While some European countries face demonstrations against further coronavirus restrictions, the Bulgarian authorities have decided to loosen the already lax lockdown in place since end-November. Meanwhile, despite the lingering economic uncertainty, the country's leader in revenue is planning a massive investment in new capacity by 2024, and there are signs of recovery in machine manufacturing in January.
Lukoil Neftochim will invest 339 million levs in a new TPP by 2024
Burgas-based refinery Lukoil Neftochim plans to begin a process of reconstruction and expansion of the thermal power plant on its territory. According to the 5-year business plan the company presented to the Bulgarian Energy and water regulatory commission, Lukoil Neftochim will invest a total of 339 million levs (173.3 million euro) in the project by 2024. The plant already exists and should ensure the continuous production process of the chemical plants. However, it often experiences failures. The complex's consumption of heat and electricity can rival that of a city with a population of over 100,000. The new TPP will have a heat energy capacity of 960 MW and an electric capacity of 257 MW. By comparison, Toplofikacia Sofia, which is the largest TPP in the country, has a heat energy capacity of 1253 MW and an electric capacity of 239 MW.
Possible signs of recovery in machine manufacturing
Industrial group Stara Planina Hold, which has several machine manufacturers in its portfolio, expects a moderate increase in consolidated revenue in January after a double-digit decline in annual revenue in 2020 following the economic shock of the pandemic. Stara Planina Hold is one of the largest holding companies in the country with consolidated revenues of close to 250 million levs pre-crisis. Of the main companies in the group, a decline is expected for the battery manufacturer Elhim-Iskra, whereas the largest company in the group's portfolio - hydraulic equipment manufacturer M+S Hydraulic, reports an increase in revenue by over 11%. The Yambol-based manufacturer Hydraulic elements and systems (HES), which works predominantly for Austria's Palfinger, also reports an estimated 5% annualized growth rate. In total, Stara Planina Hold expects consolidated revenues of 19.7 million levs in January 2021, up 2.53% year-on-year.
Lockdown restrictions start to ease in February
Following a meeting between Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the national coordinating unit for the pandemic, authorities decided to start easing the lockdown restrictions in place since the end of November 2020. A key point supporting the decision is that Bulgaria is one of four European countries outside the red zone, with very low morbidity in the past two weeks. Gyms, sports centers, cultural venues, and stores in malls may open their doors once again in February. School attendance for students in grades 5 to 12 will partly resume. One sector that won't be getting a break in February is hospitality where pressure is mounting because restrictions have no end date in sight. A civil disobedience march by representatives of the sector is due to take place on 27 January.