The Gulf’s sovereign dilemma

To withdraw or not to withdraw?” asks American University of Sharjah professor Dr Jorg Bley in a column for Arabian Business (see page 34) about the present state of Gulf sovereign wealth funds (SWFs).
The multibillion-dollar funds have enjoyed strong growth in recent years but analysts now warn that growth is slowing as flat oil prices and low liquidity force governments to break into their investment vehicles.

Bulgaria to Put Out Arms Companies for Privatization

vmz-sopotTwo state-owned weapons companies, a manufacturer and an exporter, are to be put out for privatization over the next few years, Bulgaria’s draft midterm budget forecast reads.

VMZ-Sopot, which produces equipment, is to be offered in 2018, and defense equipment exporter Kintex comes next in 2019, according to a version of the forecast which has been offered to the general public for a debate.

Funding generated from the forthcoming deals will be set aside for the acquisition of new multirole fighter aircraft, according to the Finance Ministry.

VMZ Sopot has been ridden in financial problems over the past years, with workers facing layoffs and delayed payment. There have been several attemts at launching a procedure to sell the company.

Kintex‘s name emerged again last week following an inspection conducted by security and counter-intelligence agency DANS over specific deals done by the company.

Austria’s Habau Signs Deal to Build Last Section of Bulgaria-Romania Gas Link

Austria’s HabauBulgartransgaz and Transgaz, the gas transmission operators of Bulgaria and Romania, have signed a contract with Austria’s Habau PPS Pipeline Systems SRL for the construction of the last section of a gas gas link between the two southeast European countries.

“The completion  of the interconnector opens a new page in Bulgaria’s energy sector,” the country’s Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said at the signing ceremony in Sofia on Wednesday, according to a statement from the ministry.

The 2.1-km long pipeline section under the Danube river has to be completed in four months. The maximum design capacity of the 25-km long pipeline will be 1.5 billion cubic meters gas per year from Bulgaria to Romania and 500 million cubic meters in the opposite direction. In February, Habau won a tender to build the section under the Danube at a cost of  EUR 4.577 M free of VAT.

“We hope that after four months Bulgaria will have its first interconnector link operational,” Petkova said. “This is a step toward bringing to life the principles of Europe’s Energy Union – security and sustainability of supply, competitiveness and affordable energy for consumers.”

Bulgaria-Morocco Charter Flights to Begin September

moroccoCharter flights will be connecting Bulgaria and Morocco starting in September, the Moroccan Embassy has said.

A regular flight will be scheduled every Thursday to the Atlantic resort of Agadir in Morocco from an unnamed airport in Sofia, the website reports, quoting a tour operator company.

Most offers to Bulgarian tourists willing to visit Agadir are all inclusive.

They might include either an Agadir-based holiday with short trips to nearby places or a visit to the so-called Imperial cities where Agadir is also a starting point.

Bulgarian Consulate in Yekaterinburg Reopens

consulateBulgaria expects to issue at least 20 000 visas to residents of Russia‘s Ural district alone in 2016, the Ambassador of Sofia to Moscow has said.

Boyko Kotsev, quoted by TASS agency, has made his remarks at a ceremony marking the reopening of Bulgaria‘s consulate in Yekaterinburg, which earlier this week renewed work after having remained closed for nearly six years.

The consular office will also provide services to residents of Sverdlovsk Oblast and the Ural Federal District willing to obtain business or tourist visas.

Yakaterinburg officials estimate that 6500 Bulgarian visas were issued last year to residents of Ural district alone, when there was no nearby consular service to facilitate the process.

The local administration also quotes Bulgaria‘s Ambassador Boyko Kotsev as saying children’s tourism to Bulgaria did not mark a drop even “in the most complicated period of relations between Russia and the EU”.

Kotsev has also expressed hope that the speeding up of visa issuance will improve prospects for a better economic coooperation in areas such as engineering, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

Trade turnover with Ural district was USD 17 M for Bulgaria in 2015, a twofold increase compared to 2014.

Bulgaria‘s Consulate in Yekaterinburg was first inaugurated in 2002, but the Foreign Ministry in Sofia decided to close it down in 2011.

Bulgaria Climbs to 69th Place in FIFA Ranking

bg-team-footballThe Bulgarian men’s national football team climbed one position to occupy the 69th place in the latest monthly FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking released on Thursday.

With a total of 508 points, Bulgaria is between the teams of United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

Argentina ousted Belgium from the top of the ranking, while the reigning South American champion Chile climbed to third position, followed by Colombia.

The reigning world champion Germany dropped to fifth place, followed by the reigning European champion Spain. Brazil, Portugal, Uruguay and England complete the top ten.

A total of six teams are at the bottom of the ranking with no single point – Anguilla, Bahamas, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and Tonga.

The best mover in the ranking is the team of Guinea-Bissau which climbed the impressive 45 positions to occupy the 102nd place. The worst mover is Aruba which dropped 24 spots to 137th place.

Bryan Adams to Perform in Sofia in October

Bryan AdamsCanadian rock musician Bryan Adams will perform in the Bulgarian capital on October 11.

The concert will be part of his “Get Up” tour and will take place at the Arena Armeec hall in Sofia.

The tickets will go on sale in the network of Eventim (online at starting from April 8, with the prices ranging from BGN 60 to BGN 120.

Adams will perform both tracks from his latest album “Get Up” as well as some of his greatest hits such as “Summer of ’69”, “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”, “Please Forgive Me”, “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman”.

Adams will return to Bulgaria ten years after his first performance in the country, which took place during his 2006 tour.

EU Calls for Sustainable Results from Bulgaria’s Justice Reform

EU Calls for Sustainable Results from Bulgaria’s Justice ReformThe monitoring of Bulgaria under the EU’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) could only be dropped after the country showed sustainable results of judicial reform and increased public trust in the judiciary, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has said.

Bulgaria has to meet key objectives in justice reform this year, including some remaining from 2015, Jourova said at a joint briefing with the country’s Justice Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva after a meeting in Sofia on Friday.

Jourova, on a one-day visit to Sofia, also said that if it depended on her, she would like to see the CVM terminated within a reasonable period of time but for this to happen Bulgaria needs to fulfil the tasks on its reform agenda – for this year as well as those left from last year.

The CVM, introduced as a condition for Bulgaria and Romania to join the EU in 2007, is focused on the two countries’ progress in reforming their justice systems, fighting corruption and combating organized crime.

Jourova made it clear that the adoption of new anti-corruption legislation in Bulgaria was not enough, those laws should be put into action to achieve conviction in cases of high-level corruption under clear and transparent procedures.

Asked to comment whether the CVM could be removed through a  political decision – something which Bulgarian MEPs had lobbied for – Jourova said that even political decisions are being taken on the basis of achieved results evaluated according to fair and honest  methods.