Since moving to the island from her native Germany in 1974, Helga Ellul has established herself as one of Malta’s foremost business leaders, and is renowned as the former CEO of Playmobil Malta. She is also a former President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce.
What do you consider to be the main advantages Malta brings to the table when it comes to prospective investors?
One of the island’s main advantages has always been its size. Being a small country, prospective investors can benefit from easy access to the decision makers right away.
As a German national who has been living in Malta for a number of decades, what is the overall sentiment of foreign investors who have chosen Malta for the relocation of their business concern?
As such, the overall sentiment is positive. For example, several German companies hailing from the manufacturing sector have been set up here for a long time, know Malta well, and are still here today.
However, this is not the case across the board, as there have been several movements in a number of other sectors, such as financial services providers, which brings us to the challenges.
Tell us about the challenges. Do you think there are areas that could pose a hurdle to investment?
Yes, the first being the banks. It is difficult to set up bank accounts in Malta, which has hindered the work of several companies.
There is also a lack of available human resources, as unemployment is very low, and one must look outside of Malta for skilled people.
This, I believe, is the biggest disincentive for investors.
You relocated to Malta from Germany in 1974, and were for many years the CEO of Playmobil in Malta. You were also a Director of Malta Enterprise and President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce. What are the most striking changes in Malta’s business environment since then?
The most impactful change throughout my time on the island, in my view, was Malta’s membership of the European Union in 2004, as well as the country’s adoption of the euro currency.
No investment destination can be suitable for all kinds of businesses (both in terms of sector and scale). From your experience, which sectors are the most suitable for Malta? And what about the size and scale of business – are there businesses that are simply too big for Malta?
Some of the sectors that Malta is most suited to are high-tech, software development, and high-end manufacturing. While the island may not be suitable for very large companies due to the lack of human resources, it is an ideal destination for small to medium-sized businesses hailing from these sectors.
Malta is also very suitable for test marketing as it is small but has all the different demographics needed for test markets.
Overall, do you think Malta is offering the right infrastructure and incentives to potential foreign investors?
The islands’ good communication networks and overall pleasant lifestyle continue to attract foreign investment to Malta. However, the country needs to work on its infrastructure to keep up with the needs of its inhabitants, and seriously work on streamlining the process of employing people from other countries.
The island also needs to work on its banking sector, as mentioned above, to maintain its competitiveness as an investment destination
This feature was first carried in the Malta Invest 2023 edition. Malta Invest is the first-ever comprehensive international investment guide focusing on Malta as a destination. It is produced by Content House Group.
Photo by Inigo Taylor