BULGARIA - The largest Bulgarian pension fund, Doverie, has been taken over by Austrian insurance group Wiener Städtische as part of a complex deal with investment group Kardan.

The fund has over 1m members (out of over 3m working people in the country) and nearly €200m in assets under management.

Wiener Städtische chief executive Günter Geyer estimates the Bulgarian pension fund market at €600m to €700m.

While Bulgarians are currently still more concerned about acquiring houses, flats and cars interest in pension provision products (pension funds and life insurance combinations) is rapidly rising, Geyer tells IPE.

He compares the development to what is already happening in Slovakia where the Wiener Städtische reports double-digit growth.

Under the terms of the deal, Kardan has sold the insurance and pension business of its subsidiary TBIH to Wiener Städtische.

In turn, Kardan will take full control of TBIH's retail lending and asset management business and will hold 40% in the company through a subsidiary, Kardan Financial Services.

Already owning insurer Balgarski Imoti it will merge this company with the TBIH controlled Bulstrad "by the end of the year", Geyer says.

TBIH also holds shares in pension funds in Croatia, Georgia and Romania.

TBIH has been one of the leaders in the voluntary and mandatory pension field in Central and Eastern Europe since 1994.
Wiener Städtische bought 60% in TBIH for around €160m while at the same time selling back the 40% in shares it held in Kardan Financial Services since last year for €130m.
The deal is still subject to approval by EU authorities and shareholders, which is expected to be given at a stockholder meeting in September.
Via TBIH Wiener Städtische will take control over Doverie, Bulgaria's largest pension fund, in which TBIH holds 55%.