Malta, A Magnet For Foreign Investment
Business Traveler|September 2019
Long one of the Mediterranean’s most appealing tourist spots, Malta is also proving to be a magnet for foreign investment
Dominic Bliss

There’s a rather endearing folk tradition in Malta called il-quccija. On a child’s first birthday, friends and family gather round while the baby is encouraged to pick from a selection of objects placed on the floor. The choice suggests what the baby’s eventual career might be. In the old days, items might include a Bible (priest), a pencil (writer), a book (teacher), a boiled egg (lots of children) or a knitting needle (seamstress).

In today’s Malta, il-quccija is still widely practiced, only there are new objects now, reflecting the influx of contemporary industries flourishing on this Mediterranean island. Twenty-first-century babies might also be offered a calculator (accountant), a computer mouse (IT specialist) or a credit card (banker).

Ever since Malta joined the European Union in 2004, and the Eurozone four years after that, its economy has been growing steadily. “In recent years, Malta has seen high GDP growth, strong employment growth, a budget surplus, and a buoyant services sector,” the European Commission stated in a report in February this year, predicting economic growth of 5.2 percent in 2019 and 4.6 percent in 2020. Unemployment rates are low – only 3.8 percent in January this year, the sixth-lowest across the EU.

The Maltese Business Bureau, part of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, offers advice to businesses looking to invest or relocate. “Malta has been welcoming investors since the early 1950s,” says Ana Vella, its senior executive, business advisory and support. “Ever since joining the EU, we’ve enjoyed consistent growth and are fast becoming the country of choice for a number of multinational companies looking for an ideal market within the EU.”

She highlights several areas ripe for investment. Financial services are perhaps the most dynamic of these, with banking, financial planning, fund administration, insurance, pensions and – thanks to the country’s proximity to North Africa – Islamic finance all healthy and buoyant. International banks such as Deutsche Bank and HSBC have offices on the island, as have fund administrators Apex and Citco, and insurance managers Aon, Marsh and Munich Re.

The European Commission agrees that Malta is a healthy base for finance, but with an important caveat. “Overall, the banks remain profitable,” it stated in its February report. “Their capital base is sound, liquidity ample, and the credit risks have been further reduced. At the same time, recent investigations involving money laundering have revealed shortcomings in Malta’s anti-money laundering enforcement.”

Despite this, Vella says Malta is “an ideal environment” for start-up companies, especially in IT. Website analysts Hotjar, property rental site Quicklets and booking app eCabs are good examples.

Still, it’s with online gambling, gaming, and e-sports that Malta has made serious headway. Attractive tax regulations have lured many companies in this field, including Gaming Innovation Group, Interwetten, Kambi Group, Kindred Group, Mr. Green, Multilotto, Sirplay, TheLotter, Tipbet, Tipico, Unibet, and Vie.gg.

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