Relocating to Malta

Carlo Perni, director of Digisteer Ltd

Many have asked me - and still ask me - "Why Malta?"

To answer briefly I must tell you my story and that of my small business. Back in 2005, I founded a Web Agency in Milan with two business partners - Lantana Digital Strategies - and this web agency achieved positive market feedback. Those were years when the "web market" was infinitely less crowded today. One did not simply "become" a Web Marketeer and if one had above-average skills, it was easier to grow. Year on year we managed to increase revenue by double-digit percentages and our gross margins increased even more ... but that in itself was a problem: growing in Italy meant that the more one grew, the more one sufferred the weight of the tax authorities. Only those who have financial reserves infinitely superior to what a fair and prudent cash flow would require manage to make the "quantum leap” and contemporaneously pay staff, suppliers and taxes. We have always had a solid financial position and discreet credit from banks. But in 2011 the crisis finally hit our business sector, and in 2012 a small decline in revenue and margins led us to mull over whether to invest or pay our taxes. Clearly (and not without biterness) we chose the second option. Since then we had to start to "work harder" on operating margins. However, with labour costs being higher than the European average, we lost competitiveness against our international competitors.

Hence the big question: give up, try to survive or relocate? An entrepreneur does not even consider the first two hypotheses, and so we opted for the third.

We started touring virtually around Europe to create a short list of plausible options. Then we really analysed in more detail each of these countries. To keep things brief, the "finalists" were Ireland and Malta. Each had its own pros and cons that more or less balanced each other.

However, as well as a company, I had to "transfer" my wife and two young children, and had to chose between two locations with equal business oportunities: fantastic but rainy rural landscapes, or the sunny and warm Mediterranean sea?

You will surely understand my choice! After several "exploratory missions" to choose the right people for taking this step (NB: do not perform steps like that solo, you MUST rely on the professionals of the place) in November of 2014 we founded Digisteer Ltd.

Malta is not a perfect country - that does not exist - but it is definitely amongst the European countries where it is easy, convenient and profitable to carry out business. Not in every area, but in my area as well as many others it is. This is not really for the local market, although we have developed a dedicated brand for the local market which is successful. The local market is lively but unfortunately very small of less than half a million inhabitants. However, it is good for the international market. In fact, Malta is an excellent platform to broaden ones horizons abroad. Bureaucracy is streamlined, maybe not perfect, but definitely smoother compared to the Italian one, and taxation following the "full imputation" system reaches a maximum of 35%, but in order to attract foreign investment can go down up to 5%.

The quality of life is excellent: it is as if they put the tranquility of southern Italy together with the desire to do business and typically Anglo-Saxon rules in a cocktail shaker, all mixed together. The result is a way of life which is strange but, in my opinion, good.

So to the question "Why Malta?" I usually answer: "mela, why not?"