PAMPOROVO AD SEEKS INVESTMENTS
Fresh money will be poured in the Pamporovo joint-stock company in spring. The resources will be used for renovation of the two hotels owned by the tourist company - Perelik and Arfa - as well as for replacing the old tow-ropes and ski lifts. The money will be provided by the triple raise of the capital that the company is planning to undertake in case that its shareholders approve the measure on an extraordinary general meeting on February 11.At present, Pamporovo AD has a share capital of BGN358,700. After the raise, it will become BGN1,076,100. The raise will be implemented through the issue of 717,400 shares of BGN1 par value. Everyone who acquires shares in Pamporovo by February 20 will be allowed to take part in the raise of the capital. One old share will provide its owner with two shares of the new issue. It means that the company's shareholders can either keep their stakes or sell their right to participate in the capital raise to other candidates. If the current market value of the shares does not change, the buyer of rights will pay a total price of BGN4.60 for two shares of the new issue.This is the second step that Pamporovo will make in order to protect itself from the competition of the other two big winter resorts in Bulgaria - Borovets and Bansko. First, Pamporovo AD and the other hotel-keepers in the resort established an association on December 28, 2002, trying to bring back the old glory of Pamporovo.Under the privatisation contract, the majority shareholder - Tourist Invest, will invest USD2.447MN in Pamporovo in three years. However, no significant amounts have been invested so far. The resort was privatized in 2001. The Zurich-registered Tourist Invest company which is said to be backed by the businessman Slavcho Hristov, paid USD11MN to acquire 60% of the capital of the tourist company. Sinergon Holding was the other candidate that showed interest in Pamporovo and participated in the tender. However, it offered to pay USD8.304MN.Tourist Invest has one more year at its disposal to fulfil the undertaken investment plans. Still, the Swiss company preferred to seek another owner of the tourist company. Its sale was first discussed last summer. Applicants were required to pay the same amount that Tourist Invest paid to acquire Pamporovo - USD11MN. In addition to the two hotels - Perelik and Arfa - the property of the company also includes the whole infrastructure of the resort. Initially, a few hotel-owners in the resort showed interest in Pamporovo AD but were put off by the high price. They calculated that it would bring them a higher profit if they join forces with the municipality of Tchepelare and build a parallel infrastructure of the resort. As a result, Pamporovo still has the same owner who was forced to make a different decision on the company's future: to raise its capital and pour fresh resources in it. In fact, the question about who owns the resort has no definite answer since Slavcho Hristov left EIBank. Although the majority stake is held by the Zurich-registered Tourist Invest company, the tourist company is managed by EIBank. The bank is represented by Alexander Denev, procurator of Pamporovo AD. Up to now, Pamporovo owes considerable amounts to the bank. Pamporovo AD is making regular payments on its loans, Danail Kamenov, member of EIBank's Management Board, told the BANKER weekly. However, Mr. Kamenov denied the fact that the resort company has accumulated debts as a warrantor of other companies. According to the 2002 auditing report made by the chartered expert accountant Assen Kitov, however, Pamporovo AD should pay BGN6.3MN to the bank within a four-year term. In fact, this is the amount of a credit launched on July 1, 2001 to the sole-proprietor Teodossia-Maria Kalinova and guaranteed by Pamporovo AD. It turned out that the sole proprietor only owned a small grocery and was unable to pay off such a huge credit. Nobody can tell what has happened with this loan. But these are not the only problems of the company that was once owned by the state. The problems started as soon as it was privatized in 1997. 23.5% of its capital were sold to private businessmen through mass privatisation tenders. Two years later, the former ministry of trade and tourism offered for sale several hotels - Bor, Arfa, Snezhanka, Panorama, Murgavets, and Prespa-Rozhen. In that round of the privatization, the ministry forgot about the claims filed by owners of the land upon which the hotels are built. The owners made a proposal - to take three of the hotels (Bor, Arfa, and Orpheus). They also proposed to join the state as shareholders in the unsold company by adding 2,870 restituted decares to its capital. However, the economic ministry set apart just 1.86% of the shares of Pamporovo AD in order to satisfy their claims. As a result, the former land owners initiated six civil trials in the Smolyan Regional Court asking for acknowledgement of their rights. The claims blocked the privatization of independent parts of the resort for a while. A few months later, eight hotels on the territory of Pamporovo were sold. It seems that the legal battles will continue in Strasbourg. The 2001 reports of Pamporovo AD show that the company has registered a loss amounting to BGN1.2MN. Last April the management of the tourist company was changed, but the released members of the Board of Directors - Linda Hazh-Mahmud, Natalia Gougoulanova, and Nikolay Shopov, are still responsible for their work. They were substituted by Todor Kostov, Roumen Genev, and Valentin Kaladzhan. For the last nine months of 2002 the company reported a BGN926,000 profit, but this should not calm its managers, because in 2001, too, the whole loss was accumulated in the last quarter.