The first news conference by a group of investors planning to buy several Bulgarian companies, including a minority stake in telecom operator Vivacom, has failed to erase all question marks hanging over the proposed deal.
Last week, Luxembourg-registered special-purpose vehicle LIC33 said that it would buy stakes owned by Tsvetan Vassilev – the former majority shareholder in Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) – for one euro, promising to refinance debt worth 900 million euro.
Private equity investor Pierre Louvrier, who said that he was the sole owner of LIC33, met with Bulgarian media on March 24. He said that his company planned to buy 43 per cent in Vivacom, as well as majority stakes in telecom infrastructure firm Nurts and multiplex operator First Digital, audience research firm Garb, as well as military plants Dunarit and Avionams.
Reports in Bulgarian media claimed that no ownership changes have been recorded in the Trade Registry involving those companies, nor was it clear whether regulatory bodies have been asked to give their approval for the deal.
Louvrier said that the outstanding debt of the companies would be refinanced on international markets and denied having any association with Tsvetan Vassilev, who is wanted by Bulgarian authorities on charges of embezzlement at CCB.
(CCB was put under central bank administration last year and later lost its banking licence. Vassilev denies any wrongdoing and is yet to be formally charged by investigators. He is currently in Serbia, where a court is due to hear, for a second time, an extradition request from Bulgarian authorities. For more reporting on the CCB saga from The Sofia Globe, click here.)
Louvrier also denied having any association with Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, who is the subject of EU sanctions imposed as a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Reports in Bulgarian media said that the two had a joint venture, but Louvrier said that “he cannot be my partner” because of the EU sanctions.
LIC33’s news conference also drew the first official reaction from Bulgaria’s government, which said in a statement that it was “closely observing all major transactions with assets suspected of having a connection with Corporate Commercial Bank and the accused Tsvetan Vassilev.”
The Cabinet’s statement said that it expected the company to provide information about the origin of its funds before the government made a decision whether to have any contact with LIC33.