The year 2020 can hardly be called successful for investment in production. That is not surprising, given that the pandemic has shelved the plans of many companies and made them cautious to starting new production or expanding existing factories. The ranking of the 15 biggest projects currently prepared or implemented that the Capital Weekly traditionally compiles shows that they are worth less than 430 million levs (220 million euro). That is just a third of the amount in 2019, when production companies announced plans to inject a total of 1.3 million levs. Bulgaria still fails to attract a major international investment; new projects are announced mainly for expansion of operating plants or are carried out by small companies.
At the same time the government boasts of a boom in the certificates issued under the Investment Promotion Act. Data of the economy ministry show that a total of 34 projects worth more than 1 billion levs were supported in 2020, breaking a six-year record. As a matter of fact, many of the projects are not new. The largest production investment, which actually makes up a quarter of the total amount, is that of lead-and-zinc producer KCM worth 130 million euro.
However, it is not included in the Capital's list, because it was launched in late 2019, when the company signed a loan agreement with the European Investment Bank for half of the amount. The ranking does not include another certified metallurgical project either: the 45 million levs investment of Harmonee 2012, which is connected with First Investment Bank, because of the many unknowns about it. The company, which bought the assets of the bankrupt OCK lead-and-zinc producer in Kardzhali more than eight years ago, declares intentions to build an installation for processing zinc-containing waste. People in the industry however are skeptical that can be done.
The other larger state-backed investment projects are for logistic parks, office buildings, hotels and healthcare centers.
Many of the production projects announced in 2020 are in the food and beverage industry, which was not the case in previous years. What makes impression is that several projects are planned in the field of metallurgy and recycling: such projects are usually more capital-intensive and pass through more complex environmental compliance procedures. Half of the projects are for expansion of existing enterprises and the rest are for construction of new facilities. Curiously, the bigger part of the projects are carried out by Bulgarian companies, including the largest one: that of meat producer Boni Holding.
Another difference from previous years is that only two of the projects are in the region of Sofia. Nearly half of them are in the central and eastern part of North Bulgaria, with Devnya hosting two of them. In South Bulgaria, Plovdiv is the leading location again with three companies planning projects there. Kyustendil is now also on the investment map with a German project for automotive components.
1. New pork holding
Sector: Meat productionCompany: Boni Holding Location: Region of Levski
New jobs: 300
Meat producer and processor Boni Holding will invest nearly 120 million levs in the upgrade of existing facilities and the construction of a new pig farm. A part of the funds will be used to refurbish the pig holding in the town of Levski and the remainder will be invested in a green-field facility. The new location has not been specified yet but the company is looking for a plot in the regions of Levski, Lovech or Pleven. At the end of last year Boni Holding signed a 30-million-euro loan agreement with the European Investment Bank. The remainder of the financing will be borrowed from United Bulgarian Bank and DSK Bank. The company will also invest its own funds. The project is expected to be completed by the beginning of 2024.
2. Second key product
Sector: Chemical industryCompany: Solvay Sodi Location: Devnya
New jobs: 6
Soda ash producer Solvay Sodi, which is part of Belgium's Solvay Group, will build an installation for production of sodium bicarbonate, which is used mainly in animal foods and for hazardous gas treatment in industrial facilities. The investment amounts to 60 million levs and will be financed with own funds of the group. The installation will be located at the plant's site in Devnya and will have a capacity of 200,000 tonnes a year. Currently the company produces just some 30,000 tonnes of sodium bicarbonate a year, as it is not its main product. The project will not affect the number of Solvay Sodi's staff but it will create dozens of new jobs in subcontractor companies.
3. Water power
Sector: Bottled waterCompany: Devin Location: Devin
New jobs: n.a.
Belgium's Spadel will invest 17 million euro in water bottler Devin in 2020-21. The project includes a new fully-automated logistic center and replacement of two production lines in the factory in Devin. The Belgian group acquired the Bulgarian company in 2017 from U.S. fund Advent in a deal valuing Devin at 120 million euro. Devin is the leading water bottler in Bulgaria with a market share of more than 30% in terms of volume and value and revenue amounting to nearly 99 million levs in 2019. The company's portfolio includes Devin mineral and spring water, Devin Air carbonated mineral water and Divna table water. The company is also a distributor of Granini fruit juices and Red Bull energy drinks.
