Equest buys 67% stake in Borovets developer

Equest buys 67% stake in Borovets developer

Investment fund Equest Investment Balkans (EIB) has made a non-refundable payment of 5 mln euro to purchase an option to acquire 67% of Rila-Samokov 2004 AD, the project company that owns 2 mln sq m of land in Bulgaria's Borovets mountain area for further development into residential second homes and associated infrastructure, the company said in filing with the London Stock Exchange.

The Samokov municipality retains its 25% share in Rila Samokov 2004 AD which means the that other shareholder, construction company Glavbolgarstroy, is left with 8% after the deal with EIB.

According to the fund's preliminary results for the year ended December 31, 2006, the year's milestone investment was Technomarket, the market leader in electronics retail in Bulgaria.

EIB acquired 75% of Lynx Property in 2006 through AXIS Retail. Lynx owns 100% of the subsidiaries trading as Technomarket. The total acquisition cost of 71.7 mln euro was financed by 41.7 mln euro from EIB and 30 mln euro of external debt provided by Raiffeisen Bank.

Technomarket sales increased 19% on a consolidated basis, from 260 mln to 310 mln euro, with retail sales registering 42% year on year growth - from 117 mln to 167 mln euro.

The network of the retailer increased from 19 stores at the start of the year to 25 stores by year end 2006.

During 2006 the market position of the Technomarket was strengthened, with the chain now having 47% of the Bulgarian retail market for consumer electronics and household appliances. The market share in the higher margin consumer electronics retail segment is larger, with Technomarket accounting of 54% of the market in value terms.

The fund plans to strengthen the foothold of its subsidiaries in the Balkan region this year while exploring the opportunities on local and international markets.

The EIB portfolio of companies also includes Familia Stores, the Bulgarian chain of local convenience food stores.

The company operates 26 stores in Sofia, and is in the process of launching up to 7 new stores during 2007. Some of the less profitable stores in its network are also expected to be closed.

In the year ended 31 December 2006, Familia had sales of 8.4 mln euro (down 20% from 2005) and a loss before tax of €5.3m. EIB said the major reason for the loss was a write down of old receivables together with certain one-off restructuring costs.

The fund plans to commence in January 2008 construction of the Kavarna Blue Lagoon, a vacation complex for second homebuyers by the Black Sea, with a completion date set for September 2009.

Another local project is the remodelling of the Serdika hotel in Sofia into a mixed office and retail scheme with underground parking.

Efforts are underway to obtain approval to convert former cinema Evropa Palace in Sofia into a retail area of 1,640 sq m lettable space.

Iztok, another disused cinema in Sofia acquired by EIB, is planned to be demolished and reconstructed as a multi-storey retail and office property with 1,980 sq m in built-up area.

EIB-owned Avto Union, a wholesaler and distributor in the automotive sector, is currently constructing its flagship mixed use retail and office development, Avto Union Center, located adjacent to the Sofia Airport