ECONOMY

Bulgartabak may extend deadline for final bids

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarian state tobacco firm Bulgartabak may extend the deadline for final bids in the sale of four cigarette plants because a prospective investor has asked for more time, an industry source said yesterday. The company has asked three cigarette producers, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris to make final bids for the units by September 30. But the source said BAT had requested an extension. «The supervisory board of Bulgartabak is likely to meet and decide on the request,» said the source, who did not want to be identified. Bulgartabak is offering the four plants in two packages which must go to separate bidders. «It seems logical that the investor’s request be met, as Bulgartabak would otherwise find itself in the difficult situation of having only two bidders for two packages,» said the source. The government has indicated it hopes to earn at least 490 million levs ($306.3 million) from the sale. Bulgartabak’s five other loss-making cigarette factories will most likely be shut down after the four profitable units pass into private hands. The deal, delayed for years by opaque political wrangling and economic lobbying, is also crucial to a $450 million structural adjustment program Bulgaria has signed with the World Bank.