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380. Property market 2009: the year of the buyer

Sofia Echo: 2009-02-23

After years of bustling construction activity, solid price growth and quick profits, the Bulgarian real estate market will see buyers become the trend-setters, analysts said at the BalreAct conference dedicated to the impact of the crisis.

As investors fight for their lives, homebuyers with cash at hand can cut 15-20 per cent off the price of the property, said Tsvetelina Tasseva, director of real estate agency Address.

However, the housing market has skidded to a halt, with deal volumes falling and buyers taking five or six months to make up their minds, not five weeks as they did earlier, Taseva added.

Moreover, hundreds of flats were being offered at prices that were well above what buyers were willing to pay, with the difference between the price asked and the amount paid reaching 12 000 euro in Sofia.

Property buyers have become more choosy and were now looking out for good location, infrastructure and other benefits, according to Tatyana Emilova, housing space manager of Colliers International.

In the past years, the pace was set by investors on the hunt for quick profits splashing cash on buildings offered at exorbitant prices that did not match quality.

Many entrepreneurs took out short-term bank loans at various phases of the projects, hoping to pay back from instant sales. Now, the stagnating property market is bringing them to their knees before banks, analysts said.

Natural selection will help the market get back to business as usual, Bozhidar Neichev of PricewaterhouseCoopers said.

His view was echoed by Mauricio Mesa Gomez, Hercesa country manager for Bulgaria and Romania, who said that the crisis will turn out to be a healthy period as it would cleanse the market.

Construction entrepreneurs and investors should get together to hammer out common price levels because no one would survive this crisis on their own, Sofia chief architect Petar Dikov said.

Creative marketing ciykd no longer sell properties as both investors and consumers now needed to know all the details, said Lindner Immobilien manager, Rossen Plevneliev, who labeled 2009 "a year of truth" for the sector.

379. Hotel owners not cutting prices, despite low demand

Sofia Echo: 2009-02-22

The low number of early bookings will not move seaside hotel owners to cut prices, it emerged at a meeting of the industry and State Tourism Agency (STA) chairperson, Anelia Kroushkova.

As they struggle with soaring energy and food bills and rising loan interest rates, most hotel owners find it hard to make ends meet, said industry representative Dimitar Vulchev.

The only way to lower prices was an emergency state cash injection of 200-300 million euro into infrastructure improvements and reduction in visa prices for Russian tourists, he said.

Bulgarias tourist services are on average 200-300 euro more expensive than in rival destinations, including Turkey and Greece, and lower prices and outstanding service is what could lure more holidaymakers, according to Kroushkova.

Even countries in less favourable economic situation are taking steps to boost tourism, although it accounts for a much smaller portion of their gross domestic product (GDP), said Ventseslav Tanchev, Altours representative for Bulgaria and manager of Suntours.

He argued that one factor impairing proper state action to tackle the issue was the distorted statistics, with vast discrepancies in figures reported by the tourism agency and the industry.

For example, STA estimated the number of British tourists that visited Bulgaria last year rose by 2.5 per cent from 2007, while in fact the segment is plagued by a major outflow. In an indication that British holidaygoers are turning their back on Bulgaria, UK tour operators Thompson and First Choice have dumped the countrys northern Black Sea coast, citing flagging interest.

Tanchev sounded the alarm that with bookings falling by nearly half, bankruptcies will be inevitable. Many hotel owners were still waiting for last years money from tour operators, and in the meantime cut down on renovation, salaries, food and other expenses, he said.

Romanian and Russian tourists were unlikely to come in big enough numbers to reverse the overall decline in tourist numbers, Tanchev said.

378. Parliament rejects amendment against quick mortgage foreclosures

Sofia Echo: 2009-02-20

Parliament rejected on February 19 at the second reading a bill that sought to amend Bulgaria's Credit Institutions Act that would allow lenders to begin foreclosure proceedings on mortgaged properties only after six interest payments were overdue.

Currently, banks can foreclose on a mortgage if a single payment is late, although such cases remain very rare.

The authors of the amendment bill, independent MPs Mincho Hristov and Stela Bankova, argued that because of the economic slowdown and the credit crunch, "many Bulgarian households could find it difficult to make their monthly payments on time and lose their residence."

The bill failed to secure the support of Parliament's budget and finance committee, which said that the amendment was opposed both the Bulgarian National Bank and the Association of Banks in Bulgaria because it put debtors' rights above creditors' rights.

"The attempts to put debtor rights ahead of creditor rights are unacceptable," Iskrov told a forum dedicated to Bulgarias economic prospects during the current crisis on February 18.

