The international rating agency Standard & Poor’s has affirmed its BBB- rating of Sofia Municipality. The S & P Global Ratings report noted that “there has been a significant rating event, namely the sale of the municipal share in Municipal Bank AD”. As a result, the assessment of the key factor “Contingent liabilities” has improved from “High” to “Moderate”, according to the agency’s document.
Sofia’s rating was raised in December last year from BB + to BBB- with a stable outlook and it is considered an investment rating. This will help to raise cheaper funds for the implementation of Sofia’s capital program. Standard & Poor’s acknowledges the good work of the municipal administration to maintain financial stability and a high level of own revenues of Sofia Municipality” said Doncho Barbalov, deputy mayor of Sofia.
According to preliminary data on Sofia’s budget implementation for 2018, the revenues in the municipal treasury in the first two months of the year rose by more than BGN 5.3 million, compared to the corresponding period a year ago. The total revenues for January and February, both tax and non-tax, amounted to BGN 87.2 million.
Revenues from property taxes amounted to BGN 46.6 million, including BGN 14.16 million from building tax and BGN 16.6 million from motor vehicle tax. This year the tax campaign for motor vehicles began on January 2, which had a positive impact on tax collection.
The tax on the acquisition of real estate has been increased by nearly BGN 4 million. In January and February, over BGN 14.3 million have been allocated to the municipal treasury under this item. According to statements of brokerage companies, the demand on the real estate market in Sofia is stable this year, which has a positive impact on the tax revenues when entering deals.
Currently, the household waste tax revenues total more than BGN 21 million, while the total non-tax revenues exceeded BGN 40.6 million for the first two months of the year.
A record-high growth was registered in the tourism sector in Bulgaria in 2017.
The revenue in the sector for the year exceeded, the unprecedented amount of 8 billion leva. The revenue from foreign tourist spending grew by 9%, while that of Bulgarian tourists – by nearly 30%, compared to the previous year. Nearly 9 million foreign tourists visited Bulgaria for both leisure or business in 2017, an increase of 7%. The revenue from foreign tourists amounted to 6.89 billion leva throughout the year, while local tourist spending was 1.14 billion leva. The largest share of the tourism revenues as registered in the summer months, between May and September of 2017.
The tourist spending of Bulgarians traveling abroad remained relatively stable at 450 to 490 million leva.
The growth trend is expected to continue in 2018 due to the increase in flight availability with the expansion of low-cost airlines in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the economic growth in the Eurozone is at its fastest rate in a decade.
In January 2018 alone, Sofia Airport welcomed nearly half a million passengers, an increase of 6.6% over the same period in 2017. Two-thirds of the passengers came through Terminal 2 of Sofia Airport, and the rest – through Terminal 1, for the nearly 4 500 flights to and from the Airport.
This month Sofia Investment Agency, together with Sofia Municipality and the Urban Mobility Center, launched its official participation in the European Commission’s special training and networking Digital Cities Challenge program. Sofia is one of the 15 European cities selected to participate in the project. The cities will receive strategic support in solving and implementing city-specific projects. The EC program will support Sofia in initiatives for digital transformation of the urban environment, society, business, entrepreneurial environment, policies and institutions.
In Brussels, Sofia Investment Agency joined the first of a series of seminars that shared successful practices from city leaders which have already been part of the program. The kick-off session gathered delegates from the participating cities of Sofia, Patras and Thessaloniki /Greece/, Yassi /Romania/, Lakila /Italy/, Ventspils /Lithuania/ and Granada /Spain/ with the so-called Blueprint Cities in the program – Amsterdam and Espoo, Finland. They will gradually share their experience as an example of successful digital transformation in individual economic sectors in the upcoming months as well as their experience in open data, interactive urban applications, technology centers, infrastructure, etc.
A special session in the two-day meeting was devoted to the importance of the program for the business – what kind of companies are building their business through digitization, what are the benefits of digitization for companies, what they need to succeed in their digital transformation, and how this change transforms the way of functioning of processes and people in the companies.
The next step in the project for Sofia is to bring together a team of people and organizations with appropriate attitude and experience that could be of use in the process of urban digital transformation. It is necessary to collect up-to-date data to determine the level of digital maturity of the city and to identify specific steps for progress as well as to measure the success indicators.
We expect the second wave of cities to join the second stage of application in the Digital Cities Challenge program, to reach a total of 15 European cities that will change the urban environment in accordance with their individual circumstances and phase of development.
More than 76% of the Bulgarian companies are looking for economic cooperation with partners abroad, according to a study of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). This aims mainly at increasing the exports of manufactured goods. At the same time, 36% of the companies are looking for import partners; 28% need partners for joint investment in Bulgaria and 12% are on the lookout for partners for investment abroad.
