ECONOMY

Bulgaria Air expands

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s national airline has leased four more Boeing 737 short-haul aircraft and plans to add new destinations as part of expansion plans ahead of its planned privatization this year, the company’s head said yesterday. Bulgaria, a candidate to join the European Union, aims to sell up to 100 percent of Bulgaria Air, which was created in 2002 after the collapse of Balkan Airlines, as part of structural reforms and to inject cash into the firm. Bulgaria plans to restructure the airline and sell it to a strategic investor, but it has yet to launch the privatization as it awaits parliamentary approval. «We leased two Boeing 737-300s from US General Electric Capital Aviation Services and two from the German leasing company Deutsche Structured Finance for three years,» Bulgaria Air Chief Executive Officer Konstantin Taskov told Reuters in an interview. Taskov did not disclose the value of the contracts, but a source close to the deal said the airline had negotiated the lease for about $600,000 for the four planes. The company, which has a 20 percent market share, was expected to record a net profit of 2.0 million levs ($1.28 million) estimated for this year, he added. Bulgaria Air reported a pretax profit of 1.1 million levs ($714,000) for the first nine months of 2003 instead of an expected loss.