Bulgaria exchange to join Deutsche Boerse

SOFIA (Reuters) – The Bulgarian stock exchange plans to seal a strategic partnership with the Deutsche Boerse by early November and adopt its trading platform to expand its operations, its chairman said yesterday. Viktor Papazov said Deutsche Boerse had outbid Greek market operator Hellenic Exchanges, the Nordic and Baltic bourse operator OMX and Borsa Italiana. «I hope at the end of October, early November, to finalize the deal. In six to eight months, Xetra, the Deutsche Boerse’s electronic order-matching system, will be operational,» Papazov told Reuters in an interview. German equities trading in Xetra and on the Frankfurt stock exchange increased 45 percent year-on year, Deutsche Boerse said on Monday. Papazov declined to give the financial details about the deal. He said the new platform would allow faster, efficient and cheaper access to Bulgarian equities and will give local companies access to huge funds. Under the deal, the German market operator will also engage in marketing the Sofia bourse. Solid economic growth and Bulgaria’s European Union membership has more than doubled the Bulgarian exchange’s market capitalization to 20.7 billion levs ($15 billion) at the end of June, equivalent to some 40 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. However, 70 percent of the market’s capitalization comes from 20 large firms. The vast majority of Bulgaria’s 480 listed companies have small capitalizations. Trading volumes are low – just 2.7 billion levs in the first half of the year – and initial public offerings are still rare. Papazov said that the bourse had initially considered modernizing its outdated trading platform by finding a strategic investor to acquire the state’s 44 percent controlling stake in the exchange. Exchanges in Frankfurt, Stockholm, Athens, Nicosia, Vienna, Milan, Warsaw and Prague have expressed an interest in the deal. But Papazov said strong lobbying interests that followed had threatened to bog down the process and delay the exchange’s development. «We held talks with the government, with the Finance Ministry and decided to cut the tightening knot, to choose a platform and let the state sell when it decides,» Papazov said. He said striking a strategic partnership with Deutsche Boerse would not necessarily mean that the German operator would have a better chance of opening the exchange. Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski has said the sale is not on top of his priority list.