"There are proposals being made by non-governmental organisations and members of Parliament in that sense, but if that is allowed to happen, it would cause a serious negative impact and Parliament should reject them."

377. Breeze Park complex to be completed by June

Sofia Echo: 2009-02-19

The modern Breeze Park Complex is in the southern most edge of Varna's Breeze borough and will be completed by the end of June. The complex is near the foreign language secondary schools and the Television Centre Varna, Stroitelstvo Gradut reprots.

The complex constitutes a total area of 1652 sq m in area and has complete transport infrastructure around it, linking it with Varna's centre as well as resort areas around the coastline. Moreover, it is only five minutes walking distance away from the Varna Sea Garden and Piccadilly Park.

The main investor in the project is Gestald Bulgaria OOD, founded in 1969, and it was made possible in collaboration with ABC Design chief architect Velentin Koichev.

The complex consists of two separate buildings within a planned unit development (PUD). Both buildings are four storeys high complete with large terraces and underground parking lots. The first building is designed only for two and three bedroom apartments whereas the second one has apartments, studios and offices.

Boasting a total of 15 flats in both buildings, they vary in size from 63 sq m up to 205 sq m. Every ground floor flat comes with its own separate garden. The flats are currently on offer from 1300 to 1500 euro per sq m.

376. Bulgaria will participate in European property forum MIPIM

Sofia Echo: 2009-02-18

Six Bulgarian companies will participate this year in the 20th edition of MIPIM, the largest market for international property trade and a prominent event in the world of real estate. It takes place in Cannes, France, every March.

The Bulgarian firms will be in one large kiosk in what will be the first Bulgaria representation ever in this forum, considered by experts to be the most respected in Europe. Last year, it was visited by more than 29 000 people, including government and financial leaders, bankers, scientists, businesses, consultants, industrialists and others.

Bulgarian representatives at the event are Alpha Developments, Prime Property BG, ADCITS, Benchmark Fond Imoti, A&T Electronics, and Yazov OOD. They will share their projects in a 70 sq m kiosk.

MIPIM is designed for senior-level decisionmakers within the real estate market who want to develop business within their domestic and international markets. It is a global marketplace that gives people the opportunity to connect with key players in the industry, from investors to end users through to local government and international corporations.

Inevitably, however, this year's MIPIM will be overshadowed by the the spectre of economic crisis and financial crunch which has shaken the real estate sector globally, in some areas, dramatically. Bulgaria, in turn, has been affected now that it is considered a "peripheral market", attracting a significantly lower share of money and investments from western pensioners, insurance companies, investment funds and banks.

375. Bulgarian economy grew by 6% in 2008 - official estimate

Sofia Echo: 2009-02-17

Bulgaria's economy grew by six per cent in 2008 to 66.1 billion leva, the country's National Statistics Institute (NSI) said in a flash estimate on February 16, but the growth rate shrank drastically in the last quarter of the year.

Fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth was 3.6 per cent, according to the NSI estimate, but the figure could rise because of the conservative approach used by the statistics board in making the estimate. NSI says that flash estimates, which it launched earlier in 2008, are still an experimental practice and should not be interpreted as official preliminary data concerning the level and growth rate of the Bulgarian economy.

In the second quarter, the statistics board's estimate of 6.3 per cent growth was trumped by the 7.1 per cent final figure, while the third-quarter estimate of 5.6 per cent was well below the 6.8 per cent final figure.

Even so, the final fourth-quarter data will fall short of the seven per cent growth rate that the Bulgarian economy recorded in the first nine months of the year. With the impact of recession in bigger markets finally making an impact on Bulgaria, the Cabinet looks likely to miss its 6.4 per cent economic growth target.

In 2007, when the Government target was the same, Bulgaria's economy grew by 6.2 per cent.

NSI's available data showed the agriculture sector grew by 20.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, boosted by the bumper harvest that followed the drought- and flood-ravaged one in 2007. However, agriculture only accounts for 3.7 per cent of GDP. Industry, which forms a quarter of the GDP, shrank by 0.1 per cent.

The services sector, which makes up the bulk of the Bulgarian economy, grew by 3.2 per cent.

NSI will release preliminary data for fourth-quarter and full-year economic growth on March 11.

374. The European car for 2009 already in Bulgaria

News BG: 2009-02-16

The winner in the competition Car of the year 2009 in Europe Opel Insignia is already officially on the Bulgarian automobile market, announced Autopress 2001.

In the Bulgaria the new model of the German brand is offered at a base price of 19 051 EUR VAT incl. The most expensive modification for the moment - 2.8 V6 Turbo ECOTEC with a 6-power automatic gearbox costs 36 047 EUR.

