Minister Bogdanov: In recent months our efforts have been to stop the hidden privatization of the Plovdiv Fair

Minister Bogdanov: In recent months our efforts have been to stop the hidden privatization of the Plovdiv Fair

Tomorrow we expect an objective trial in the case, which the Ministry of Economy and Industry is conducting, to prove the right of the state to recover 29 percent of the shares of the Plovdiv Fair, which are currently in the Municipality of Varna, granted by the state years ago. This was said by Minister of Economy and Industry Bogdan Bogdanov in an interview with BTA in connection with tomorrow’s hearing of the Sofia City Court on the case of the fair. In recent months our efforts have been to stop the hidden privatisation of the fair, he added. Minister Bogdanov expressed his expectation for the widest possible support at the local level both in the Municipality of Plovdiv, where the fair has been an emblem of the city for decades, and from the Municipality of Varna.

The Minister of Economy reminded that the Mayor of Varna has already repeatedly expressed support for the return of the shares of the Plovdiv Fair to the state. We have held meetings with the Varna City Council and we are expecting a clear development strategy, which we have proposed as a shareholder, to be considered in a wider circle, including at municipal level and by the various shareholders, so that the fair can regain the capacity and fame it had years ago, the minister said.

Bogdanov reminded that this is the fifth largest fair in Europe in terms of area, which is almost three times larger than the Hamburg fair and twice as large as those in Athens and Vienna. Our plans are for this fair to regain its glory as an international event to be organised annually, including the autumn fair, the minister said. The country is also planning to open the fair to new industries and international partnerships to ensure that it functions at its maximum capacity, Bogdanov added.

He noted that the first fair, organized in 1892, attracted 160,000 visitors. Currently we see a significantly reduced capacity, deteriorated financial indicators and profitability of the fair, said the minister and added that the state and in particular the Municipality of Varna has not received a dividend as a shareholder so far. This fair should work, it should continue to be the gateway for Bulgarian industry to the world, but by working efficiently, the Plovdiv Fair could generate additional revenues in the treasury, which could potentially reach Bulgarian businesses and citizens through the payment of dividends, the minister said and pointed out that this has not happened since ‘the beginning of its hidden privatization.’

Bogdan Bogdanov reminded about the steps taken by the Ministry in recent months to stop this type of privatization of the Plovdiv Fair, which, in his words, for many years was a significant problem at the municipal level. For the first time, the state has made clear commitments to restore these shares as the property of the Ministry of Economy and Industry, the minister said. The main problem that we saw in the whole process was inaction and not one or two declarations, including by ministers of economy, that nothing could be done about it, Bogdanov said. He recalled that with the actions taken by the Ministry in recent months, the entry of the shares’ apropos in the Commercial Registry has been suspended and a lien is currently placed on these shares until the ownership case is concluded.

At the end of September 2023, the second special request for seizure of 16 314 400 registered dematerialised shares of the capital of International Fair Plovdiv AD was confirmed in the case filed by Minister Bogdan Bogdanov before the Sofia City Court. The order of the Court of Appeal, as the second instance in the interlocutory proceedings, is final and not subject to appeal.

The measure was admitted earlier by the Sofia City Court to secure the claim brought by the state, represented by the Minister of Economy and Industry, against the Municipality of Varna for recognition of the state’s ownership of 16 314 400 registered dematerialised shares, which represent 29 per cent of the capital of Plovdiv Fair.

In mid-August 2023, as a result of the lawsuit filed by Minister Bogdanov before the Sofia City Court and the two special requests filed, the Court of Appeal — Plovdiv confirmed the suspension of the registration of the transfer of the shares of the Plovdiv Fair from the Municipality of Varna to Puldin Turinvest AD. The Court confirmed the order of the Plovdiv District Court, which suspended the protective registration proceedings for the registration of the capital increase of Puldin Turinvest AD through the in-kind contribution of the Municipality of Varna — 16,314,400 registered shares until the conclusion of the proceedings by a final court decision. This means that until the end of the proceedings the shares of Plovdiv Fair will not go to the private company Puldin Turinvest AD.

The Economy Minister ordered a full legal analysis of the Plovdiv Fair case in early June last year. Later, by a decision, the Council of Ministers instructed him to carry out all possible actions to protect the state interest. In mid-July, a claim was filed for recognition of the state’s ownership of the shares.

In 2017, the Varna Municipal Council took a decision to transfer, free of charge, from the Varna Municipality to the State, in the person of the Minister of Economy, more than 16 million dematerialised shares representing 29% of the Fair’s capital. With this decision the municipal councillors instruct the Mayor of Varna Municipality to sign a contract for the free transfer of ownership of the shares and to carry out all other legal and factual actions for their transfer. However, the decision has not been implemented.

Four years later — in 2021— the Municipal Council — Varna took another decision for deportation of the municipality’s shares in the capital of International Fair Plovdiv AD to Puldin Turinvest AD, and the Ministry was not notified of this act.