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325. Sofia office vacancy rate could reach 10% by year-end - report

Wise Property: 2008-12-15

After a calm first half of the year, about 65 000 sq m of class A and B office space hit the market in Sofia in the third quarter of 2008, which could drive the office vacancy rate in the Bulgarian capital, financial news website investor.bg reported on December 12, quoting a survey by consultancy firm MBL.

The overall amount of office space in Sofia now stands at 874 100 sq m, of which 81 per cent is outside the immediate city centre.

Construction activity during the period was high despite the developing global financial crisis and there was no change in the amount of new office buildings being built in the third quarter. In JulySeptember, several large-scale projects were initiated, combining for over 750 000 sq m of office space, of which 75 per cent were in the Sofia suburbs, and 21 per cent in the wide central area of Sofia and the rest in the Sofia city center.

By the end of 2008, the total volume of office space in Sofia will reach 970 000 sq m, should all current construction be completed on schedule.

The global financial crisis, however, did not completely bypass the sector as some large-scale projects have been delayed, others temporarily frozen and others still, scrapped altogether.

Several reasons explain why a large share of the office space in the Bulgarian capital is left unoccupied bad location, poor infrastructure, no connection with the urban transport, and the financial crisis itself, as companies don not have resources to employ new staff. This rings particularly true for office space in the suburbs of Sofia, where vacancies have more than doubled, reaching 9.2 per cent. In the wide central area, however, there were no changes observed, and the vacancies remain at 3.2 per cent, where as in the Sofia city centre proper, vacancies have shrunk from 1.8 per cent to 1.6 per cent.

Overall, the vacancy rate for the city rose from 3.8 per cent at end-June to 6.5 per cent in September.

The average monthly rent for class A offices in the suburbs of Sofia was around 15.5 euro a sq m, but with the vast supply of new offices from to constant construction, prices have fallen by 15 per cent in several districts. The average rent in the city centre proper however, has registered a significant increase, in some cases of up to 23 per cent, with the current prices going from 22 to 28 euro a sq m.

The investment market at the moment has literary frozen still and transactions with offices in the third trimester were not registered at all, investor.bg said. Meanwhile, the banks have virtually frozen financing and refinancing, in expectation for a better outlook, which meant that deals could be done only by investors with a large amount of disposable capital ready for investment.

324. A lot of surprises from the "Santa Bass" party on Dec 19

News BG: 2008-12-14

The jungle Drum n' Bass party "Santa Bass" will be held on December 19, the organizers from H.M.S.U announced.

Some of the hottest names in the world's drum n' bass scene will be presented in the 4km Party Centre.

Among them are Benny Page, with his melodic covers, Demolition Man and Top Cat - the microphone's titans together with their Norwegian drum n' bass producer Psychofreud.

Benny Page is best known with his Shy FX releases, with which he won the MTV award for the most progressive drum n' bass DJ.

The talented Norwegian Psychofreud left wonderful memories after all his three visits in Bulgaria.

The H.M.S.U. organizers will once again present the original setup with joint sound in the two halls.

The audience will receive warm tea and free access to playstation 3.

The tickets for the party can be purchased at 20 leva in the Ticketpro network, as well as in the Corporide, Breakpoint, Djukian Meloman stores. Tickets will cost 25 leva at the gates.

323. Nicole Kidman to arrive as UN ambassador of goodwill in Plovdiv

Frog News: 2008-12-13

Kidman plans to visit Plovdiv in the summer of 2009, informed Milena Kadieva of the local branch of the Bulgarian Center for Gender Studies. She was the only Bulgaria at the UN World Summit in New York, dedicated to the issue of violence against women.

Kadieva presented a report on violence against women in the Balkan region. The UN initiative will continue for 16 days (until December 10) and aims to raise awareness about violence. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is leading the campaign, United against violence against women. The Project financing fund raised 20 million dollars and the sum will be appropriated next year. NGOs in Plovdiv are campaigning to adopt the Bill on gender equality and amendments to the Act on domestic violence. Kidman stated that counteracting violence should become a global priority because it affects one in three women worldwide.

322. Real estate value the vicious spiral

Sofia Echo: 2008-12-11

There has been a significant decrease in demand for real estate in the last few months, with property prices in Bulgaria registering a slump in value throughout. The official statistic is that as late as September 2008, real estate was still registering the sporadic rise in value, but the overall trend in the country is expected to see a drop of as much as 27 per cent on average. The data from the fourth trimester will most probably show the stagnation of the market in its realistic form, as opposed to what is being received now as feed back from the third trimester, according to Industry Watch, as quoted by weekly Stroitelstvo Gradut.

