Two units of Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali SpA have acquired minority stakes in Bulgarian lender Corporate Commercial Bank AD, the bank announced.
Generali conducted the transactions through its units Fata Assicurazioni Danni SpA and Fata Vita SpA, the bank said.
The price of the deal was not disclosed, but hours before it was concluded the Corporate Commercial Bank sold a 2.67% for nearly BGN 10 M on the Sofia Stock Exchange.
The new shareholders are known to have close ties with Tsvetan Vassilev, majority owner and chair of the Supervisory Board of Bulgaria's Corporate Commercial Bank. Fata Assicurazioni Danni SpA is a majority shareholder in the insurance company Viktoria, which was controlled some years ago by Vassilev. At the moment he is chairman of its supervisory board.
Bulgaria's Corporate Commercial Bank, which is believed to finance the media group of mogul Irena Krasteva, holds nearly half of the money of strategic state-owned companies, it emerged in the middle of the year.
The data was provided by Finance Minister Simeon Djankov at the request of the editors-in-chief of eleven of the biggest print media in Bulgaria, who approached the department, citing the law for access to information.
The eighteen companies listed include the Bulgarian energy holding and its units (gas monopoly Bulgargas, gas pipeline operator Bulgartransgas, state power utility NEK, nuclear power plant Kozloduy, thermal power plant Maritsa East II), as well as tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac, Bulgaria Posts, Sofia Airport, the Bulgarian Railways Company.
Nearly 65% of the money of these companies are concentrated in three banks, whose market share does not exceed 9% - Corporate Commercial Bank (48%), CIBank, where the prime minister's long-time live-in girlfriend Tsvetelina Borislavova until last week held a 18% stake and the Central Cooperative Bank, the data shows.
The eighteen companies have deposited in banks BGN 856 M by the end of the first quarter of the year, which is down by BGN 343 M or 29% in comparison with August last year. The slump is attributed to the government policy to encourage companies with state-owned stakes to pay dividends in a bid to boost the budget.
Acting on these suspicious revelations, Bulgaria's finance ministry issued later criteria for attracting deposits from strategic state-owned companies.