Business is good in Bulgaria at the moment, according to Ilko Stoyanov, Partner at Schoenherr in Sofia. He draws particular attention to the real estate market — especially the shopping mall segment, which has seen four Sofia malls change owners already this year. Stoyanov isn’t able to pinpoint a particular reason for the boom, but notes that two of the malls (The Mall and the Serdika Center) are expected to be sold to a "sizeable investor” — New Europe Property Investments. The price of real estate has increased in 2017, according to Stoyanov, “reaching levels close to before the financial crisis."
But Real Estate is hardly the only profitable source of M&A work at the moment. "I can say that we are pretty busy,” says Stoyanov. "Starting from the middle of 2016 work has picked up, with Bulgarian sellers selling to strategic investors from abroad.” Stoyanov also points to the “developing NPL market,” and says, "I’m happy with the situation in the market — and ours in particular. I’m pretty happy with how things are starting to develop. Business is picking up, that’s for sure, and competition among law firms is rising."
Nonetheless, Stoyanov reports, firms in the market are hardly counting their chickens yet — management of law firms is cautious. “We’re still a bit conservative,” he says. "We’re watching the market to see if the rebound will continue. Then we will make up our minds. We’re still waiting to see. Firms are pretty busy, but they do not respond fast in this market — they do not hurry to fire people in bad times and they do not hurry to hire people in good times. They look to sustain the levels of head-counts."
Otherwise, it appears the political situation is fairly stable, though Stoyanov notes the government has announced a moratorium on all privatizations that is likely to hold for a few more months. Otherwise, he says, “it's business as usual.” And there are no major legislative developments either, with the possible exception of the new emphasis on Data Protection that’s a major consideration across Europe at the moment. “The issues has been there for a while,” Stoyanov says, "but nobody’s paid attention to it, until huge fines were put into the new General Data Protection Regulation that motived attention.” He says, "what we’re seeing now is a new awareness how serious an issue this is both on the part of government and the public, and new focus on compliance issues."