It started like any other day. Orbán’s front, Lőrinc Mészáros bought something big. This time it was a hotel resort in Austria.
State-fattened Hungarian oligarchs buying up castles, companies, assets, media and football clubs in Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia or Romania is old news. But Austria is new. And skiing is not a typical Hungarian pursuit either. Some pesky journalists got intrigued and looked up what’s happening. The results tell you all you need to know about doing business in Hungary: that those who tried it won’t do it again. It’s not just the state-sponsored oligarchs.
Why do Hungarian entrepreneurs choose Austria?
Hungarian businessmen who have no links to the hotel or hospitality industry take their money and buy ski resorts in Austria, the journalists found entire villages belonging to Hungarians. many are secretive about their investments. Those who speak mention the stable business environment. One of them gets really upset when describing the difference between attitudes to business in Austria vs Hungary:
“They let entrepreneurs live here. The tax authority isn’t after the legally operating businesses and politics is not meddling in business.”
Another one mentions his surprise how little administration and how few permissions were necessary to renovate his hotel – compared to his Hungarian experiences. (Naturally, extra regulations in Hungary are NOT about safety, before anyone gets scared about low safety standards in Austria.)
Another bitter businessman only spoke under anonymity, worried that his family in Hungary might be negatively affected if his Austrian venture becomes public. But he left because his grocery store was harassed out of business by authorities’ abuse. His story is not unique. We have written about people whose business was bankrupted overnight by a single piece of Fidesz legislation that played their industries into crony hands. An estate agent said about his Hungarian customers looking to invest in Austria:
Hungarians “who find me are not starving, they built up a business in decades, accumulated some wealth – but they no longer want to invest it in Hungary. One of them had a café. He said he cannot see his future in Hungary. Another had a chimney sweeping business – the state bankrupted him (when playing the chimney controlling into a crony’s hands with a new regulation – ed.) Someone said he is nauseous from the situation in Hungary. I spoke to someone who had an invention sought after in Europe, but when he wanted to turn it into a business in Hungary, the tender was formulated in a way that he was left out. And I also had negotiations with someone who had a driving school, business is not bad, yet he told me that he can feel that he will get sick and dies if he stays at home.
Due to the high demand, it is now hard to find new hotels in his area.
“Just the other day there were ten interested buyers on a property. One called the night before the open house and bought it without visiting. That never happened before.”
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