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Bulgaria To Sell Majority Stake In Local Bourse By Year-End

By Vladimir Guevarra ISTANBUL--The Bulgarian government is set to sell its majority stake in the Bulgarian Stock Exchange by the end of this year, BSE Chief Executive Ivan Takev said Thursday. The move appears to indicate that consolidation in the exchange industry is continuing, albeit in a much smaller way compared to the largely-failed trans-continental exchange mergers in the past two years. "In terms of timeline, the plan is to sell by the end of the year. Everything looks on track," Mr Takev told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of the Federation of European Securities Exchanges conference in Istanbul. Mr Takev said the government's Ministry of Finance directed the state privatization agency in March to start the sales process. For sale is the government's stakes of just above 50% in the Bulgarian bourse and in the Central Depository, which clears and settles trades and also acts as a register of securities. "Some paperwork is being done by the privatization agency and it will soon formally start the selection of a consultant which will execute the sales process," Mr Takev said. "We have spoken to many exchanges and they seem to be quite interested, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're potential acquirers," he said. Mr Takev said the bourse is worth about EUR10 million, which means a sale of the stake would be worth around EUR5 million. However, the depository is not a listed firm, so its valuation and sale price would have to be calculated by the consultants in charge of selling the assets. Previous reports said the CEE Stock Exchange Group, led by the Vienna Stock Exchange, is interested in the BSE. CEESEG spokeswoman Beatrix Exinger told Dow Jones: "The CEESEG is generally interested in getting majority stakes in stock exchanges of the central and eastern European region. But we are in no detailed talks with the Bulgarian Stock Exchange." Mr Takev said big mergers, like the ones proposed between the London Stock Exchange Group PLC (LSE.LN) and TMX Group Inc (X.T), and between Deutsche Boerse AG (DB1.XE) and NYSE Euronext (NYX) are unlikely to happen again soon. These proposed mergers have failed. "But there can be smaller mergers, meaning larger exchanges can buy smaller exchanges to foster their growth further. For example, the CEESEG is quite a large group and may buy the BSE. I think we fit into their business model, as long as they include as many exchanges in their portfolio, which is basically the way they grow. "It may be possible to see mega mergers again after European financial regulations are passed in the next few years," he said. He also said the exchange is expecting the launch of two initial public offerings of energy companies in the coming months, likely around the end of summer or the start of autumn, from the local units of Germany's E.ON AG (EONGY) and CEZ AS (BAACEZ.PR) from the Czech Republic. Austria's EVN AG (EVNV.VI) had its IPO in December. Write to Vladimir Guevarra at vladimir.guevarra@dowjones.com.

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