Ukrainian Tycoon Arrives in Bulgaria to Negotiate Kremikovtzi Acquisition
Sofia News Agency, Bulgaria
One of the bidders for the purchase of Bulgaria's Kremikovtzi steel mill, the Ukrainian billionaire Konstantyn Zhevago, landed in Sofia Thursday afternoon.
"I am going to have a conversation with the government, and will speak if we strike a deal", said the tycoon at Sofia Airport, refusing to state his intentions regarding the steelmaker or the possible acquisition of the CSKA football club.
From the airport, Zhevago headed straight for his meeting with the Bulgaria's Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev.
It was believed that the Indian tycoon and Kremikovtzi majority shareholder Pramod Mittal would sell his 71% stake in Bulgaria's biggest steel mill to Zhevago.
However, a competing bid emerged Tuesday afternoon when the PM was informed by the US ambassador to Sofia John Beyrle that a US company is also interested in the plant.
The government holds 25.3% of Kremikovtzi and its seal of approval is crucial for inking any deal for the sale of the plant.
The 34-year-old Zhevago, whose fortune is estimated at USD 1.5 B, is in charge of Ukraine's Finance and Credits Group, and owns the world's fourth largest iron ore deposit, as well as the domestic truck maker AvtoKraz.
The Kremikovtzi steel plant is Bulgaria's largest steel-maker, with a raw steel capacity of around 2.3m tonnes per annum.
Bulgaria sold 71% stake in Kremikovtzi to the Bulgarian Finmetals Group in 1999 for a token USD 1 along with debts to the state and suppliers standing at USD 420 M.
In mid-2005, Global Steel Holding Ltd. (GSHL) bought Finmetals and took control of the mill, which employs 8,000.
GSHL is part of Ispat Industries and is owned by Pramod and Vinod Mittal, younger brothers and competitors of steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.
The company put forward but failed to implement an ambitious turnaround plan, which aimed to upgrade it to EU environmental standards, improve productivity, quality and margins.
Ukraine and Poland pledged here Tuesday to seek various ways to improve the fraught situation at the border caused by striking Polish customs officials.
"The strike by Polish customs officials will not have any negative influence on Ukrainian-Polish relations," visiting Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told a press conference in Kiev after meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Ohryzko.