Банкеръ Weekly



USD31.15BN BORROWED FROM WESTERN BANKS BY LOCAL FIRMS How much money has been exported from Bulgaria and deposited in foreign banks? There is hardly anyone in this country who could tell the exact amount, because the available official data about deposits and bank accounts of Bulgarian citizens and firms abroad are for the period from the beginning of 2000 till end-April 2003. Under the requirements of the Currency Act (passed in September 1999 and enforced on January 1, 2000) when such deposits exceed BGN2,000 they should be registered at the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB). And the central bank's data show that 310 deposits worth a total of USD65.2MN were made in foreign banks by end-April 2003. It should be noted that while in 2002 the opening of accounts in foreign banks was something like maniafor the more well-off citizens and companies, now in 2003 their popularily has steeply dropped. This is evident from BNB's reports, according to which 28 deposits worth a total of USD36.9MN were opened in foreign financial institutions in the first four months of 2002, while in the same period of 2003 the number of opened deposits was 41, but their aggregate amount was just USD4.9MN. The questions without an answer are who these firms and citzens that have so much free money are. What is their business in Bulgaria and how much taxes have the paid to the State? The responsible institutions keep silence to such simple questions and hide behind the letter of the law. Only guesses could be made about the reasons for the opening of such deposits by Bulgarian natural and juristic persons. But its is absolutely certain that theer are no so great forex depsoits in local banks. According to BNB's statisticsdeposits exceeding USD25,000 are considered big. By the end of 2002 there were 4,160 such accounts of citizens in Bulgarian banks and their average size was USD53,293. Firms' deposits in local banks above USD25,000 averaged USD162,747.22. In January 1 - April 30, 2002 Bulgarian citizens' and firms' foreign currency deposits abroad averaged USD1.3MN, i.e. way up from the average size in this country. BNB's data show that Bulgarian private and juristic persons are enjoying greater confidence on the part of western credit institutions. In the January 1, 2000 - April 30, 2003 period foreign banks extended loans totalling USD3.15BN to companies registered in Bulgaria. The central bank estimates them at the equivalent of BGN6.54BN. This amount sounds sensations, having in mind that the credits allocated by Bulgarian banks by end-April 2003 totalled BGN7BN. It turns out that foreign financial institutions are real rivals of local banks in their struggle to attract the firms operating in this country. Within the first four months of 2003 alone, the companies registered in Bulgaria got 287 loans from abroad, worth a total of USD685.2MN. It is true that this amount includes the EUR348MN credit, launched by a consortium of western and Bulgarian banks in February to the Maritsa Iztok 3 thermoelectric power station. But the fact that borrowing loans from abroad becomes the usual practice for local firms should make our credit institutions ponder over it. It is not a secret that big and solvent companies try to get credits from western banks due to the lower interest rates and the simplified requirements for guarantees. central bank's statistical data show that these banks become very serious competitors of the Bulgarian credit institutions.

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