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What do the multinationals think of Hungary? What benefits do multinationals see in setting up shop in Hungary? HVG polled directors of the 50 largest-turnover companies.

A location in the middle of a Central European market of 70m people, polticial stability, a cheap, but well trained and committed labour force - these are the advantages named by 13 company directors in a HVG survey. Philips mentioned the strong infrastructure surrounding Gyor and Szekesfehervar, the cities where it is based. Shell Hungary mentioned "the proven commitment of the labour force, creative and effective labour organisation, and a competitive business environment," though the oil majour also had a long list of disadvantages. They mentioned "changing regulation, a lack of equal opportunities, different taxation methods, bureaucratic public administration, and the tendency towards corruption in the business environment."

A complex and unstable tax regime were mentioned by Nestle and Teva as problems. Teve added that some of its potential employees spoke no foreign languages and complained of a lack of expertise in certain areas. Gerhard Rosin, managing director of Robert Bosch in Hungary, said there is a lack of employees skilled in the Western European sense, since non-university technical education is not up to par. Even cheapness is relative: Andor Paizer, director of General Motors Hungary mentioned rising wages. Alcoa also complained that it has had to pay customs tariffs on aluminium brought from outside the EU since Hungary's accession to the EU.

How important is a presence in Hungary to head office? Philips' factory in Szekesfehervar is one of the company's most important manufacturing locations in Europe. The company makes high-end products in Szekesfehervar, including LCD television, DVD players and writers, and home cinema installations. Shell Hungary was the first to introduce and test the global firm's new computer-based management system in 2005. Electrolux opened a new refrigerator factory in Nyiregyhaza last January and also chose it as the location for its vacuum cleaner factory. Hungary has become Electrolux's centre for refrigerator manufacturing, and the vacuum cleaner factory is Europe's largest.

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