VARNA STRONG-ARM GROUP TIM ASSAULTS THE BANK SECTOR
Under the guise of Chimimport and of offshore companies, the Varna-based strong-arm group TIM launched an offensive for acquiring two financial institutions - Central Cooperative Bank (CCB) and Demirbank (Bulgaria). As the BANKER weekly already wrote, Chimimport had filed an offer for the purchase of Demirbank. And during the week ROSSEXIMBANK sold a total of 14.4% of CCB's shares to the offshore company Otornio Investments Ltd. (which is also allegedly connected with TIM) and of the German company Bulchimex, whose sole owner is Chimiport.
There could be hardly any doubt that Chimimport, Bulchimex, and Otornio Investments, are links of TIM's business cobweb. Of course, this does not mean that the connection between all these companies could be easily proven juristically. But this is exactly the aim of any group with expanding economic interets: to entangle its operations through offshore companies.
TIM's bosses are Tihomir Mitev, Ivo Kamenov Georgiev, and Marin Mitev. In September 2000 Tihomir Mitev undertook the management of Naturella Com. Until then the company was within the business empire of Christian Maslev, and was acquired by Otornio Investments after he was shot. This deal has for the first time suggested that the business of the deceased Maslev goes to TIM's hands.
In November 2000, TIM's other boss Ivo Kamenov Georgiev undertook the management of Chimimport. Since March 2001 he is on the Supervisory Board of the one-time top biggest importer of chemical products.
Chimimport and its subsidiaries abroad, as well as the companies of the deceased Maslev, have obviously overfilled TIM's business net. Quite naturally, the Varna-based strong-arm group decided it should add to its business empire a financial institution to service its operations. However, TIM does not have the image which would allow it to take aim at a big Bulgarian bank. Therefore, the group began looking around for small or medium-sized banks, which are presently on sale. By coincidence both Demirbank (Bulgaria) and CCB satisfy these conditions.
Representatives of Chimimport have been intersted in the purchase of Demirbank (Bulgaria) since the beginning of 2001. They have intitiated that move, taking advantage of the situation. Its owner - the Turkish Demirbank T.A.S. - fell into a liquidity crisis in end-2000 and the financial institution's management was undertaken by the Turkish Agency for Bank Regulation and Supervision. The Agency announced it was selling the bank to Djangala Holding, and TIM immediately spotted its chance of acquiring a bank by breaking off the Bulgarian piece of the Turkish credit institution.
However, the preparation of the tenders took quite a long time, and TIM's bosses probably realized they would not be the only candidate buyers for Demirbank (Bulgaria). In order to be sure that they won's run upon the rocks and remain without a bank, they directed their attention to CCB as well. The choice was not accidental as at the time three of CCB's major shareholders - the Bank Consolidation Company (BCC), Corporative Bank, and Fininvest - announced they were seeking a buyer for their stakes in it.
Assessing the situation, the Varna strong-arm group had probably decided it was pointless to directly bid for CCB and resorted to the services of ROSSEXIMBANK, chaired by Emil Kyulev, who obviously assumed the role of a mediator. In mid-2001 he began negotiations with Corporative Bank and Fininvest for the purchase of 24.4% of their shares in CCB. Moreover, in May he notified the BCC that he wanted to buy its 32.2% stake in CCB. In the end of the same month Corporative Bank and Fininvest sold their 24.4% of CCB's assets to ROSSEXIMBANK. From that moment on it began fulfilling its commitments to TIM as a mediator.
In the last week of August Kyulev's bank sold some of the shares, purchased from CCB - 14.4% - to companies connected with TIM. This time, however, the Varna-based group formally isolated from the operation Chimimport, which is bidding for Demirbnk (Bulgaria). The German company Bulchimex purchased 6.2% of CCB's capital. Bulchimex is in fact a 100% subsidiary of Chimimport. The balance of 8.2% was acquired by Otornio Investments, an offshore company, owned by Naturella Com, managed by one of TIM's bosses Tihomir Mitev.
It is likely that in the beginning of September ROSSEXIMBANK would sell the remaining 10% to offshore companies, such as Oddone Investment or Wonswere Holdings (which are also connected with TIM's business structures), or to one of Chimimport's foreign subsidiaries. TIM will probably use the same scheme to acquire BCC's 32% stake in CCB. It will be initially purchased by ROSSEXIMBANK, and afterwards sold in portions to two or three offshore companies.