Foreign developers, realtors tapping Bulgarian assets, golf potential

SOFIA (SeeNews) – Spanish developer Ferry Group said it will build a golf resort near the Bulgarian capital, under a project estimated to cost more than 150 million euros. «We will start construction when we get all the necessary permits. The first golf course will become operational within a year after that,» Ferry Group owner Manuel Ferry Sanchez told reporters. The Spanish investor signed on Friday a 2.6 million levs ($1.6 million/1.3 million euro) deal with the city of Sofia for the purchase of land in the village of Kuttina, on the northern outskirts of the capital, where the group plans to build two golf courses, a hotel, apartment buildings and villas. «About 2,000 (people) will be employed in the construction of the resort and 700 will be permanently employed upon completion of the project,» Ferry added. There are four golf courses in Bulgaria, two of them within a range of 25 kilometers from Sofia, data from the Bulgarian Golf Association ( show. While golf is not a widely popular sport in Bulgaria, investors see it as another way of luring foreign tourists to the country, which aims to join the European Union next January. Mall acquisition In a separate development, UK-based Equest Balkan Properties, a property investment company focused on Southeastern Europe, has acquired a shopping mall in Sofia at a price of 94 million euros ($112.5 million), the company said on Friday. «This represents an unleveraged investment yield on full occupancy of approximately 9 percent by the end of 2007,» the company said in a statement to the alternative investment market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange, where it is listed. City Center Mall comprises 44,424 square meters of built area and 22,146 square metres of lettable space on six levels, with underground parking for about 500 cars. The mall currently has 72.3 percent of the lettable area contracted with 53 tenants signed, the statement said. It is anticipated that the mall will be open by the middle of May. Bulgaria’s consumer electronics retail chain Technomarket, Bulgarian supermarket chain Piccadilly and movie distributor Sunny Films are among the tenants. «Following our other recent acquisitions, this transaction brings our total investment to date to 144 million British pounds ($249.8 million/208.7 million euros) which leaves us firmly on track to invest the proceeds of last year’s placing within 12 months of admission,» said Petri Karjalainen, Managing Partner of Equest Partners Limited, Equest Balkan Properties’s investment adviser. Equest Balkan Properties started trading its shares on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange in December 2005 and raised 140 million British pounds to invest in or around the major cities of Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Turkey. The company acquired earlier this year a three-star, 131-room hotel in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia for 10 million euros, an office building in the Romanian capital Bucharest for 4.75 million euros and a retail mall in Romania’s northeastern city of Iasi at a price of 34.5 million euros.