The biggest companies in Hungary don’t want to be led by Hungarian executives

English2020. okt. 8.Növekedé

In Hungary, corporate life is dominated by multinational companies. Since the change of regime, there have been few domestic success stories that went off with a real bang. This is partly the reason why only five of the ten largest companies in Hungary have Hungarian CEOs. The number of female top managers is even lower; 48 of the best performing 50 companies are run by men.

It is not very hard to make a list of Hungarian companies which are in a strong position on the international stage, as there are not many companies based in Hungary that are significant at the European level. Apart from companies in the financial sector, Wizz Air and MOL are the only ones in the list.

And yet, Central and Eastern Europe is now home to a number of large locally owned companies that perform remarkably well on the European stage, too.

These include, for example, the Polish shoe store chain CCC, which already has more than a dozen stores in Hungary, or we can mention the bike manufacturer Kross; fashion giant Reserved; Delphia, which makes yachts; and the region’s number one oil company, PKN Orlen. Or there is car manufacturer Skoda, even though it is owned by German Volkswagen.

Skoda is unique among Eastern European giants as it takes pride in its roots. Customers are usually aware of the Czech origin of the brand. Moreover, its headquarters are still located in Mladá Boleslav, a town with a population of 44,000, where the original company was established in 1895. Its popularity is also remarkable in Western Europe; in the first quarter of this year, for example, Skoda Octavia was the most successful car in Switzerland.

Unfortunately, there are not too many similar success stories in Hungary. According to data by credit insurance company Coface, although there are 6 Hungarian companies among the 60 largest companies in the region, these are mostly state-owned companies or domestic subsidiaries of foreign multinationals.

The 15 largest companies in Central and Eastern Europe

PKN Orlen


Skoda Auto

Czech Republic



Jeronimo Martins Polska


Volkswagen Slovakia




Audi Hungária


Grupa Lotos


PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna


Alpiq Energy

Czech Republic

MVM Magyar Villamos Művek






Kia-Motors Slovakia


Hyundai Motor Manufacturing

Czech Republic

Source: Coface

This phenomenon can also be partly attributed to the fact that at the time of the regime change, we did not wisely care for our strong companies. Ikarus, for example, had been present in the South American, African and Asian markets during the 60s and 70s, and their specialists managed to develop anti-roll bars, which were later widely used all over the world. If it had not been allowed to go downhill, Ikarus could have been the "Hungarian Skoda".

Unfortunately, Ganz-MÁVAG also fell to pieces, Mirelite even faced liquidation at one point, while Csemege and Orion fell into foreign hands and they gradually lost their relevance. It says a lot about the situation that more than half of the privatized state-owned companies are either no longer operating or have merged into other companies.

We are afraid to expand

There are around five thousand large companies in Hungary. The fact that only few of these are Hungarian-owned is partly due to the fact that not many domestic companies dare to enter the international arena. Because of this, businesses stop growing after a while.

Although there are more and more government-funded institutions that help companies enter foreign markets, a large part of domestic companies have chosen to remain in Hungary, as they have been able to get on quite well here,

said Hajnalka Csorbai, strategic director of Opten Informatikai Kft in an interview with növekedé earlier.

There are also size problems, as many Hungarian companies are not prepared to supply the quantities that are expected in the Western or Chinese markets, for example. There are countless examples of this.

Hajnalka Csorbai also explained that mainly German and Austrian firms are willing to come to Hungary; roughly 1900-2000 of them are present here. We have around 1100-1400 British, Slovak, American and Dutch companies. Eastern companies also come to our country, but not en masse. Chinese companies are mainly involved in commerce; and Turks are present in larger numbers with smaller catering companies.

Agriculture is one of the sectors in Hungary where foreign-owned companies are overrepresented.

Every fifth agricultural company is partly or fully owned by foreign individuals or businesses. According to the statistics, these companies are more reliable than those with Hungarian owners.

Of course, the Hungarian situation is not completely unique, as Western European and Asian companies are strong throughout the whole region.

In Romania, for example, if we take the largest companies in each of the 41 counties plus the capital, we can see that 34 of them are foreign-owned.

In fact, in Cluj County, whose centre is in Cluj-Napoca, Hungarian-owned Mol Romania is the largest. However, this does not mean that the Hungarian situation is considered completely normal in the region.

An analysis by Eurostat revealed last year that the share of foreign-owned companies in the EU is the highest in Hungary; and we are followed by Slovakia, Luxembourg and Romania.

In the case of large German and Asian multinational companies, the Hungarian subsidiaries are also typically led by international managers.

Although five companies among the ten largest are led by a Hungarian CEO, we won’t find one single multinational company with a Hungarian leader: Audi Zrt, Mercedes-Benz Kft, Magyar Suzuki Zrt, Flextronics Kft, Samsung Zrt and the Bosch Group in Hungary are all led by foreign CEOs.

The picture is slightly different if we don’t focus only on the top ten. If we take the 50 largest companies, we find that 32 are led by Hungarians.

These include subsidiaries of such multinationals like TESCO, SPAR, Michelin, OMV, Continental or Shell. With regard to Shell, it is worth mentioning that this Dutch-English oil company has a Hungarian executive in the top management: István Kapitány, who is vice president and manages the company's commercial division.

Few women in executive positions

At the beginning of the year Opten conducted a survey on the ratio of men and women among company owners and leaders in Hungary.

They found that 14 percent of companies can pride themselves on having only female top executives and owners.

While this figure is still not very high, it is already an increase of about 4 percent in the last 10 years. On the other hand, in half of the Hungarian businesses men fill all key positions. The survey also revealed a really surprising fact: the proportion of “mixed companies”, that is, companies where women and men share executive positions has been falling over the years.

Among the 50 largest domestic companies, only two have female CEOs.

One of them is SPAR, where Gabriella Heiszler was appointed CEO in 2015. Before that she had worked as head of internal audit and controlling. The other such company is Shell; here Andrea Solti Istenes took over the top position from Andrea Bujdosó at the beginning of the year. She first joined the company in 1993, after graduating from Corvinus University of Budapest.

In Hungary, it is generally said that the larger a company, the lower the chance that we will find women in the management. The proportion of female managers in companies with more than 250 employees is less than 1 percent. The pay gap is also significant: a woman in a managerial position earns just under two-thirds of what a man in a similar position takes home.

A great proportion of women-only companies operate in cosmetics, hairdressing and other typically female professions, while among the typically male companies many specialize in IT. I’m not a feminist, but according to statistics, larger companies can benefit from having managers from both sexes, especially in terms of efficiency

Hajnalka Csorbai told us earlier.

CEOs of the largest companies in Hungary

MOL Nyrt.

Zsolt Hernádi

Audi Hungária Zrt.

Alfons Dieter Dintner

MVM Zrt.

György Kóbor

Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Hungary Kft.

Christian Andreas Wolff

Flextronics International Kft.

Christian Pfister

WIZZ Air Hungary Zrt.

József Váradi

Magyar Suzuki Zrt.

Yoshinobu Abe


Magyar Földgázkereskedő Zrt.

György Kóbor

Samsung Zrt.

Hwang Keun Ha

Robert Bosch Kft.

Daniel Korioth

Source: Bisnode/Own elaboration