BTC (Bulgarian Telecommunication Co.) and the Icelandic billionaire
The most scandalous privatisations in Bulgaria was signed two years ago Simeon’s circle drained billions from the telecommunication company and will now sell it as separate businesses.
The international scandal that affected former Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Simeon Saxcoburggotski coincided with a sad anniversary – signing of the BTC deal. It is unanimously the fraud of the year in Bulgaria. On June 20, 2004 the telecommunication company was given away for a token to Simeon’s allied Viva Ventures. For two years Simeon’s kin and associates have drained billions from the company, at the expense of all Bulgarians. The Standart warned the deal was a fraud before it was signed. It was all clear then that the fate of the company was decided by the former government and it would fall into the hands of Viva Ventures. The Standart disclosed that cronies of Saxcoburggotski stood behind the company registered in Vienna. The new owners saved up quite a lot by not paying the licence for the third GSM operator from the price they paid for the company. After they have been plucking the company with illegally high dividends, now they are about to sell it out in separate businesses. Exactly two years ago, the then Deputy Prime Minister Nikolay Vassilev gave Advent boss Joanna James a certificate attesting her company owned 65% of BTC.
How much exactly will Saxcoburggotski’s entourage take from BTC deal? Hardly anyone can say for sure. Even the roughest calculations, though, show that billions of levs will sink into the bank accounts of the former king and his friends. Firstly, the company was sold at a ridiculous price. For 65% of BTC Viva Ventures paid 230 million euro. The state winked at the independent evaluations of Bulgarian and foreign experts who asserted the company’s value was over a billion levs (1euro = 1.95 levs). The market, however, evidenced to the experts’ right. At the sale of the rest 35% of BTC shares, the state earned over 650 million euro and a single stock sold at 1320 levs. The market capitalization of the company is estimated at 1.2 billion euro for 100% of the shares. It means that Viva had to pay not less than 650 million euro. Thus Simeon’s investors saved 370 million euro with their first move. The second present that the former king gave to the buyers was the two dividends. The new owners took 46.5 million euro from the profits for 2002, although at that time the company was totally state-owned.
Viva Ventures collected another 50 million euros from the dividend for 2004, regardless of the fact that it acquired the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) hardly in July, 2004. Viva Ventures’ successive discount was its licence for the 3rd GSM operator in Bulgaria. The licence was issued to Viva Ventures without a tender or a competition and it was paid with BTC? s money. The owners of Viva Ventures, who are close to Bulgaria? s former PM, Simeon Saxcoburggotski, acquired the BTC against the ridiculously low price of 54 million levs (1euro=1.95levs), which is hardly 25% from its real price. To make it clear enough, we give you the example with Cosmo Bulgaria Mobile, which won the licence for the 2nd GSM operator in Bulgaria at a tender against USD $135 million. The calculations show that Viva Ventures has been spared over 150 million levs. But the good times for Viva Ventures do not stop here. The owner of one of the most profitable companies in Bulgaria will save funds and from taxes. No taxes will be paid in Bulgaria because the BTC is going to become an off-shore company. The scheme for the realization of this plan is already being carried out. First, the registered in Vienna Viva Ventures has come into possession of a company with the same name registered in Cyprus. Thereafter, it turned out that Vienna-based Viva Ventures will be bought out by the Novator fund of Icelander Thor Bjorgolfsson. Novator fund is registered on the British Virginian Islands, another off-shore zone. The ban on the resale of the BTC expires in 2007. But Thor Bjorgolfsson has already appointed his close fellows in the BTC Board of Directors. But the biggest sting is still to come. The sale of attractive estates of the BTC is being prepared: buildings, which are situated in the centers of big Bulgarian cities as well as holiday houses along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The Central building of the BTC on Gurko Boulevard in Sofia downtown has already been bargained against 60 million levs, Trade Unions in Bulgaria alarmed several months ago. The establishment of a daughter company of the BTC carrying the name BTC estates will be voted at the BTC General meeting in three days. BTC estates will unite all immovables, which are property of the BTC. As their sale is to follow. The BTC possesses over 800 buildings in Bulgaria and 60 holiday houses, which will be sold out, officials from the Bulgarian Trade Unions reckon. The holiday houses of the BTC have already been kept locked for months. There is some talk that they will sold out, BTC employees alarmed Standart. It is no doubt that the owners of Viva Ventures, who are close to Simeon Saxcoburggotski will profit hugely from the attractive holiday houses. Thus, the “Saxcoburggotski” circle will once again cash down the BTC card. And the sting will once again be at the expense of all Bulgarians.