Most importantly, it is necessary to determine what is the significance in terms of numbers and the situation of real estate loans for the economy. Theoretically, the bigger the share of mortgage financing, the bigger the eventuality in occasional slumps in the market of real estate, meaning that the net real estate value could be negative the volume of mortgages exceeds the market price of the houses) or the loan to value ration could exceed 100 per cent.

In spite of the credit expansion registered in the past few years in Bulgaria, real estate loans as percentage of the total economy of the country is more than three times less than the average in other European Union member states. Accordingly, should there be an eventual exasperation of the economic crisis, and additional shrinkage of the real estate market in particular, the overall negative effect for the consumer and the impact on the savings of the populace being far worse in the eurozone than in Bulgaria.

Moreover, it is vital to determine what is the average percentage of bank financing of real estate either for purchase or for refinancing which is done through loans, in the Bulgarian economy. The correlation between the loan of a house as opposed to the actual value of a house could present a potential problem, as it is likely to alter the behaviour of the borrower. Should the prices fall considerably, and impose a negative net value of the house, the borrower might decide that it is better to leave the house to the bank without paying off the mortgage, by deciding that he is better off renting a house or opting to purchase a new house altogether offered on the market at a significantly lower price. This behaviour of the consumers is quite rational; however, it creates an even sharper decline in prices, in turn.

The negative effect on the economy (all other parameters being equal), is stronger, with a drastic decline in the value of the real estate, with a large supply of housing for sale and with the presence of an initial period with reduced conditions for servicing the loan. The risk will not be equally distributed, instead, it concentrates in a particular group of people those who purchase on top when the real estate value has reached its summit.

On the background of insecurity regarding the income growth in the country, and the direction of the prices for real estate, the banks partially restrict the crediting of consumers in the sector. The more conservative behaviour of banks reduces the risk of eventual problems, not only for the financial system and the borrowers, but for the economy as a whole.

321. Japan presents Bulgaria with museums' site

Sofia Echo: 2008-12-10

By signing the certificate the Japanese Agency for International Cooperation donated to the MInisrty of Culture the righths for use, management and development of the site, containing detailed information for Bulgaria's museums, which can successfully be used by tourists, wanting to learn more about Bulgarian culture.

It will contain useful information for all Bulgarian cities' museums in Bulgarian, English and Japanese.

Stefan Danailov notes that the site will be extremely useful to Bulgarians, as well.

The minister also announced that next year there will be a 50 years anniversary since the beginning of the diplomatic relationship between Bulgaria and Japan and many cultural events will note that event.

Among them will be a visit of the Bulgarian president Georgi Parvanov to Japana, where he will open a Thracian treasures exhibition.

320. Demand for Black Sea apartments plummets

Frog News: 2008-12-09

Supply of vacation properties in Golden Sands is 7.3 times lower than in Sunny Beach. 380 vacation apartments in GS are for sale according to www.imot.bg. This is 200 less than in May this year. One-bedroom apartments in Sunny Beach range from EUR 1167 to 3991 per sq. m. The lowest price - BGN 49 000 is that of a 42 sq. m property. A luxury one-bedroom apartment with a seaside view (64 sq. m) costs EUR 255 440. On average, the prices of one-bedroom apartments in this resort increased by 8% in the last 6 months. Two-bedroom apartments in Sunny Beach range from EUR 669 t? 3977 per sq. m. The lowest price is of a furnished apartment (65 sq. m) EUR 43 500 ????. The most expensive in this segment is EUR 290 320. Three-bedroom apartments in Golden Sands rose by 18% in 6 months. Offers range from EUR 1000 t? 2500 per sq. m. The cheapest is a suite in a hotel with security - EUR 92 000. The most expensive property EUR 310 000 is located in the Sirena complex. Two-bedroom apartments in the resort north of Varna increased by on?-tenth on average in the last 6 months. Offers range from EUR 707 t? 2500 per sq. m. Brokers report that clients from England and Ireland, who bought many properties up until 1-2 years ago, are now selling, whereas clients from Russia are not investing in Bulgarian properties on a mass scale.

319. December 8 -National Students Day

News BG: 2008-12-08

It's the students' holiday in Bulgaria today.

