Navibulgar’s pick

SOFIA – Bulgaria’s privatization agency said yesterday it had short-listed only one candidate, a German-led consortium, to bid for state maritime operator Navibulgar in a deal estimated at about -250 million. The consortium, led by Germany’s Martrade Shipping & Transport, will be invited to file an initial offer for a 70 percent stake in Navibulgar up to November 8, the executive director of the agency, Todor Nikolov, told a news conference. He said the other two candidates, India’s Essar Shipping & Logistics, which runs Essar Shipping, and Greece’s Chartworld Shipping Corporation, did not meet the requirements for the sale. «We realize that will make the selected company feel very comfortable,» Nikolov said. «But we will not sell at any price. We will have a deal only if we achieve a price, along with a level of investment and conditions for the work force, that is good.» Nikolov said he believed it would be better to continue with one bidder and provide a chance for a swift privatization rather than wait and miss the current favorable global trend for maritime assets. State-owned Navibulgar is one of the leading cargo operators in the Black Sea basin, with a fleet of 71 ships, with combined capacity of some 1.35 million deadweight tons. But its fleet’s average age is over 20 years old and it needs a strategic investor to upgrade the fleet and keep its leading position in the Black Sea basin. Navibulgar’s assets stood at 953 million levs in the first six months of the year, while its net profit was 22 million levs, up from 11.2 million a year earlier, on operating revenues of 209 million for the same period. Nikolov said he hoped the German-led consortium will file a bid and that a deal could be reached earlier than initially planned – before February next year.