BANKSERVICE IS READY TO OVERTAKE BORIKA
The banking community was stirred up by two publications of the BANKER weekly which announced that the BNB was ready to sell the national debit card operator BORIKA. Five banks even stated willingness to buy it, central bank's Vice Governor Bozhidar Kabakchiev explained. On Monday (May 26), at a special ceremony at the BNB the executive directors of all Bulgarian credit institutions received certificates for participation in the system for gross settlement in real time (RINGS). However, the most widely-discussed topic remained BORIKA's sale.Bankers are considering several possibilities for the purchase of the debit card operator. The first one is to sell the company to a consortium of various number of banks (e.g. to more than half of the Bulgarian credit institutions). There is another option that BORIKA should be owned by a non-banking financial institution experienced in card payments. Most bank executives, however, are unanimous that BORIKA should become property of Bankservice - the firm which provides interbank payments and which is owned by the BNB (which holds a 36% stake) and by almost all the other credit institutions in the country. If this scheme is implemented, the banking community (and not one or several financial institutions) will have the opportunity to exert direct control on the card payments and on the expansion of the ATM and POS network in the country. BORIKA has played an extremely important part in the development of the Bulgarian card market. Yet it should be taken out of BNB's system, Stilian Vatev, CEO of United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), commented in front of the BANKER weekly. He recalled that UBB had already developed a card system of its own by using the direct channels of VISA and MasterCard. Nevertheless, UBB is ready to participate in the shareholder restructuring of BORIKA if the BNB proposes an acceptable option.All bankers expect that the changes in BORIKA's statute will improve the efficiency of card payments. Yordan Skorchev, Executive Director of First Investment Bank, is of the opinion that the sale of BORIKA to one, two or three banks, or to a certain investor might exchange one monopoly with another. BORIKA must be the property of all banks. Violina Marinova, Executive Director of DSK Bank, added that: The moment for BORIKA's sale should be picked out very carefully. The number of electronic card payments will grow and so will the number of banks, attempting to own the electronic channels for service distribution. Ms. Marinova is afraid that the market can be manipulated if a consortium or a non-bank organisation buys the company. Then every bank will be forced to invest in an operator of its own and this will cost a lot. I think that BORIKA can be owned by Bankservice. The BNB holds a 36% stake in this company and it appears as the uniform operator for Bulgaria's payment system. All banks are also its shareholders. Ms. Marinova explained that in case BORIKA is purchased by Bankservice, then all banks would be served at one and the same conditions.