HEWLETT-PACKARD BULGARIA SETS FOOT IN MACEDONIA
Hewlett-Packard Bulgaria, which had recently lost the competition with Montran for setting up a system for gross settlement in real time at the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB), completed successfully the establishment of such a technology for the needs of the Macedonian Central Bank on August 15th. This is a significant achievement for the US computer corporation's Bulgarian branch, having in mind that Hewlett-Packard's Greek office is responsible for the Macedonian market. We were picked up to fulfill the project as we have better experts, who have already realized such projects, Milena Mihailova, responsible for the relations of the company's Sofia-based office with mass media, said to the BANKER weekly. Ms. Mihailova added that the technology for interbank payments was worked out by Bulgarian experts only.
The trial period for the installment of the system for gross settlement in real time at the central bank of Bulgaria's southwestern neighbour country ended on August 15. Thus, the project was implemented in a record short term - within five months. For comparison, Montran intends to complete the analogous system at the BNB for about a year. The short term within which the project was fulfilled in the Republic of Macedonia is also due to the limited number of commercial banks in that country - 22 in all.
Bulgarian computer experts worked at exceptionally difficult conditions resulting from the unstable political situation in Macedonia in the last months.
The central bank of the Republic of Macedonia invited a tender for setting up a system for gross settlement in real time in August 2000. Tender dossiers were then purchased by 35 firms, and five of them filed offers. Among the bidders were Compaq through its Hungaraian office, and Logica, which also took part in the competition for BNB's system. The contract with the Bulgarian company was signed on January 10, 2001 after its offer was found most advantageous from both a financial and technological point view. The entire project is worth EUR1.58MN, of which EUR1.46MN has been released by the European Union under its PHARE programme. The balance of necessry funds will be provided by the Macedonian National Bank. The agreements between the two institutions include delivery of equipment, installation of the system, and its maintenance within a period of four years. The sub-contractors for the establishment of the bank technology will be the Swiss company CMA, which has worked out the specialized software, and the Macedonian Hermes Plus, which will supply and maintain the hardware. This is the third system for gross settlement in real time, set up by Hewlett-Packard, after it had won projects in Russia and South Africa; it is the first one, realized by the US corporation's Bulgarian office.
The technology is presently linking the 22 commercial banks in Macedonia, the clearing house and the central bank. It is expected to start operating at full capacity in the autumn when the regime for opening company accounts will be liberalized. This will allow the flow of firms' payments to go through the system for gross settlement. In the autumn again the Macedonian Central Depository and the Ministry of Finance will be included in the system. They are expected to be among the major clients of the network for interbank payments.