The most attractive destination for business contacts and trips is China, preferred by 54% of the respondents. The second and the most preferred country within the EU is Germany, followed by Italy, Serbia, Romania, Macedonia and Russia.
In terms of sectors, those who travel to find foreign partnerships are mostly engaged within the machine building sector – 40%. The next most active sectors are food and beverage production, textile and clothing, as well as electronics.
Most respondents say they do not know well enough the business and trading conditions in the countries where they want to establish business relationships. We remind you that the BCCI organizes practical trainings on the specifics of trade with countries around the globe and has experience in building sustainable business relationships. All upcoming business events organized by the BCCI are available here: http://www.bcci.bg/seminars.html and here: http://www.bcci.bg/payment_bcci/
The growing interest in exports to foreign markets is also demonstrated by the preliminary data for 2017 of the NSI. Total exports to third countries and the EU amounted to BGN 52 233 million last year. This corresponds to an increase of 10.7 % in exports, compared to the year before. The upward trend is also expected to remain in 2018, on the back of improved overall performance of the European economy and growing global trade.
The Bulgarian Investment Agency gave out its annual Investor of the Year Awards on February 27 in Sofia. More than 70 companies from all sectors participated in the competition.
The Awards were given for the 12th consecutive year in a total of 9 categories. The main criteria for determining the winners include the volume of the investment, the number of job openings, as well as the region where new production is started or an existing enterprise is expanded.
The companies with the most significant investment projects for 2017 are:
On February 27, for a 7th year in a raw, the Bulgarian Association of Information Technologies (BAIT), presented its annual awards in 11 different categories, including two new categories – “Company with the largest contribution to the promotion of the image of the Bulgarian ICT industry in the world” and “Innovation Company in the Use of Advanced ICT Solutions”.
BAIT, the largest leading branch organization in the information and communication technology sector in Bulgaria, awarded the following companies for achievements in information and communication technologies for 2017:
Nearly 1300 young Bulgarians participated in the “Your 25 Reasons to Choose Bulgaria” initiative organized by PwC Bulgaria.
The initiative marked the 25th anniversary since the opening of the Bulgarian office of PwC, one of the biggest consultancy companies in the world.
“Your 25 Reasons to Choose Bulgaria” will offer a one-year scholarship in the amount of 6 000 lv., plus internships at some of the leading companies in the country to 25 Bulgarian students.
The applicants included Bulgarian students aged 18-24, studying in Bulgaria or abroad with a strong personal motivation to live and work in Bulgaria. Students from 48 Bulgarian and 79 foreign universities in Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Russia, USA, Turkey, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden applied by submitting an essay titled “My 25 Reasons to Choose Bulgaria”, followed by a personal interview. The most preferred areas for career development by the participants include marketing and communications, pharma and healthcare, law, human resources, business consulting, design and literature.
The initiative has attracted over 25 partnering companies and organizations and close to 20 Star Ambassadors.
A 40-strong jury of executives from both the for-profit and the NGO sectors in Bulgaria, journalists from business and TV media, university lecturers and local celebrities made the final selection.
Follow the link to find out the winners list.
On March 27 the Enterprise Europe Network at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) will hold exclusive bilateral business meetings with companies from Germany. The event is organized on the occasion of an official visit of a delegation from Germany to Bulgaria. Bulgarian participants will have the opportunity to meet with representatives of companies from the region of North Rhine-Westphalia and find suitable business partners in the following sectors:
• Manufacturing of gas measurement systems
• Manufacturing of industrial filter and transport systems
• Consultation and engineering of installations and industrial sites
• Manufacturing of fasteners for the furniture industry
The application deadline expires on March 20 and you can apply here: http://www.bcci.bg/payment_bcci/index.php?act=semview&id=591&lang=en
On the Business Offer page of the BCCI you can also find current offers of foreign companies seeking partnership with Bulgarian organizations in different sectors. Offers from Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, China, Saudi Arabia, etc. are available here: http://www.bcci.bg/offers/
Partners from the Israeli Chamber of Commerce provide a list of profiles of Israeli companies looking for partnerships with Bulgarian companies. The document provides a description of the business of the companies, details about the offers and contact information for each organization.
Sofia, Plovdiv, Stara Zagora and Ruse rank among the most attractive locations for foreign investment in the next 2 years in the “European Cities and Regions of the Future 2018/19” ranking of fDi Intelligence – a department of Financial Times, specializing in areas relating to investment and promotion of the investment climate globally. The ranking is conducted every two years on the basis of a macroeconomic analysis of nearly 500 cities and regions across Europe in a total of 5 categories – economic potential, working environment, cost efficiency, infrastructure and good conditions for business development.
