There is a "huge" interest among investors for the Bulgarian Stock Exchange, which launched the sale of its shares in January, according to Finance Minister Simeon Djankov.
Djankov declared in Sofia Tuesday that by the end of 2011 Bulgaria will have found a strategic investor for its stock exchange.
He further said that the Finance Ministry does not take part in the sale, which is handled by the Board of Directors of the BSE.
Interestingly, last Thursday, Assen Yagodin, president of the Board of Directors, said the opposite – that the talks are handled by the Finance Ministry; he also mentioned that one of the major companies in the European stock market was interested in acquiring the Sofia bourse.
A few months ago Ivan Takev, executive director of the stock exchange, admitted that the increase of the Bulgarian government's share and its self-listing will lead to the sale of its majority stake to an industry investor in a bid to boost liquidity, restore market growth and investor confidence.
The next step, to be made in the short term, will be for major state-owned companies to be listed on the bourse.
Finance Minister and Deputy PM Simeon Djankov said Tuesday that there will be developments regarding the plans for the listing of state stakes from energy firms on the stock exchange within a week.
He also promised that within two weeks the government will present a plan for the development of the Bulgarian capital market in the next 1 and 2 years.
"There is still a lot that has to be done for the capital market in Bulgaria. We have carried out the legislative changes. Now we are advancing towards the next big change – having the bourse and the central depository work closer together," Djankov explained.
Bulgaria's only stock exchange became a public company in the middle of December last year after the Financial Supervision Commission approved its prospectus and the bourse was listed on its own platform. The capital of the bourse is a total of BGN 6 582 860 at BGN 1 apiece.
Bulgaria's Finance Ministry raised at the beginning of October its share to 50% plus one share from 44% in the country's stock exchange. The government bought 715,000 shares at BN 1 apiece. The bourse will sell the remaining 50% held by private investors including brokerages and banks.
The shareholders said the move aims to ease the future privatization of the exchange and the search for a strategic investor.
Since 2008, the stock exchange has traded on the Deutsche Boerse's Xetra platform under a contract that expires in 2012. Bulgaria has discussed ways to sell its bourse stake over the past decade with Sweden's OMX AG and exchanges in Austria, Greece and Poland to boost interest in local stocks and make trading more transparent.
Representatives of the Finance Ministry and the Stock Exchange have commented that the move will give the ministry the opportunity to seek a strategic investor, make the Exchange transparent, increase interest towards the capital market and reinstate the trust in the latter.
Meanwhile Victor Papazov, founder, former CEO and chairman of the Bulgarian Stock Exchange has harshly criticized the decision, saying the Bulgarian government is threatening the country's economic future by effectively nationalizing its stock exchange at a knock-down price.