The US Citibank plans an extension of its activity in Bulgaria and support for Bulgarian business through co-financing of projects under the EU programmes.
This became clear following a meeting between Bulgarian Economy Minister Bozhidar Lukarski and Hollis Hart, Head of International Franchise Management at the bank’s headquarters in New York.
Lukarski stated that one of the most serious problems faced by Bulgarian enterprises was the lack of adequate support on part of the banks for the co-financing of projects, realised under the EU programmes.
This is the reason for prosperous businesses to give up the application process, Lukarski added.
The two discussed the possibilities for the provision of special bank products, which could aid Bulgarian business in the application process and the realisation of projects under EU programmes.
Lukarski said that the lack of market instruments to guarantee the projects to the level of the required self-financing is a hurdle, which leads to Bulgaria being unable to absorb the funds it is provided with in full.
This is also a barrier for Bulgarian entrepreneurs, especially those that have an objective need.
Lukarski pointed that large companies often have alternative means for the financing of the projects, but this was not the case with small and medium businesses.
In his words, Bulgarian banks have to account for these business specifics and to research the possibilities for providing bank products that meet these needs.
In this way banks can make use of a new market niche with serious potential for growth.
Lukarski’s proposals received the support of Hollis Hart, who announced that Citibank is planning on extending its activity in Bulgaria.
Hart said that his bank wants to do what is necessary for Bulgarian business, and to return added value to the Bulgarian economy and society.
In his words, the provision of opportunities to Bulgarian business for the co-financing under the EU programmes, will be a priority of the bank’s activity in the country.
Minister Lukarski held another two meetings at which were discussed the most frequent problems in Bulgaria from the point of view of US investors, as well as the opportunities for strengthening the presence of Bulgarian goods and services on the US market.
The needed reform of the judiciary as a factor determining the attractiveness of Bulgaria to foreign investors, was the topic of discussion at his meeting with members of the the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU).
The Council is among the most prestigious organisations in the US, which was established as an initiative of the White House during the Eisenhower administration, with its main function being to ensure the application of US economic policy all around the world.
Lukarski said that the BCIU acts as a conductor to US investors, which grants the possibility to state Bulgaria’s readiness not only to attract, but also justify their investments.
At the meeting Lukarski highlighted the willingness of the government to ensure stable and predictable economic environment as well as the efforts of the Economy Ministry to reduce the administrative burden on the business.
The Minister also presented the opportunities that Sofia Tech Park can provide to potential US investors.
During his visit, Lukarski also familiarised himself with the activity of the US company Westword which specialises in the absorption of EU funds for the promotion of Bulgarian foods on the US market.