December 8th first started being celebrated in 1903, on occasion of the 15th anniversary of Sofia University and became the holiday of all students in Bulgaria.

It has been abolished in 1944 and replaced with November 17, when the International Students' day is celebrated.

It was restored in 1962.

Bulgarian Orthodox Church commemorates St. Kliment Ohridski, one of the patrons of the Bulgarian Higher Education, BNR reminds.

Bulgaria's minister of Education and Science Daniel Valchev will take part in the awards ceremony "Student of the Year".

A strange coincidence is that today, two of the greatest revolutionaries in rock music, considered role-models of all students in the world, John Lennon and Jim Morrison, is the day of the death of the first and the birth of the second.

Happy 8th to all students in Bulgaria!

318. Winter security police deploys around resorts

Sofia Echo: 2008-12-08

In light of the new winter season, which was inaugurated last week in Bansko and the anticipated massive influx of tourists, foreign and domestic, 108 police officers will be deployed to winter resorts to maintain order, as stated by police commissioner Tomi Iliev, head of the protection police directorate at the Interior Ministry.

To ensure public order and to fight crime, hooliganism, rowdy behavior, drunkenness and prevent general social disorder, the police will be patrolling Bansko between December 1 2008 and March 31 2009, and a further 60 policemen will be dispatched to Pernik, Plovdiv and Stara Zagora. Those forces will collaborate with the local police and the transport police.

In other winter tourist destinations such as Vitosha in Sofia, Pamporovo and Kyustendil, police numbers will also be increased. The security operation will be funded by the local municipalities.

This tactic is not new - during the summer, additional police units are dispatched to summer resorts in the interior of the country, as well as destinations around the Black Sea coast which do not have the resources to raise such forces themselves. The strong presence of the police in such resorts is meant to act as a deterrent and provide people with a sense of security and reassurance, and it does not necessarily entail that violence or disorder is expected to occur.

317. Britain's ZBS plans 200M euro investment in Bulgaria

Wise Property: 2008-12-07

British-Bulgarian investment company ZBS, which is working on its first open-air mall in Bulgaria in the city of Bourgas, is considering investments of a total 200 million euro in Bulgaria, according to managing director David Coward, quoted by website investor.bg.

Such projects will be build in the regional urban centres where there is still not a lot of competition. Bourgas, Haskovo and Pazardjik are some of the town where the company is aiming to invest heavily.

Regarding the 30 million euro mall in Bourgas, Coward said that part of the funds has already been secured. The company will also rely on bank financing for 60 to 65 per cent of the total sum. Currently, ZBS is in talks with a Bulgarian company that would eventually acquire management of the mall, which will have an estimated catchment area 300 000 clients. The construction company that would build the mall, however, is yet to be selected.

Coward insisted that the current economic crisis was a blessing in disguise for developers, making construction companies more willing to accept flexible and convenient contracts, as quoted by investor.bg.

In terms of a possible construction in Bulgaria's main urban centres like Sofia and Varna, Coward said that there are far too many planned projects in those cities, while land prices were far too high and not always strategically convenient. Bourgas, on the other hand, was geographically restrained from the sea which surrounds the town, and there were not too many opportunities of expanding the territory of the local market.

Coward was positive on the future forecast for the economic growth and development of Bulgaria, quoting research by consultancy firm King Sturge, according to which, Bulgaria is in the top 10 European Union countries with a projected large growth for the small and medium sized businesses. Bulgarians as a whole were expected to be spending 18 billion euro more in 2018 that they currently are.

316. Its Saint Nikolas Day

Focus: 2008-12-06

Sofia. On December 6, Bulgaria celebrates Day of Saint Nicholas (the Miracle Worker) the protector of sailors, travelers and bankers.

St. Nikolas is known for all his sea miracles for saving ships and sailors from wrecks.

Bulgarians honor St. Nikolas as one of the six brother saints, who divided the world the sky, the earth, and the oceans. St. Nikolas was given the water.

St. Nikolas has been always honored as the master of the rivers, seas and sea winds, as he has the power to shake the sea, to stop the winds. Walking over the seas, St. Nikolas is looking for ships in danger, which he saves, Iglika Mishkova, ethnologist and head of the Ethnographic Museum with the Bulgarian Academy of Science, f said or FOCUS News Agency.

On December 6, all Bulgarians celebrate St. Nikolas Day. By tradition, on this day every family has to offer a sacrifice a carp fish.

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