WHO MANAGES THE EXPLOSION CALLED BALKAN AIR TOUR?
The most recent news regarding the new national air-carrier Balkan Air Tour confirm the saying: It's too good to last. The good news that the Government will at last release the BGN30MN, promised by the Finance Minister Milen Velchev and the Minister of Transport Plamen Petrov, intended for the new company to set in motion its mechanisms, was literally smashed by very scandalous news. On Wednesday the Transport Minister announced that USD3MN has in fact been drained from Balkan Airlines. This is the amount of proceeds from the sale of tickets when the former trustees in bankruptcy Olga Milenkova and Hristo Mollov were managing Balkan. The tickets were sold, but the passengers were not transported by the air company. As Mr. Petrov explained, the money is missing and it is not known what it has been used for. I'm presently investigating where the USD3MN has gone and I hope this will soon become clear, the newly-appointed trustee in banruptcy of the airline Radoslav Tonev explained to the BANKER weekly. Meanwhile, his colleage Galin Kostov (a lawyer from Varna) handed in his resignation. We can easily answer the question who will transport the passengers and at whose expense. It is clear that under the joint agreement, signed on November 1, it will be the new air-carrier Balkan Air Tour. The company will start operating in the red as it will be covering losses from the unrealized flights. The USD3MN will be probably paid off by the BGN10MN, which in the words of Plamen Petrov, shall be utilized by the air-carrier till the year-end. The more optimistic minister Petrov becomes about Balkan Air Tour (projected to start flying by the year-end), the more stumbling stones appear in front of the company's managerial team. It is not realistic to expect that in the very beginning the new air-carrier will make a profit, and not only the winter season will be the reason. The spring time-schedule of Balkan Air Tour has been shared between the two Boeings, leased from Lufthansa, and the Tupolev 154 of the governmental air crew 28.Meanwhile, it became known that the US company Tradewinds Internatonal Airlines is ready to lease two Boeings 737-300 against monthly installments of USD75,000. This offer is twice more advantageous than the currently effective leasing of the two Boeings from Lufthansa, which the management of the new air-carrier wants to rerent from Balkan. The monthly rent for each aircraft is USD155,000. This rent seemed too high to Mr. Petrov as well, who authorized his deputy Zlatolina Moukova to control the financial operations of Balkan Air Tour and be personally responsible about these contracts. Ms. Moukova and Balkan Air Tour's representatives will hold negotiations with Lufthansa for reducing the monthly rent to USD95,000. The leasing contract expires in end-March 2003, but two weeks ago their insurances for another six months were paid. The representative office of Airbus in Sofia has also sent to Balkan Air Tour a preliminary offer for an advantageous leasing of two A320 airplanes.For the time being, the Transport Ministry relies on Lufthansa's two Boeings and hopes not to lose the valuable slots on international airports. The hopes for the new air-carrier's success are connected with the future divestment of Balkan Air Tour, which is still enigmatic. Under the schedule presented by the Privatisation Agency, the deadline for the company's sale is June 2003. An international consultant is to be picked up as well. The finances invested by the State in the airline will be returned when it is divested, Mr. Petrov said. It was by his order that Balkan Air Tour was transformed from a single-member limited liability company (EOOD) into a single-shareholder joint-stock company (EAD), whose capital is already BGN3,160,000. Balkan Air Tour's equity is BGN160,000, distributed in 160,000 registered shares of BGN par value. Lyubka Manova, Hristo Todorov nad Tsvetan Manchev will be managing the company over the next three years. This cleared up rumours that the businessman from Madrid Doushko Bakalov (close to the Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) would take up the airline's management. According to pundits, the Transport Minister has made a mistake, letting Hristo Todorov (a former representative of Balkan Airlines in Helsinki) in the managerial team of Balkan Air Tour. Mr. Todorov's name is connected with Balkan Airlines' draining during the time of Gad Zeevi. Mr. Todorov has been removed from office by Balkan's former trustees in bankruptcy Ralitsa Topchieva and Vladimir Petkov, and appointed commercial director afterwards by Olga Milenkova and Hristo Mollov. It was Mr. Todorov who proposed that Balkan's slots at London's Heathrow Airport should be sold, and has contributed by his actions for increasing the airline's liabilities, pundits claim. It is strange too, why Balkan Air Tour's managerial team keeps silent and minister Petrov speaks on its behalf. Perhaps, the airline is waiting for its new image name. So far there have been more than 150 proposals, the Transport Ministry's press centre boasted.