Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

BULGARTABAC'S PRIVATISATION IS NOT YET CLEAR

The panel of experts, entrusted to draft a strategy for the privatisation of Bulgartabac Holding, has not held a meeting yet, the press centre of the Ministry of Economy announced. The reason is that two more members hsould nbe appointed to the team. One of them should be the new Executive Director of the Privatisation Agency (PA). According to rumours, the incumbent head of the Central Depository and of the Sofia Stock Exchange Apostol Apostolov, will probably overtake the post. The second one should be one of the Ministry of Economy's deputies. As it is known, Kaloyan Nonov, Deputy Minister of Economy, who is responsible of the State's participation in commercial companies, headed the panel of experts. The clusmy procedures will probably cool down the enthusiasm of Deputy Premier and Minister of Economy Nikolai Vassilev for divesting the tobacco branch by end-2001. However, speculations about the options for Bulgartabac's sale are heaping up. Two main theses are being circulated for several months now: that the holding will be privatised as a whole, or will be put up for sale in self-contained parts.
The first idea seems to be presently dominating in the circles of the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII), although everyone is certain that the PA will get less money in that way. The serious reason for such a stance is that Bulgartabac might become a multinational company only if it's a unified structure. According to the second scenario, the holding will be divided into 22 firms that will be competitors on the domestic market, but won't have any serious chances of selling successfully their products abroad. Moreover, the divestiture of the entire holding will create favourable opportunities for the future owner to undertake additional commitments, e.g. to keep the operation of the old incompetitive tobaco factories, preserving thousands of working positions. It is known that workers in that branch mostly belong to the electorate of the ethnic Turks' Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which is NMSII's coalition partner. As a compensation the potential buyer would be granted more favourable terms for the purchase of the tobacco monopoly, experts close to the ruling NMSII believe. Part of the liabilities of the small tobacco factories could be written off as well.

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