EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

Australian Business Interests In Europe

  • July 22nd, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

chris-stone.jpgAs a result of the European Economic Crisis many businesses in Europe struggle with limited capital and cautious banks … though Australians in business in that part of the world have not been hardest hit.

In Brussels, Rebecca Oakley spoke with Chris Stone (picture), President of the Belgian chapter of ABIE – Australian Business in Europe.

Chris Stone says businesses that attract a niche market can and have remained unscathed from the economic downturn.

“At the working level there are great successes and of course great failures. It’s the overall generalisation perhaps of the press, perhaps of the image banking, or political problems that create the climate,” he says.

In this view, it’s really the financial services that struggle; in the present climate of worry, lending only to people who don’t need the money, with “iron-clad proof” they can pay the banks back.

Where there is an element of risk, it is being turned back on the client, so businesses have begun to lose faith in these institutions, and they increasingly limit their potential for expansion.

“For the institutions there’s distrust but generally when you work in financial services or you have a need for financial services you go to someone, a person, you trust.

“It becomes a strange dichotomy where perhaps you don’t trust the institution but you trust the person working for the institution at the lower level,” he said (11.7.12).

Successful businesses with positive accounts are now waiting for the market to pick up before they make their next move and are likely to fund themselves.

“They’re waiting for the opportunity they assume will arise in the next six months, or one year or two years, to perhaps buy their competitors, to perhaps expand but using their own money and not the money of the banks.”

Australian businesses and listings on the stock market in Europe exist mostly in London, though there are significant bases of operation in Belgium and France.

Of  740 Australians listed as living in Belgium many can be found working for mining companies and in public relations, or lobbying at the European Union.

Chris Stone, a successful corporate manager who set out to build his own firm, says there is no depression in job opportunities for Australian workers, and like successful businesses it’s about finding a niche.

“If there’s a need for a particular job to be filled and an Australian fills that purpose then there’s no problem.”

At the European headquarters of the confectionary company Mars, Australians are currently employed in senior positions in marketing and in the regional directorate.

Chris Stone’s own outdoor marketing company Dewez has makes evident the power of finding a niche; he has 45 on the payroll and has seen record profits each year since 2007.