HUNTING FOR DEMIRBANK (BULGARIA) BEGAN
Demirbank (Bulgaria) became the most hunted financial game in this country. Five candidates had filed purchase bids by the August 24 deadline for submission of offers at the Turkish Agency for Bank Regulation and Supervision. In addition to the Bulgaria-based credit institution, the Agency has also put up for sale five subsidiaries of Demirbank T.A.S. abroad.
The group of hunters includes UniCredito Italiano, TBI Holding Company N.V., Chimimport, Tokushukai Medical Corporation, and Iden Dodan Consortium. It can be noticed that with the exception of the Turkish consortium all other bidders are companies, which have already made investments in the Bulgarian financial sector or have serious intentions to step onto it.
The Italian bank giant UniCredito hardly needs presentation. It holds a 85.6% stake in BULBANK, purchased in October 2000. UniCredito was also among the candidate-buyers of Demirbank T.A.S., Turkey, but failed. The bidding was won by the London-based international financial group HSBC, which paid USD100MN to the Turkish Agency for Bank Regulation and Supervision in July 2001 just for the assets of Demirbank T.A.S. in Bulgaria's southern neighbour country. The Agency invited additional tenders for the sale of the Turkish bank's subsidiaries in Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Romania, Kazakhstan, and Kirgizstan.
The reasons for UniCredito's present attempt to buy Demirbank (Bulgaria) are not quite clear as the credit institutions' balance sheet value is only BGL55MN, i.e. 0.5% of the total assets of the banks operating in Bulgaria. However, the Italians have placed a package purchase offer for all foreign-based structures of Demirbank T.A.S., including the one in our country. Pundits claim that they want to set foot on the Romanian and Kazakstan market, but have offered to purchase all five foreign subsidiaries of the Turkish bank as this would give them additional privilege in the bidding.
The interest of TBI Holding Company N.V. to Demirabank (Bulgaria) is quite reasonable. The Netherlands-based company is the sole owner of TBI, which holds 70% of the Bulgarian Insurance and Pension Holding. The latter, on its part, owes 69.24% of the BULSTRAD insurance company and 85.33% of the Doverie pension insurance company.
For years on end BULSTRAD has been trying to acquire a bank of its own in order to effect its large-scale financial operations, but didn't have luck with its partners. The insurance company holds a 33.34% stake in Tokuda Credit Express Bank, which is not sufficient to have a decisive say in its policies. For that reason, back in mid-2000 BULSTRAD annouced its intention to sell its share in the bank, but has failed to find a buyer so far.
TBI Holding Company N.V. has obviously decided to add into its financial empire in Bulgaria a bank, on which it will have full control. For the time being, however, there is no information if the Dutch company has placed an offer for Demirbank (Bulgaria) alone or has filed a bid for the subsidiaries of Demirabank T.A.S as well. Submission of a package offer would be the most logical move on the part of TBI Holding Company N.V. It owns pension and insurance companies in Romania as well, and the Turkish Agency for Bank Regulation and Supervision has put up for sale subsidieries of Demirbank T.A.S. in the Netherlands, Romania,a nd Bulgaria.
The appetite of the Japanese Tokushukai Medical Corporation (100% owned by Dr. Torao Tokuda) for Demirbank (Bulgaria) should not be a surprise to Bulgarian financiers, having in mind the aggressive policy which Dr. Tokuda pursues lately in our country. In 1998 he declared he would be building a modern hospital in Bulgaria, and in 2001 he turned the first sod. In the end of 1998, however, Tokushukai Medical Corporation (through its subsidiary International Hospital Services) bought 51% of Credit Express Bank, later renamed to Tokuda Credit Express Bank. Funds for financing the hospital had to pass through the bank, but the scandals that burst out regarding the scams of the credit institution's former chief and owner Slavka Ivanova literally blocked its operation. In the beginning of 20001 Dr. Tarao Tokuda poured additional capital in the bank and stabilized it. Courts lawsuits, which the companies dominated by Ms. Ivanova have initiated, impeded the appointment of a new management. But both of its big partners - the companies of Dr. Torao Tokuda and the owners of BULSTRAD - have darted off to Demirbank.
Chimimport's offer is a consequence of the persistent attempts of the owners of the foreign-trade company to step onto the Bulgarian bank market. In November 2000 Chimpimport was purchased by Feriton Inc, registered on the Virgin Islands. After the change of ownership, the management of the former top importer of chemical products in the socialist times was entrusted to Dimitar Atanassov Kalchev and Ivo Kamenov Georgiev. The latter participates in several firms, where his partners are Marin Mitev and Tiholir Mitev - two of the bosses of the Varna strong-arm group TIM. According to local businessmen, they are the real owners of Chimimport. Offshore companies, controlled by TIM, bought out the business empire of Christian Maslev after he was shot. Bulgarian structures of the group are expanding their positions on the leisure industry and media market, in trade and transport. TIM's desire to step onto the financial sector as well dates back to the beginning of 2001 when its representatives for the first time explored the ground for Demirbank (Bulgaria). The Varna-based group is also interested in Central Cooperative Bank. Companies, connected with it, have allegedly closed an agreement with ROSSEXIMBANK to buy from it the 24.2% package of shares, which the bank, managed by Emil Kyulev, acquired in August. In order to increase their chances of acquiring a bank of its own, TIM has obviously laid two ambushes, hoping that one of them would hit the mark. Anyway, the result will be known on September 3, 2001, when the Turkish Agency for Bank Regulation and Supervision will announce the name of the bidder with which it will hold final negotiations for the sale of Demirbank (Bulgaria).