4. Wiring from Pleven
Sector: AutomotiveCompany: Leoni Bulgaria Location: Pleven
New jobs: 1,493
The automotive wiring system plant of Germany's Leoni in Pleven started operating back in 2018 and had to reach full capacity at the end of 2020. There is not much information about the project and the location is not even mentioned on the group's website. Officially, Leoni Bulgaria received an investor certificate in the spring of 2020, committing to invest 32.7 million levs and hire nearly 1,500 people within three years. The company's latest report shows that in 2019 it had a turnover exceeding 24 million levs and managed to swing to profit; some 600 people were occupied at the end of the year. As of end-2020 the number of employees exceeded 1,100.
5. First in Pazardzhik, now in Plovdiv
Sector: Fruit and vegetable processingCompany: Balkan Agricultural Location: Plovdiv
New jobs: 31
Balkan Agricultural will build a new factory for fruit and vegetable processing and a warehouse facility near Plovdiv. In 2016 the company, which claims to be one of the largest processors in Bulgaria, opened a factory for tomato paste near Pazardzhik. The new investment will amount to 29.2 million levs and will be carried out in two stages with the warehouse planned to be built first. Majority owner of the company is Euro Investment Holding of Iranian-born Bulgarian citizen Muhanned Nadzhim Abudllah al Nuaimi, whose core busines is weapon trade. Last year the holding also bought dairy producer Lodis Invest, which is connected with Delyan Peevski, an MP from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms party.
6. Automotive client
Sector: MetallurgyCompany: Alcomet Location: Shumen
New jobs: 33
Shumen-based aluminum product maker Alcomet has started a new investment project. It is worth 27 million levs and is connected with a contract the company has signed with a big client from the automotive sector. To fulfil the requirements of the new client, the company plans to expand its manufacturing base in Shumen with another workshop and upgrade some of the existing facilities. In 2020 the company received an IATF 16949:2016 compliance certificate, which allows it to work for the automotive industry. As a result of the investment, Alcomet expects to considerably increase its sales in the next few years.
7. RecyclingSector: Metallurgy Company: El Bat Location: Dolna Banya
New jobs: 100
El Bat will invest nearly 24 million levs in an installation for secondary lead products at its plant in Dolna Banya. The company is engaged in treatment and recycling of various types of lead-containing waste and battery scrap to produce lead and lead alloys. The new project includes an installation for pre-treatment of scrap batteries and construction of warehouse facilities for raw materials, as well as refurbishment of the recycling installation. It is expected to provide 100 new jobs. Owner of the company is Dimitar Popov, who holds 99% of the capital through his company Bulmet, and the remaining 1% is held by Nikolay Bazhlekov.
8. More chocolate
Sector: FoodsCompany: Nestle Bulgaria Location: Sofia
New jobs: 0
Nestle Bulgaria has invested 23 million levs in upgrading its Sofia-based chocolate factory. The project includes installation of a new robotized line for product packaging, which will help the company reduce packaging-related losses. The digital network has also been upgraded, connecting all machines into a system that allows handling possible issues remotely. The company, which is part of Nestle Group, operates in seven categories: it is a leader on the markets of coffee, culinary preparations, dairy products, pet foods and cereals and second in chocolate products and children's foods. It booked a turnover of 268 million levs in 2019.
9. Smart metalSector: Metal processing Company: Ataro Clima Location: Plovdiv
New jobs: n.a.
Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system producer Ataro Clima has invested 10 million euro in a new industrial facility for steel sheet processing near Plovdiv. According to the family firm's owner, Hristo Rogachev, this is the first smart metal processing factory in Bulgaria. The new installation is expected to considerably reduce the share of labor in products' cost prices. Over 85% of the output will be exported. The project is financed with a loan from Raiffeisenbank and a subsidy under the EU-funded operational program Innovations and Competitiveness for staff training. The company has invested own funds in the land and building for the new equipment.
