Bulgaria relaunches tobacco firm sale

SOFIA (AP) – The government yesterday launched new privatization proceedings for state tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac Holding, after previous efforts to sell the company failed due to demands by the government to control raw tobacco prices. The new tender offers major stakes in the four most attractive cigarette-making factories in Bulgaria, lumped into two packages, the Ministry of Economy said. The first package includes a 85.24 percent stake in Blagoevgrad BT and a 78.18 percent stake in Slantse-Stara Zagora BT, while the second comprises a 78.22 percent stake in Sofia BT and a 78.18 percent stake in Plovdiv BT. The four factories produce the best-selling cigarette brands on the local market. Bidders may submit offers by Sept. 30, and the ministry expects a deal before the end of the year. The government decided to sell off Bulgartabac piece by piece after a deal to sell 80 percent of the entire holding to a Deutsche Bank-controlled consortium failed in March 2003. The 110-million-euro ($128.7 million) deal fell apart because the buyer would not accept a number of government requirements, including maintaining state control of raw tobacco prices until 2007.