Bulgaria Giant 'Didn't Want to Swallow' Bankrupt Tour Operator

Tourism | September 21, 2011, Wednesday // 13:21|  views

Exasperated Russian tourists wait in Varna Airport to see whether their flight has been rescheduled. Photo by BGNES

Bulgarian industrial conglomerate Chimimport, comprising companies like Bulgaria Air, Central Cooperative Bank (CCB) and insurance company Armeetz, has rejected claims of eyeing assets of companies within the debt-ridden Alma Tour group.

"Like anywhere else in the world, when a company takes a loan, it pledges some asset as collateral. In this case, the firms within the Alma Tour group have pledged collaterals to CCB and Bulgaria Air of their choice", Chimimport said in a Wednesday statement, refuting allegations that it aimed to take over the troubled tour operator after bringing it to its knees.

Chimimport is a major player in Bulgaria engaged in a multitude of business activities, including finance, acquisition and production and concentrated in finance and insurance, extraction of oil and gas and production and trading with petroleum products, processing and trading in grain and oils, chemicals and fertilizers trade, as well as air, river and maritime transportation.

Chimimport's eponymous predecessor was created as early as 1947 to facilitate Bulgaria's burgeoning chemical industry. It was transformed into a joint-stock company in 1990 and was registered as a holding company in 1997.

Chimimport is popularly known among Bulgarians as connected with the famous TIM group operating in northeast Bulgaria, especially second-biggest city Varna.

In its Wednesday statement, Chimimport explained that the companies within the Alma Tour group had staid constantly indebted to the national air carrier since 2008.

Alma Tour, the Bulgarian operator recently involved in a scandal with hundreds of stranded foreign tourists, was reported Tuesday to have filed for bankruptcy, which was officially confirmed by the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism.

Problems with Alma Tour surfaced some ten days ago, when close to 1,000 international tourists, most of them Russians, were stranded at Bulgarian Black Sea airports of Burgas and Varna.

Their flights were canceled by carrier Bulgaria Air over what it claimed to be EUR 3.6 M debts from Alma Tour, which had booked the tourists' trips.

"In the beginning of 2010, following Alma Tour's announcement of a bond default, the tour operator received financing from Chimimport without any conditions for joint activity or participation in companies within Alma Tour ", Chimimport stated in its Wednesday media release.

According to the holding's statement, Alma Tour had grown financially irregular in its relations with CCB and the Armeetz insurance company in the beginning of 2011.

Despite that, the industrial conglomerate stressed, "Chimimport AD and its subsidiaries have always shown patience in their business relations with Alma Tour".

Chimimport insisted that it had never held talks for the acquisition of assets of Alma Tour or for joint activities with the tour operator and that such prospects were out of the question at that stage.

As reasons for the lack of acquisition interests Chimimport cited Alma Tour's ruined prestige and the fact that it had abused the trust of thousands of its customers who had used its services to pay for their flights and holidays.

The Bulgarian industrial giant also emphasized the importance of creating a mechanism to prevent such situations.

"In the course of court proceedings, properties of Alma Tour will be put out to tender, according to procedure, which will make them available for anyone to purchase", Chimimport stated, specifying that the procedure would enable Alma Tour to settle its debts.

The managing body of the industrial conglomerate also recommended drawing attention to the somewhat neglected issue of where the tourists' money had gone, saying that the insolvency case would shed light on the matter.

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Tags: tender, takeover, Armeetz, Corporate Commercial Bank, tour operator, insolvency, TIM, Chimimport, Alma Tour, Russian tourists


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