10. More comfort
Sector: Mattress productionCompany: Ted-Bed Location: Plovdiv
New jobs: n.a.
Plovdiv-based mattress producer Ted-Bed will invest 10 million levs in 2021 in a new warehouse facility for raw materials. The project follows another investment of 8.5 million levs the family company made in a new workshop for polyurethane foam profile cutting last year. The decision is prompted by the growing sales after the initial drop at the beginning of the pandemic. The company expects a record turnover for 2020: some 60 million levs compared to 54 million levs in 2019. Ted-Bed sells more than 50% of its output abroad and holds a third of the market in Bulgaria. The company was set up in 1995 and opened its own factory in Plovdiv in 2000.
11. From waste to metals
Sector: MetallurgyCompany: Technoion Location: Devnya
New jobs: 53
Technoion will invest 10.4 million levs in a project for recycling waste to metals. The Sofia-based company will build a hydrometallurgical facility for processing and production of cathode copper and zinc on its own plot in Devnya. The company was registered in 2017 and its business is processing of waste material from the mining, processing and metallurgical industry. Shareholders in Technoion are Empower Capital Fund (40%) and the Bulgarian companies Uneeda Industries (34.2%), Iontech Engineering (20%) and Eco Industry (5.8%). Trade Register data show that the company has recently received a 6-million-euro loan from Unicredit Bulbank.
12. Protein factory
Sector: FoodsCompany: Bulprotein Location: Bozhurishte
New jobs: 35
Bulprotein, which was registered at the beginning of 2020, will build a factory for production of plant proteins in Bozhurishte industrial zone near Sofia with a project worth 9.3 million levs. The company's business is processing sunflower meal to dry sunflower protein concentrate and other products. Owners are Merimka Mandeva's New Feed Company (75%) and Veselin Stoimenov (25%). New Feed Company was set up in 2012 as wholesale trader of grain and leguminous crops. Judging by its 2019 financial report, its activities subsided and it only booked a minimum turnover.
13. Automotive components
Sector: AutomotiveCompany: VolaPlast Location: Kyustendil
New jobs: 30
Germany's VolaPlast, which manufactures plastic components mainly for the automotive industry, is building its first production facility outside Germany the village of Lozno, Kyustendil Region). The company will invest 4 million euro in the project with production planned to start in February. The company will initially employ 30 people but has plans to provide 100 to 120 jobs in the long term. The Bulgarian plant will produce high-precision injection-molded plastic parts for the automotive industry and assemble windshield cleaning systems. The German company registered a Bulgarian subsidiary last year.
14. Restoring a plant
Sector: Train repairsCompany: DB Cargo Bulgaria Location: Karlovo
New jobs: 33
DB Cargo Bulgaria will invest 6.8 million levs in a project to diversify production at its plant in Karlovo. In 2019 Deutsche Bahn's subsidiary bought the assets of the bankrupt rolling stock repair plant in Karlovo with plans to restore production. The company has been active in Bulgaria for nearly 20 years, providing railway transportation services to Bulgarian enterprises. The investment in the plant will allow DB Cargo Bulgaria to repair its fleet by itself. Shortly after the deal, the company moved its headquarters from Pirdop to Karlovo. DB Cargo Bulgaria booked a turnover of nearly 21 million levs in 2019.
Sector: Production of construction materialsCompany: Rok 7 Location: Targovishte
New jobs: 49
Bulgaria's Rok 7 will build a mineral wool factory in Targovishte worth 6.8 million levs. The production plant will be located in an existing building in the city's industrial zone, which will be rented and refurbished. The enterprise will have a capacity of 10,000 tonnes of mineral wool a year. The project has been already approved by the regional environmental authorities. Mineral wool is used for thermal insulation, soundproofing and fireproofing in construction and industry. Rok 7 was registered in 2017. It is solely-owned by Radita company of Raycho Iliev and Dimitrinka Ilieva.