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BBJ’s Top 10 stories of 2013

Like any website, BBJ.hu wouldn’t exist without its readers. As we close the book on 2013, we take one look back at the year that was with a list of our Top 10 stories as determined by popularity. Which stories captured the imagination most at Budapest Business Journal online? Read on to find out.

1. Budapest flood to peak today. This rather matter-of-fact story showed what concerned most in the capital city and Hungary in general. Seasonal flooding of the Danube which ultimately put nearly 97,000 hectares of land temporarily underwater dominated local headlines in June; over 67,000 law enforcement officials, militia, volunteers and others contributed manpower in prevention and cleanup while seven European nations offered assistance in the aftermath.

2. Startups aiming for the world. Hungary-based entrepreneurships and SMEs were a popular theme for the governing Fidesz-KDNP coalition through the last half of the year, and this roundup of BBJ’s own Going Global Conference proved interesting to many with a forward-looking view of Hungarian businesses. A challenge to take up in 2014 came in Ustream co-founder/CTO Gyula Fehér’s appeal at the conference: “Let’s make Budapest the startup capital of Europe.” 

3. Csányi’s OTP selloff: Rumors fly, rift with Orbán theorized. Sándor Csanyi, that man with tentacles – sorry, hands – in everything Hungarian government-centered, not only garnered lots of media attention by selling off nearly 2 million shares of OTP Bank for which he serves as CEO but also caused a near-panic on the exchange. The immediate result was OTP dropping about 15% of value with Austria-, Germany- and Italy-based banks with operations in Hungary also taking an indirect hit. Csanyi would be obliged to answer questions about his standing with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, his health, and old accusations by state secretary János Lázár of octopus impersonation. 

4. Demján to Orbán: Savings cooperative law must change. In one of the sitting government’s first major moves of 2013 to re-nationalize certain key institutions, savings cooperative banks were essentially forced to accept a new charter for Takarékbank, now the overseer of such co-ops in Hungary, including the selling off of the banks’ 55% stake in the financial institution. Longtime big business player and now National Association of Savings Cooperatives (OTSz) chairman Sándor Demján appealed to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to lighten the burden a bit and give the co-ops a fair shake in the enforced stock selloff, but to no avail… 

5. Hungarian SMEs still undertake foreign currency risk. The Funding for Growth scheme backed by the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) impressed European Commission authorities and economists in 2013 and going forward, but the plan isn’t quite all rosy for Hungary’s SMEs. Raiffeisen Bank SME division director György Dercsényi explained in July that local sentiment toward bank loans had shifted into positivity but real change could really only be expected in the long term… 

6. University of Kaposvár students go full monty in protest. Viral video, anyone? In response to a new strictly-enforced dress code, a class of Kaposvár university students showed their 21st-century media savvy with their in-class nude protest. The combination of “Occupy” sensibility plus, let’s face it, attractive young people showing skin gave news outlets around the world something to report on while one upload of the protest video (embedded directly below) alone has garnered almost 175,000 – and we’re pretty sure its popularity isn’t due to the Hungarian-language lecture material.

 

7. By the way, it’s not the Bucharest Business Journal, either… Long one of the giants in international advertising, McCann unleashed a clever and unique campaign for candy bars that might just reduce the presence of a pet peeve in two Central Eastern European countries, namely that confusion of capital cities Budapest and Bucharest. The far-reaching campaign for Romanian candy bar ROM reminded consumers from Cluj to Budapest International Airport and beyond that the Romanian city is in fact “Bucharest not Budapest” with funny billboards, TV spots and even online apps.

8. Room escape games: the latest craze in Budapest. Want an alternative to video-based maze games? Head over to ParaPark (where “para” may be translated as “paranoia”) in Budapest – or now a few other locations in the country as well – for some real-life “room escape games,” perhaps Hungary’s biggest fad and potential tourist draw since the creation of “ruin pubs.”

9. Sólyom Airways CEO: No passenger flights until October. Did any Hungary-based enterprise draw so much attention in 2013 while producing so little? Sólyom burst onto the Hungarian news scene this summer with company CEO József Vágó announcing big – no, huge – plans to introduce a new national airline to replace the defunct Malev thanks to backing from unnamed investors in the Middle East. After the exciting introduction, however, Vágó et al demonstrated a reverse Midas touch, meeting problems with flight permits and delivery of aircraft while never publicly presenting a proper business plan. By October, the impossibility of the Sólyom enterprise due to collapse of talks with perhaps-imaginary Omanese investors was admitted; at that time, airline industry news site ATW Online reported that Vágó and other Sólyom Hungarian Airways Kft directors had “disappeared.”  

10. On the Path of Ancestors – and business deals. In July, a handful of Hungarian businesspeople took an interesting approach to establishing bilateral trade opportunities while also celebrating the Magyars’ history. Led by Kazakhstan-Hungary Business Council vice president János Németh and provided a snappy new SUV by a Debrecen car dealership, the group set off on a 5,000-kilometer trek through Russia and into Kazakhstan while roughly following a trail first marked by Magyar tribes in the second millennium AD – a three-day tribe that took the ancestors over 100 years to travel. 

The editorial staff at Budapest Business Journal thanks our readers for visiting BBJ.hu in 2013, and we wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year!