SEE), is particularly interesting in these times of uncertainty,” said Peter Gutrich, managing director of Morgan Creek, a North Carolina-based investment firm. “The feeling of the stability of Germany, combined with the growth of the larger eastern European economies, is an attractive hybrid in these times of 100-year floods every ten years.”

Vienna has also dramatically improved its trade, finance and investment links with rising regional power Turkey, now the 16th-largest economy in the world and sporting investment grade status for its sovereign debt from ratings agency Fitch.

Nowotny noted that in one of the working groups of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Belgium had left to join a western European group, while Turkey had stepped in its place.

The same network is being painstakingly built at the Wiener Börse, part of the CEESEG group established in 2009, comprising Vienna, Budapest, Prague and Slovenia’s Ljubljana, which became majority-owned by the Vienna exchange in 2010.

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