Private equity investor pulls out of Vivacom deal in Bulgaria
Belgian private equity investor Pierre Louvrier, who claimed to have entered an agreement to buy 43 per cent in Bulgarian telecom carrier Vivacom, as well as majority stakes in several other companies, has now pulled out of the deal.
In a statement released via PR Newswire, Louvrier said that the assets have reverted to their previous owner as Louvrier exercised his right to “hand back the acquired assets under certain circumstances”, which was included in the original purchase agreement.
“My reason for investing in these businesses was to facilitate the restructuring of what I believed to be a fundamentally strong group of companies. It has not been possible to get the agreement of all parties within an acceptable timeframe,” Louvrier said.
The deal for Vivacom and other companies – including telecom infrastructure firm Nurts and multiplex operator First Digital, audience research firm Garb, as well as military plants Dunarit and Avionams – was announced in March. Louvrier’s Luxembourg-registered special-purpose vehicle LIC33 was to buy the 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.
(Vassilev, who is wanted by Bulgarian authorities on charges of embezzlement at CCB after the bank was declared insolvent, is currently in Serbia, where he is fighting extradition requests by Bulgarian authorities. For more reporting on the CCB saga from The Sofia Globe, click here.)
Some media reports in Bulgaria claimed that Louvrier maintained close ties with a Russian billionaire who is subject to EU and US sanctions as a result of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but he denied the accusations.
Nevertheless, the proposed deal caused unease in Bulgaria, with the competition regulator saying that it was never notified of the proposed change in ownership and the National Revenue Agency impounded Vivacom’s shares, followed by the equity in the other companies Louvrier was slated to buy.
It is unclear whether any ownership change was ever recorded in Bulgaria’s trade register, but given the convoluted ownership structure of the companies in questions, which includes entities in offshore areas, it is equally unclear whether Bulgaria would have been successful in preventing the transfer of ownership to Louvrier.