2023 was an eventful year for business leaders in Malta and beyond. Whether or not your business was faced with supply chain difficulties, the increase in prices of most raw materials and the costs associated with HR undoubtedly hurt your bottom line. With increased pressures, strong leadership has arguably never been so important.
And on this note, we introduce the first ever edition of the MaltaCEOs.mt business editorial team’s 10 most impactful CEOs of the year, an entirely non-sponsored affair, where we take a look at some of the CEOs that left their impression throughout the year.
Despite having a unique set up where its majority shareholding is the Archdiocese of Malta and Gozo, Marcel Cassar has spearheaded APS Bank as a major commercial banking player on the island. In addition to a successful €50 million bond issue this year, which was oversubscribed ahead of its planned closure date, the Group’s financial performance as at the nine months ending September 2023 shows pre-tax profits of €23.3 million – a staggering year-on-year increase of €14.9 million. After overseeing the bank’s highly successful IPO offering in 2022, Marcel continues to lead a community bank that has cemented its position as a major financial institution on the island.
As CEO of the development branch at major local conglomerate AX Group, in 2023 Denise Xuereb has been busy overseeing the construction and development of the major Verdala Terraces project. A hefty responsibility, considering the bearing on Rabat’s picturesque skyline and that a portion of the development was approved on ODZ land. The project promises to elevate standards by providing superior facilities to what the island is accustomed to. Works are in full swing, while the entire project consists of three blocks for a total surface of 24,000 sqm, including of a 5-star hotel, fully serviced apartments, a private residential complex with 87 apartments and four commercial units. Denise continues to make a name for herself in the area of development and construction, sectors not known for female contributors, let alone leaders.
A notable figure within the cruise industry beyond Malta’s shores, 2023 saw Stephen Xuereb inaugurate the successful integration of shore power at Malta’s cruise port, with the first cruise vessel to be fully powered through the Onshore Power Supply system in early December. The €49.9 million initiative sees cruise ships turn off their diesel engines while berthed, and instead powered through the onshore system, thus heavily reducing emissions in the surrounding area and supporting the country’s sustainability goals. In terms of commercial success, the first nine months of 2023 saw a 40 per cent increase in cruise passenger numbers, reaching 645,567.
The first non-family member to helm one of Malta’s best known manufacturing outfits, Norman Aquilina continually made his mark in 2023 by vociferously airing his grievances regarding a lack of direction in the country’s strategic planning. This year, he continued to make his voice heard with regards to the country’s eroding competitiveness and the need for Malta to strengthen its voice at an EU-wide level. Further, he has overseen some notable commercial milestones in 2023. In June, the company inaugurated the iconic restored former Farsons Brewhouse, while the company’s latest annual statement for the year 2022-2023 shows an increase in profits despite facing fierce supply chain disruption.
At the helm of a major telecoms player on the island for close to six years, in 2023 Nikhil Patil continued to spearhead the company’s True Fibre network roll out, which will see it invest €100 million over an eight-year period and place Malta on path to be among the first in the EU to reach nationwide coverage by the end of 2024. Under his leadership, GO also became the first Maltese operator to have additional redundancy on international connectivity other than to Italy by connecting Malta with a third submarine cable, connecting Malta to France, Egypt and beyond. The investments made by GO under Nikhil’s leadership strengthen the country’s competitiveness and resilience.
Without the sheer number of accounting and audit professionals on the island, Malta would have been hard pressed to develop its status as a financial services hub. In her role, Maria holds the hefty weight of offering strategic direction to an Institute that brings together over 4,000 accounting and auditing professionals on the island. Under her leadership, the MIA has strengthened its outreach and engagement, all the more critical in an environment facing changing requirements and regulations.
In 2023, CEO Charles Xuereb inaugurated the opening of Trident Park, a large-scale regeneration project comprising office space, retail space and open space. The entire project is spread across 40,000sqm and saw Farsons invest some €66 million. The project was praised in particular for the decision to opt for low-rise development rather than the more conspicuous high-rise approach, thereby being less intrusive, protecting the area’s skyline and respecting the surrounding area in general.
Despite facing setbacks, this year saw the staggered opening of the mammoth Mercury Towers project. In November 2023, CEO Marcel Bonnici led the completion of the most modern and contemporary retail space on the island, the Mercury Shopping District, while the entire Mercury Towers project, requiring a hefty investment value in the region of €650 million, is set to be completely operational by 2024. Whatever your views on mega development projects like Mercury Towers, indications show the project is being finished to high standards.
At the helm of a company critically important to Malta’s economy, 2023 saw CEO Alex Montebello oversee the addition of a new route linking the Mediterranean to India, three new services, sign an agreement to carry out its first terminal expansion in two decades and welcome the largest ever containership to Malta. As supply chain bottlenecks and geopolitical disruption continued to characterise 2023, increasing capacity at Malta’s freeport remains a critical component for Malta’s economy and staving off inflation. In 2022 he was probed by the police over previous dealings with construction magnate Charles Polidano, however the matter was not taken further and he continued to see the company through major milestones.
Founder and boss at a leading med-aesthetic clinic in Malta, Joanna Delia makes the list for holding the position of a business leader that advocates for purpose alongside profits, is a firm supporter of gender-equality and most notably is a strong advocate and supporter of the local art and culture scene. A regular contributor of the niche local publication ArtPaper, Dr Delia contribution to elevating such niche sections of Malta’s artistic community is a testament to her sense of passion in all her endeavours.
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