Sofia’s business environment had another year of growth. Once again the capital was the richest region in the country, with the highest GDP per capita (2.3 above the average for Bulgaria), with a 40% contribution to the national economy and 52% of the attracted foreign investments in the country. Sofia and the region further strengthened their leadership position on the back of the success of many local and international companies and another year of record growth in tourism, outsourcing and the ICT sector.
Here are some of the most successful business stories in Sofia in 2018
ТЕLUЅ Іntеrnаtіоnаl Еurоре – the country’s largest BPO and ITO employer, announced its plans to recruit 2,000 new employees by 2020 at its hubs in Sofia and Plovdiv. Thus, the company, which currently employs more than 2,600 employees in the country, will increase its staff to nearly 5,000. The company’s management announced its growth plans at the official opening of the new head office of TELUS International Europe in the newly-built City Tower office building at Macedonia Square in Sofia.
Again in April, German global leading automotive parts manufacturer Веhr-Неllа Тhеrmосоntrоl (ВНТС) announced its intentions to increase its production capacity in Bulgaria by launching its fifth production line in its plant in Bozhurishte Economic Zone.
Another German investor in Bulgaria – supermarket chain Lidl chose Sofia to be its fourth location in Europe to open a high-tech IT development center. The unit will be in charge of IT solutions serving all markets where the chain also sells online as a complementary service to the physical location of the stores. Lidl chose Bulgaria among other European countries due to the availability of highly qualified IT specialists and the dynamic development of the sector in the country. The company also has development centers in Germany, Spain and Romania.
Magnetic sensor producer Festo (again German investor) announced an investment of EUR 25.6 million to build a new stepper and motors production unit in Sofia. Along with the construction of its third production unit in Sofia, the company intends to increase its workforce in Bulgaria to 2,000 employees by 2020.
The Coca-Cola Company officially opened its new regional Intelligent Technology Development Center in Sofia with an investment of BGN 1,374 million. The Bulgaria Center is now the 2nd largest IT center of the company in the world, the biggest one is situated in Atlanta, Florida, US.
Global management consulting and professional services company Accenture announced its intentions to double its staff in Sofia and Plovdiv. The Bulgarian branch of the Dublin-based company plans to expand its IT team of 140 specialists by 160 within one year. Accenture set foot in Bulgaria in 2015 with the acquisition of Javelin Group.
With an investment of EUR 100 million Danish household goods chain JYSK started in 2017 the construction of its fourth logistic center in the world in Bulgaria and the first part of the new logistics hub became operational as of October this year. The facilities are being built in the Bozhurishte Industrial Zone near Sofia and include two tall buildings, a transport corridor, a reception area, an Internet trade area, administrative buildings and parking lots. The center will supply JYSK’s stores in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Serbia. The other centers of the chain are located in Denmark, Sweden and Poland. Тhe two high bays of the distribution center are fully automated and have a total capacity of 121 632 pallets. The tall buildings reach 16 floors (42.5 m), which makes them the tallest warehouses in Bulgaria.
Another logistics center opened doors in Sofia – DHL Express invested a total of EUR 10 million to open the new logistics hub. The facility covers an area of 10 000 sq. m. and is located close to Terminal 2 of Sofia Airport. It is equipped with high-tech automatic sorting system that will boost the processing capacity to 3000 parcels per hour.
In the middle of the year The Financial Times announced its plans to create a research and development center in Sofia in partnership with the Bulgarian office of London-based consulting company Xoomworks. The technology team will be responsible for maintaining FT.com’s internal systems – subscription software, data domains, content publishing and distribution, billing and payments, finance and taxation reporting, corporate licensing, etc.
After The Financial Times, another media group announced the establishment and formation of software teams in Sofia, British News UK, which manages some of the strongest media brands in the English-language world (The Times, The Sun and The Sunday Times). It partners with Questers, which will also help another UK company to open an office in Sofia – fintech organization for financial management PremFina.
Singapore-based Acronis, an international leader in cyber security and hybrid cloud solutions, has established its presence in Sofia following the acquisition of Bulgarian company T-Soft. The two companies have been successfully collaborating since 2012, which motivated Acronis to further explore the investment opportunities for the establishment of its own unit of the company in Sofia. We are happy that Sofia Investment Agency has been partnering in the process of establishing the Acronis R&D Center. The office in Bulgaria is a key R&D center for Acronis in Europe, which is focused on cyber protection, data center operations, and the development of Acronis products and services. The new center will be the latest addition to Acronis’ R&D centers currently operating in Asia, Europe and America. The office will be a part of a globally distributed network of engineering facilities that will sustain the development of cyber protection, artificial intelligence, and block chain-based technologies 24 hours a day.
In addition, Munich-based financial software company Devexperts also announced the opening of its development center in Sofia at the end of August. The company plans to build a team of 80 people over the next two years to work on ultra-fast algorithms for trading, big data processing, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
The European division of Japanese game developer Sega announced that it is relocating its quality assurance team from London to Sofia. The move will take place over a two-year period, with the new Sega Development Services Sofia launching in June 2020.
Furthermore, another gaming company established presence in Sofia – in a deal worth EUR 10 million Swedish company Stillfront Group acquired 100% of Imperia Online – the Bulgarian studio is one of the biggest game production companies in Southeastern Europe with 25 released games, including the flagship title Imperia Online – a medieval cross-platform MMO strategy with over 40 million users worldwide.
Other Sofia-based companies, which, with their successful development, have attracted the attention of funds and investors:
Sofia-based Connecto.ai was acquired by Leanplum, a company for mobile marketing, co-founded by the Bulgarian entrepreneur Momchil Kyurkchiev. Connecto.ai has a team of 10 employees in Sofia and offers automated online customer service through chat boards. By being part of Leanplum, Connecto.ai will expand its portfolio of online marketing solutions that the San Francisco-based company offers globally.
In October, Bulgarian software company ScaleFocus announced the acquisition of 100% of Sofia-based privately held Upnetix, one of the 50 worldwide certified Google development agencies. Upnetix specializes in mobile engineering, front-end development and design-driven digital transformation.
Bulgarian company for semantic software Ontotext, part of Sirma Group Holding AD, won funding in the amount of BGN 779 605 under the Innovation and Competitiveness Operational Program. The funding will be used to implement the Іntеllіgеnt Mаtсhіng аnd Lіnkіng оf Orgаnіzаtіоn Dаtа frоm Dіffеrеnt Sоurсеѕ – СІМА’ project for a period of two years.
Sofia-based Rosey’s mark, a company active in the development of Bulgarian rose gourmet products, won a financial support of EUR 100 000. The company was ranked among the 10 winners of the European Accelerator KATANA, funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020.