Bulgaria finalises controversial tobacco deal

17th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Bulgaria finalised on Monday the controversial sale of state-owned cigarette maker Bulgartabac to a firm belonging to Kremlin-controlled Russian bank VTB for 100.1 million euros ($137.4 million).

Numerous other privatisation attempts have failed over the past 13 years, and critics have questioned who is behind the new buyer, an Austria-registered company majority owned by a unit of VTB that was the sole bidder.

Previous privatisation attempts were opposed by the Turkish minority MRF party, in Bulgaria's government between 2001-2009, as tobacco-growing is a major source of employment for the country's 10-percent Turkish population.

The finalisation of the deal, which saw the European Union's poorest member offload a 79.8-percent stake, came six days ahead of presidential and local elections.

© 2011 AFP

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