Foreign investors understood that they did not have to sell off Polish assets because military action was taking place just outside of Poland, which enjoys the full trust and support of NATO. This was also confirmed by the visits of key allies, led by US President Joe Biden.
Record-breaking Polish Aid to Ukraine
The war in Ukraine is a tragedy for millions of people who have lost their loved ones and everything they owned. The Russians are ruthlessly turning the Ukrainian economy into rubble. According to World Bank estimates, Ukraine’s GDP will fall by 45% this year. Ukraine already lost 20% of its GDP between 2014 and 2020 due to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Donbass. According to the UN, half of Ukrainian companies have stopped operations while the others are operating below capacity, causing budget revenues to fall sevenfold.
International institutions such as the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the International Monetary Fund will have to contribute to the rebuilding of the Ukrainian economy, which will certainly take many years. Their aid to Ukraine in the four years following the annexation of Crimea was equivalent to 16% of the country’s GDP. The economic impact of the current war will depend on the duration of the conflict but it is already clear that Ukraine will need more support than after 2014. A new “Marshall Plan” will be needed, such as an EU aid programme.
Today, Poland is one of the leaders in providing aid to Ukraine. Poland’s support to date is estimated at EUR 2.5 billion. According to the Polish government, aid to refugees amounts to a further EUR 2.1 billion. Independent observers estimate that the value of the financial and military support provided by Poland is second only to US aid.
Moreover, 3.3 million Ukrainians have crossed the Polish border since the outbreak of the war. More than 1 million refugees have already received a PESEL personal identification number in Poland. More than 90% are minors and women aged 18-65. Every fifth refugee of working age has taken up employment in Poland.
Ukrainian businesses flourishing in Poland
Poland can play a major role in rebuilding the Ukrainian economy, while providing a safe haven for Ukrainian companies. The Polish market was attractive for our eastern neighbours even before the outbreak of the conflict. At the beginning of 2022, almost 22,000 Ukrainian companies operated in Poland, over 2.5 times more than German companies. One in four companies with foreign capital in Poland has a shareholder which is a Ukrainian company or individual. The Poland Prize project has opened a call for applications from foreign start-ups which want to relocate to or start operations in Poland. Almost a third of 23 newly registered companies which concluded grant agreements in 2021 came from Ukraine. As the numbers amply demonstrate, owing to its geographical and cultural proximity, Poland is the main relocation destination for Ukrainian companies.
In Poland, support for Ukrainian companies is coordinated by the Polish Investment and Trade Agency (PAIH), which provides them with co-working space and helps to look for properties to run their business. Small and medium-sized Ukrainian companies have been authorised to do business from within Poland since March 2022. The Agency provides information on the conditions for doing business in Poland, offers advice on public aid, and facilitates contacts with public administration.
All these actions are aimed at supporting Ukrainian companies in the face of the crisis, helping them to continue their business and to grow while also strengthening relations between our countries.
Warsaw trading floor is open for Ukrainian companies
Ukrainian companies will need financial support even after the end of the conflict. The Warsaw Stock Exchange, the largest trading floor in Central and Eastern Europe, will certainly be a good venue to raise capital. Meanwhile, this will create an opportunity for investors to get involved in the rebuilding of the Ukrainian economy. Eight listed companies already participate in the WIG-Ukraine index, representing 75% of the MSCI Ukraine index. The WSE may also be attractive for companies from outside Ukraine which want to do business in the West as the Moscow exchange will not regain investors’ trust for many years.
The Warsaw Stock Exchange serves as a bridge between East and West for Ukrainian companies. This is not only due to its geographical location. Poland is a Member State of the European Union while maintaining close relations with the East. FTSE Russell advanced Poland to the 25 developed markets in half the time it took South Korea. On the other hand, our historical experience makes us perfectly familiar with the problems faced by post-socialist economies.
Poland is a symbol of successful transition while the Warsaw Stock Exchange, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, is an icon of Poland’s economic success. Twenty years ago, the Athens Stock Exchange was four times bigger than the WSE by capitalisation and more than twice as big by turnover. Today, the WSE is four times bigger than the Greek stock exchange. The WSE is the biggest stock exchange in Central and Eastern Europe and accounts for almost 60% of trading in shares on the stock exchanges of the Three Seas countries.
The Warsaw Stock Exchange continues to expand its international position, as evidenced by the near closing of the acquisition of the Armenia Stock Exchange. The WSE is also a showcase for Poland’s development in recent years: it develops new technological solutions for markets in Poland and beyond and is a global leader in terms of listed gamedev companies. All this strengthens The WSE’s role as a regional leader on the capital markets and makes it an attractive IPO destination for companies looking for a stable stock exchange with a positive outlook in the current difficult conditions.