Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

BETA IS STILL WAITING FOR A LICENCE

BETA of Cherven Bryag reported a turnover of BGN30MN for 2002 and made a profit for the first time in the last seven years. This became clear at a special press conference, dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the armoury. However, the company's Executive Director Ruslan Ivanov refused to specify the amount of the profit, but bragged of a 15% average annual growth of sales over the last four years. This, according to him, is due to BETA's successful privatisation. On June 30, 1999, the MEBO Beta 99 acquired 75% of the armoury's capital against USD1.8MN. The privatsiation contract obliged the new owner to invest USD3.6MN by 2002 and keep 850 employees on payroll. According to Mr. Ivanov, these requirements have already been fulfilled. But the data show that BETA's workers and employees presently total 621. However, they get their wages in due time. BGN15MN has been spent for their remuneration in the last four years. The armoury's capacity gives reason to say that at least 6,000 people could be employed in it.BETA was set up for the needs of the Bulgarian military industrial complex, but in the course of time articles for civil usage began to be produced in it as well. Thus, in 2003 only 10% of its output are defence idustry items - mainly two types of armoured machines. The market is our god and we have to follow it, says Mr. Ivanov explaining BETA's reorientation towards the production of civil goods. In addition to decreased demand the enterprise faces much difficulties in marketing its output abroad. Two thirds of the production of local machine-building and metal-processing plants are on the list (prepared by the Ministry of Economy) of goods with possible dual use. Therefore, a commission from the Ministry of Economy should permit their export. Anyhow, BETA is currently not allowed to sell defence industry products abroad.Due to doubts about violations of the regime for export of arms, a year ago the company was deprived of its export licence. BETA was accused of exporting arms to Sudan, which was under embargo at that time. Mr. Ivanov explained that the enterprise suffered direct and indirect losses of especially huge amount because of that decision. He noted that the biggest harm it suffered as a result of the revoked export licence was its damaged reputation. More than a month ago BETA filed at the interdepartmental commission an application for renewal of its export licence but has not received a reply so far. Currently, the company has focused on the production of new items. BETA is the only company in Eastern Europe which manufactured antiseismic bearings, earmarked for export to Taiwan. The products are intended for building a high-speed raillway in the Asian country. Last year the armoury launched manufacture of a hi-tech hoising crane, called BEKO, which is exported to Italy, France and Switzerland.

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