The place of Sofia in the ranking
The capital is also ranked in the Top 10 “Eastern European Regions of the Future 2018/19”, where it takes the eighth position. The top seven regions in the ranking are the Russian Central Federal District with Moscow as its administrative center, Bratislava, Prague, Bucharest, Mazovia – Poland, Central Hungary, Lower Silesia – Poland, and Plzeň and South Moravia in the Czech Republic, coming right after Sofia.
Sofia region is ranked eighth in the “Small European Regions of the Future” and the city of Sofia is second in the category “Major European Cities of the Future 2018/19 – Cost Effectiveness”.
The other Bulgarian cities holding top positions in the ranking
Another 5 Bulgarian cities ranked in the top 10 of “Small European Regions of the Future 2018/19 – Cost Effectiveness” – Stara Zagora comes first, followed by Ruse, Burgas, Plovdiv, Varna, and Sofia. This is the category where Bulgaria has the strongest presence with a total of 7 positions.
Plovdiv and the region are in the top three in the “Strategy for attracting direct foreign investment” category and are the only Bulgarian representatives here. The region of Stara Zagora is presented with a special separate analysis in the ranking as the most dynamically developing region in Bulgaria. The report describes the region as a pleasant and lively city, with 8000 years of history. Ahead of Sofia and Plovdiv with its 19% annual growth, the region has the fastest pace of development, as well as a considerable potential to attract fresh investments with its new industrial zone and a high-tech park.
A description of the fDi Intelligence methodology and ranking in other regions of Europe are available in the full document here:
Three innovative hubs from Bulgaria will participate in the European Commission’s Smart Factories in New EU Member States project. The Bulgarian teams have been selected among 140 candidates from Central and Eastern Europe, competing for the final selection of 34 hubs.
The formal start of the EC initiative was given in Sofia by Alexander Manolev, deputy minister of economy, who took part in the opening conference on the project in Sofia Tech Park. The 34 innovative hubs will participate in a program that will help them develop their business plan through free business training and mentoring on business development, including identification of funding opportunities. The teams will be part of a network with other innovation centers in Europe and will benefit from well-established good practices. They will also have free access to the professional services of Oxford University Innovation Oxentia, PricewaterhouseCoopers Bulgaria, and the European Commission.
The activities under the program will take place from February to November, 2018. The financial scope of the project is EUR 1.8 million and it aims at providing SMEs with greater access to technical expertise and testing of digital technologies, as well as financial and innovation services.
At the program opening conference, Minister Manolev said that the ICT sector in Bulgaria is the fastest growing in Southeastern Europe.
In recent years, the information technology definitely seems to be the area with the most turbulent and successful development, both in terms of productivity and working conditions. The IT sector is becoming more and more important for Bulgaria’s economy as a whole, and Sofia is undoubtedly the center of information technology in the country. Detailed data and analysis of the sector over the last few years can be found in our report “Sofia – Status and Development of the IT Industry” here.
Mobile data speed of operators across Bulgaria ranks 9th in the world, according to Global State of Mobile Networks Report of the wireless coverage research firm OpenSignal. The average Smart LTE download speed across the country is 33.3 Mbps. Faster internet speed is delivered only in Singapore, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Hungary, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand. The global leader’s Smart LTE speed has topped the list with 44,31 Mbps, while world average smart speed is now 16.9 Mbps= OpenSignal reports some sizable increases in speed in multiple European countries as well as in some other regions in the world.
OpenSignal’s global report is based on data collected from 4,852,320 users and their devices in 88 countries during the period: Oct 1st – Dec 29th 2017. The UK agency analyzes 58+ billion measurements to compare 4G performance in all hours of the day, in cities and the countryside, including inside buildings and outdoors.
Here are OpenSignal’s main conclusions based on the collected and analyzed data for 4G performance across the globe.
On February 12-13, a team of Sofia Investment Agency attended business meetings in Vienna with representatives of Vienna Business Agency, Urban Innovation Vienna, the MA 23 Directorate of Vienna Municipality and Vienna 3420 AG. The meetings were organized by Eurocomm-PR Sofia, the international relations bureau at Vienna Municipal Council in Sofia.
Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, and a representative of the “Investment Analysis” department discussed successful practices for developing a more favorable business environment in both cities and effective incentives for investors, implemented by both countries.
The four visited organizations are the main driving force in Vienna’s administration and development as a business destination and implement policies and activities to develop Vienna as a city with a comfortable, technological and eco-friendly urban environment.
Vienna in figures
Interesting facts about the administration of Vienna and the functions of the visited organizations
Vienna Business Agency
Vienna Business Agency has been actively supporting the development of national and international companies from various sectors in the Austrian capital for more than 30 years by providing financial support, real estate, and urban development incentives as well as free service and advice. With its activities, the Agency is developing Vienna as a competitive business destination in Europe and as a stimulating environment for new companies, while constantly boosting the growth of existing businesses in the city. Vienna Business Agency offers financial