Tobacco sale in tranches

SOFIA (Reuters) – The Bulgarian government decided yesterday to sell state-owned tobacco factories separately after it failed to sell tobacco monopoly Bulgartabak Holding as a whole earlier this year. Economy Minister Lidia Shuleva said the new strategy aimed to attract major world tobacco companies to the sale, whose completion is a condition of the country’s loans from foreign donors and for it to win fresh credit rating upgrades. The strategy has yet to be approved by Parliament, and Shuleva did not say when the sell-off procedure might begin. In March, after 11 months of talks delayed by legal battles, Bulgaria abandoned a planned 110-million-euro ($128 million) sale of 80 percent of Bulgartabak to a Deutsche Bank-led consortium, saying the deal was unfavorable. In the previous privatization procedure Bulgartabak attracted four bidders but no industry majors, which had said they would prefer only its best factories.