The COVID-19 pandemic has had a sudden and profound impact on investment decisions all over the world, including Poland.
For a number of years now, Poland has ranked high among Central and Eastern European countries in terms of its investment attractiveness. Poland’s main advantages, which invariably appeal to foreign investors, include stable economic growth, strong internal demand, proximity to major European markets, access to highly qualified employees, and the ever-increasing quality of infrastructure. When it comes to the value and number of M&A transactions, Poland used to take the first place among other CEE countries. I am sure this trend will continue post COVID-19. Naturally, the future economic recovery from COVID19 crisis will not be a simple return to „business as usual” and environmentally destructive investment patterns and activity must be avoided. The future economic recovery will need to be designed as „building back better” and Poland wants to be a leader in this field.
Here are 10 things I would have thought are important to know if you are planning to invest in Poland.
1. Don’t limit yourself to Warsaw
Poland is the 6th country in Europe in terms of population and area. Poland’s population is approx. 38 m people. Poland’s capital is Warsaw.
Warsaw is the most important place because it is a capital city and it is home to all ministries and governmental agencies but you should not limit yourself to Warsaw. Krakow, Gdansk, Poznan or Wroclaw are also growing fast. Depending on your business, you may be better off in Warsaw, which is considered as one of the next innovation cities of the world or outside the capital where overheads are lower and life is easier.
It really depends on what your business needs. If you want to be closer to the West, you can choose Poznan or Wrocław. But Poland is also called a gateway to the East so if your plans involve the East, you can choose Lublin or Rzeszów. The location is very important and it should be carefully planned in advance taking into account various factors.
2. Poland has perfect investment location in Europe
Poland is located in the heart of Europe which makes it the perfect investment location for companies needing to export products both in eastern and western directions. On the one hand, companies located in Poland can benefit from a strong economic relationship with Eurozone, having free trade access to the EU market and standardized regulations. On the other hand, the Polish economy is stable and resistant to any economic crisis thanks to having its own currency (Polish zloty).
Poland has been always stuck between two superpowers Germany and Russia which has never been easy. But after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and after the fall of the Soviet Union, Poland has managed to change this unfortunate position into an advantage. Poland’s pivotal position between West and East positively stimulates its industrial development.
3. Get the right team around you
You can't do it all on our own; you need help in preparing your plans, but you need to make sure you get the right help. Twenty-nine percent of start-ups that fail do so because they had the wrong team in place. So take the necessary time to evaluate the team that you need and then hire the best people you can, including the appropriate and experienced lawyers and local advisors.
4. Poland is safe and stable
Confidence is one the of most critical aspects that investors are looking for. Poland is safe and stable, both militarily and economically. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and it is an active member of the alliance cooperating closely with US and other members. In 2004 Poland joined the EU. Membership in NATO and EU gives Poland additional strength and confidence.
Also, the Polish financial system is safe and stable. The Polish economy has been growing continuously for the last 30 years. Poland also has been a leader of change in the region for the last 30 years and has also been a leader in attracting investors.
Although Poland’s GDP will shrink by 4.3 percent in 2020, this will be the smallest expected drop in the European Union amid the coronavirus crisis, according to the European Commission’s forecasts. In 2021, a speedy recovery is forecasted. The European Commission states in its latest report that Poland’s GDP is expected to rise in 2021 by 4.1 percent which is the highest rate in Europe.
5. Poland is a key member of The Three Seas Initiative
Poland is one of the founders of The Thee Seas Initiative which was set up in 2015.
The Three Seas Initiative is the current version of the inter-war "Intermarium", making it among Poland’s most meaningful contributions ever to European geopolitics. "Intermarium" (the Polish name Międzymorze meaning "Between-seas") was the idea proposed in the 1920s by Jozef Piłsudski as the federation of states which was meant to emulate the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The concept of federation did not work at the end but the idea of cooperation of sovereign states was inspiring to many people as a driving force of the region. No wonder, it was reopened again in 2015 as a forum for countries located between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Sea, stretching from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south.
The benefits for Poland are already visible. Via Carpathia which is going to link Baltic states with southern Europe is under construction. Baltic pipe is a unique opportunity for Poland to become a regional power broker. The plans for the construction of the central airport have been disclosed, which would act as the hub for the region. The central airport is planned as Poland's most important infrastructural investment and a transit hub which will integrate air, rail and road transport. It will be built 37 km from Warsaw and is planned to initially service 45 m passengers. Their number is to grow to 100 m. The first stage of the project is to be completed by the end of 2027.
6. Highly qualified and hard-working people
Probably the strongest assets of Poland is its people. There are plenty of highly qualified, hard working people in many walks of life in Poland – from professors, doctors, engineers, scientists, top-class IT specialists, managers, technicians to simple workers.
One of the reasons Poland is famous for top-class IT specialists is that it used to be a superpower in mathematics in the 1920s and 1930s. Polish school of mathematics thrived especially in Warsaw and in Lwów. The most important person was Stefan Banach - his mind used to work like a computer. It’s not surprising that Americans wanted to recruit him, but he was very attached to Lwów and he refused even the best offers. His response to an offer by Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics, given to him by John von Neumann, is legendary. Neumann gave him a cheque with a number one asking for adding as much zeros as he wanted, but Banach had said it was too little to leave out.
7. Growth opportunities in many sectors
Poland has impressed the world during the last 30 years. The rate of return on investment in many sectors have been usually much higher than expected.
Poland is often called the land of rising opportunities. This is true – in many sectors there is still a huge possibility of growth. Every business decision needs careful planning and consideration but - on the whole – there is a huge demand on the Polish market and the purchasing power of the society is growing.
8. Ever-increasing quality of business infrastructure
In 2018, Poland, as the first country in the region, had its market rank changed by FTSE Russell index agency, moving up from “emerging” to “developed”. The Warsaw stock exchange is doing well, which clearly indicates the maturing character of the Polish economy and the rising capital market quality.
Many significant private equity investors are operating on the Polish market, with nearly all renowned consulting and law offices having established their presence. The leading Polish banks successfully adhere to the best international standards and in some areas, such as electronic banking, they have even become market leaders. Within 30 years of its existence, the Polish capital market has achieved a very high professional level and created the full infrastructure for effective execution of significant and challenging M&A projects.
9. Big projects on the horizon
Poland is planning some big projects in the nearby future, including big infrastructural projects. One of the megaprojects is the construction of the central airport which is planned as Poland's most important infrastructural investment and a transit hub which will integrate air, rail and road transport. It will be built 37 km from Warsaw and is planned to initially service 45 m passengers. Their number is to grow to 100 m. The first stage of the project is to be completed by the end of 2027.
Another example is the Baltic Pipe which is a unique opportunity for Poland to become a regional power broker. The Baltic Pipe is a proposed natural gas pipeline between the Norwegian sector of the North Sea and Poland. It is a strategic infrastructure project to create a new gas supply corridor. When completed in 2022, it will transport natural gas from the North Sea to Poland via Denmark.
The current period is called the golden age of Polish real estate market. Warsaw will soon be home to the tallest building in the EU: At 310 meters (1,017 feet), the Varso Tower is slated for completion by 2020. It’s but one of a dozen skyscrapers going up in Warsaw over the next two years.
10. Forget about being an overnight success
Even the companies regarded as the quickest overnight successes, Amazon and Yahoo, took at least three years to get there, and the majority of companies take up to 10 years to really make it. So if you're the goal is to be the next billionaire start-up owner then you need to be prepared for a long haul. Success is not a race, it’s a journey.
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