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In Praise of the Magyar Multinational

As a second-language publication, it is hardly a surprise that a fair proportion of our efforts are dedicated to the expat market, whether that’s our own Expat CEO of the Year awards, or our partnerships with the various chambers of commerce, or our good relations with English- and German-speaking embassies.  

But it should be equally clear that those expats are based and do their business in Hungary (and for the main part in this singularly capital-centric country, that means in Budapest). It would be an act of folly, therefore, not to be equally engaged in the domestic scene. Indeed, you cannot report on one, without reporting on the other.  

Our penultimate issue before the summer break therefore takes a deeper look at some of the local players. After all, as database company Opten Kft. reported last week, there are more than 10,000 companies registered in Hungary with annual net sales of more than HUF 1 billion, almost 7,000 of which are fully-owned by Hungarians.

I happen to believe this is a fascinating insight, so, just to complete the picture, origo.hu reports that Opten went on to say the number of “billionaire” companies in Hungary has been growing dynamically for several years. While in 2011 there were only 6,500 such firms in the country, their number has increased by more than 50%. And while the number of large foreign-owned companies is stagnant or has barely risen, the number of domestic-owned companies is growing at an accelerating rate, Opten’s data suggests: Compared to the 2017 figures, the 2018 data includes more than 1,000 new purely domestic companies with a turnover of more than HUF 1 bln.

So in this issue, rather than looking into foreign-owned multinationals, which you might consider to somewhat be our traditional patch, we look instead at a much rarer breed, the Magyar multinational. They might not be around in the same numbers, but they tick all the right boxes. Whether it is state-owned oil and gas giant MOL, or fellow Budapest Stock Exchange blue chip OTP Bank, with a footprint in many of the neighboring countries. Or pharma pioneer Richter Gedeon, with the tragic historical background of what happened to its founder in wartime Budapest. Or born-again brand Tungsram, once bought up by GE, now finding its own path once again.  

It is striking to me that the one characteristic that links all these companies, and indeed low cost airline Wizz Air (head towards the back of this paper to our Socialite section to find that story), despite their disparate backgrounds and ages, is their spirit of innovation. In a market as small as this, you have to cross the borders to grow, and that requires a certain flexibility and adaptability. These companies have that in spades; they will certainly continue to need it as COVID-19 continues to flare up again in many of their local markets, not to mention the Americas.

Robin Marshall

Editor-in-chief