In the spring of 2009 the wagon version of Insignia will also be introduced to the Bulgarian market.

Opel Insignia enters the market with an extremely wide range of seven engines, all of them corresponding to the Euro 5 harmful emissions standards.

373. BTC signs the biggest office deal in Bulgaria

Sofia Echo: 2009-02-15

Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) has completed the largest deal for office space in country by renting more than 23 000 sq m of offices in the European Trade Center in Tsarigradsko Chaussee, next to the main base of the future Carrefour.

With this mega office deal, BTC will amalgamate its entire staff and management in a 16-storey building, the largest one in the complex, making it the largest such transaction on the Bulgarian market ever.

"European Trade Center OOD is proud to have acquired a top tenant, securing a lucrative 20-year contract with which it has rented out a full one-third of its capacity with one strike," Bernard Moscheni, chief executive of BTC, said, as quoted by Stroitelstvo Gradut in its February 9 2009 edition.

"The creation of a primary headquarters is part of the new policy of BTC, which aims for substantial improvement of the quality of service, human resource management, optimisation of expenditures and securing a healthy economic growth for the future," Moscheni said.

"We decided that our headquarters would be in the newest, most modern business trade centre in Bulgaria. We wanted to offer our staff an augmented and ergonomical working environment that would contribute to the speed and effectiveness of our services to our end clients," he said.

BTC will be able to occupy its new home in January 2010. The unification of all branches of BTC is a sequence to the merger of BTC with its mobile operator Vivatel.

"This is a massive, unprecedented deal on the Bulgarian market. This is about a vast amount of office space, and this deal is a testament in itself that the market in Bulgaria is developing, and that the business outlook for the future is a positive one," said David Davidov, manager of offices trade and industrial parcels at Colliers International, Bulgaria. The deal is for 20 years, with an initial annual rent of 3 480 000 euro, including a six-month period free of rent.

European Trade Center constitutes five large buildings with a total of 70 000 sq m of office space, created with the latest green technologies to reduce the carbon footprint and make it the most energy-efficient centre in the country.

It will be also the home of the French giant Carrefour in Bulgaria, which completed a deal for 7500 sq m of space. The centre is scheduled to open for business in January 2010, but companies will start moving in starting November 2009.

372. The Perperikon and Tatul sanctuaries crumbling to pieces

News BG: 2009-02-11

The Thracian sanctuaries in Perperikon and Tatul are crumbling little by little, scientists from BAS National Archaeology Institute claim.

They have been exploring the two archaeological sites for four years and report a number of violations, especially in the way digging works have been held.

The degree of demolition of a huge part of the stone structures does not allow their restoration, BNR reports.

No paths for tourists have been marked, so that the sanctuaries are well preserved from crumbling.

The dug up stone blocks and structures are seriously threatened, because of the temperature amplitudes and the winter and the autumn rains, Stefanka Ivanova, scientist in BAS notes.

"Tatul is completely crumbled. When we say that we've been struggling for 4 years, this mans we have warned The Ministry of Culture million times".

The Ministry announces that examination has been started.

371. Luxury Fanagoria complex to be built in Varna

Sofia Echo: 2009-02-10

Two five-storey condominiums, surrounded by expansive green belts and recreational zones, will comprise the new Fanagoria complex close to the Zlatni Pyasutsi (Golden Sands) resort of Varna. The complex has been approved and is due to begin construction at the end of March 2009. It is scheduled for completion by the end of 2011.

Investment has come from Golden Sands Development OOD, the project was designed by Pro-arch AD with chief architect Georgi Assenov. The approval was granted by the municipality of Varna, Stroitelstvo Gradut reports.

Fanagoria is perched very close to the Zlatni Pyasutsi resort, so making access to and from the resort very simple. This is an additional factor that the development company believes will contribute further to its value as well as demand for the property.

The complex is located on a steep hill, allowing for both buildings to be built in succession and enjoy a sea view. The condominiums, designated Body A and Body B, will have their own private beach and an outdoor swimming pool equipped with recreational facilities and multi-barbecues.

The compex's main entrance is due south-west. This provides access to the two underground parking lots under each of the buildings. Body A consists of 43 parking spaces. Body B has 47. Both parking lots have mobile ramps equipped by the German firm Klaus Multiparking.

In total, there are 71 apartments and 68 studios. Within the green belts enveloping the two buildings there will be a canteen, spa, indoors and outdoors bar. Fanagoria has a total area of 11 763 sq m of which the built-in area comprises 1666 sq m.

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