Three bidders are opting for Bulbank, Bulgaria's leading bank, Deputy Prime Minister Petar Zhotev said last week. He did not reveal who the bidders were but local sources said that they might be KBC Bank, a consortium of Italy's UniCredito and Germany's Allianz AG, and a second consortium made up of France's Credit Agricole and companies owned by Greece's Vardinioannis family. Bulgaria is to sell at least 67 per cent of Bulbank by the end of the year under pledges to multilateral lenders. Bulbank posted USD 49 million net profit for last year. A consortium comprised of CAIB Investment Bank, Credit Suisse First Boston and Arthur Andersen has been advising the government on the sale.
President Peter Stoyanov met with the prime minister on Thursday last week in an emergency session prompted by a growing sense of political unease over reports of high-level corruption in government ranks.The controversy escalated last week when a former interior minister, Bogomil Bonev, accused Prime Minister Kostov of covering up an intelligence report in November, accusing two former deputy ministers of corruption.
Kostov's spokesman, Mihail Mihailov, stepped down last Tuesday, a day after Bonev's accusations, after a trade union leader accused him of accepting a bribe to grant a broadcast license. Mihailov denied the charge. Addressing Kostov, Stoyanov said that both the UDF leadership and the government made many mistakes, which worsened after the October 1999 local elections "due to a lack of courage and resolve on the part of Prime Minister Kostov, among other things."
The main opposition party in parliament, the Socialist Party, said last Wednesday it would call for a vote of no confidence in parliament against the government. Although it has a majority of 137 of the 240 seats in parliament, the Union of Democratic Forces may be divided over the corruption accusations, meaning some of its members may vote against the government and with the Socialists. Recent opinion polls suggest that confidence in the government has fallen dramatically. A poll conducted by Gallup International in early April showed that 52 per cent of the 1091 respondents polled had no confidence in the government - up from 25 per cent in May 1997.
Germany supports Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU, German President Johannes Rau said at the end of Bulgarian President Stoyanov's visit to Germany. At a one-on-one meeting, the two presidents discussed the situation in Europe and Bulgaria's efforts for accession to the Union. According to the German President, two steps should be taken: the applicant countries should prepare for membership and the EU should reform itself so that it will be in a fit state to accept new members. President Stoyanov also voiced his confidence that Germany will continue to show understanding of the goals and problems of Bulgaria and the whole region.
Yevgeny Primakov, former prime minister of Russia, arrived in Sofia for the press launch of the Bulgarian version of his book "Years in Big Politics." Primakov said he was looking forward to his meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova to discuss foreign policy and bilateral relations. Primakov commented on the situation in Kosovo: "Unfortunately, Russia was proved right. We predicted that NATO's operation would not result in pacification but, on the contrary, would lead to an intractable situation."
The guest stressed that he nevertheless remains optimistic but specified that in his view, any settlement must envisage that Kosovo remain part of Yugoslavia. Primakov said he was unfamiliar with the current visit of a Kosovo Serb delegation to Moscow and declined to comment on it. He noted that Russia is interested in the stabilization of the Balkans and denied having heard of any Russian plans for military bases in Yugoslavia.
Bulgaria's Bank Consolidation Company (BCC) said last week it has chosen the local Neftinvest Bank as preferred bidder for state-owned Biochim Bank.The contract is expected to be signed soon. Under a reform-and-funding agreement with the IMF, the government pledged to sell at least 67 per cent of Biochim by June. Biochim Bank is the country's fourth largest bank had assets worth USD 212.5 million in September last year.
Nadia Rozeva, 21 April 2000
Bulgarian News Agency