The publisher of the two wide-circulation Bulgarian dailies - Trud and 24 Hours - is set to become a public company as its shares will be listed on the country's stock exchange in the short term, the new owners have confirmed.
"We are very close to an initial public offering," Ognyan Donev, chairman and majority owner of Sopharma, the biggest Bulgarian generic drugmaker, who now holds a 40% stake in Media Group Bulgaria, told journalists and investors on Monday.
The statement came right after Bulgaria's competition watchdog gave the green light to the acquisition of WAZ Mediengruppe assets in Bulgaria by Ognyan Donev and Lyubomir Pavlov, who were recently accused of an attempted corporate mini-coup.
The ruling cemented the decision of Bulgaria's Business Registry Agency to register 83% of the wide-circulation dailies "Trud" (Labor) and 24 Chasa (24 Hours) as property of Ognyan Donev and Lyubomir Pavlov, former chairman of the Sofia-based Municipal Bank.
The ownership of WAZ Mediengruppe assets in Bulgaria, which include the two wide-circulation Trud and 24 Hours newspapers, changes hands just four months after Vienna-registered BG Privatinvest Ltd acquired a majority stake in the publisher, while the remainder was held by local businessmen Lyubomir Pavlov.
The conflict between the former partners flared up at the end of last month after Hristo Grozev, who represents the Vienna-registered BG Privatinvest Ltd, controlled by him, Austrian Karl Habsburg, and German Daniel Rutz, accused their Bulgarian partners of an attempted illegal corporate take-over of the newspapers.
Bulgaria's trade registry initially blocked the allegedly illegal transfer of a 83% stake in the holding at the insistence of Grozev, but later, following the intervention of the Justice Ministry, gave it the green light.
Bulgaria's capital market, dented now by low liquidity and lack of quality stock, is in desperate need of high-quality initial public offerings.
The sorry performance of the capital market at the moment is attributed to the fact that foreign investors withdrew their IPOs once the crisis set in, but, more troublingly, still do not seem interested in coming back.