EUROPE – United Capital, a UK-based asset manager in the process of acquiring Doverie, Bulgaria's largest pension fund, has said it wants to "strengthen its ties" to the country and continue the scheme's "successful business".
For weeks now, various stakeholders in Doverie, union representatives and even government officials have openly criticised the potential sale of Doverie to the UK-based investment company over issues of transparency.
United Capital sent a statement to IPE professing its "keen interest" in maintaining "for the very long term the highest international standards of corporate governance, transparency and investor protection" for Doverie's clients.
It also noted that it planned to continue with Doverie chief executive Daniela Petkova.
Deborah Sturman, chairman at United Capital, added that the company was "presently very engaged in strengthening our ties to Bulgaria through investment in various financial services sectors in the country".
United Capital also stressed that the money for the Doverie deal would be provided "solely by its shareholders, as required by the regulatory authorities in the UK and Bulgaria".
Critics in Bulgaria had voiced concerns the investment company might attempt to employ third-party funds.
Because United Capital has yet to make a formal submission to Bulgaria's regulator, some stakeholders in the industry have been reluctant to weigh in on the deal.
Nikolay Marev, chief executive director at DSK Rodina pension fund, told IPE: "A lot of noise has been raised, mainly by the Doverie management and the unions, but we will only know more once an official submission has been made."
He did say he was worried, however, that "misleading information" might lead to "a loss in trust in the pension system".
"Any investor in Bulgaria should divest whenever they wish, and any investor operating within the law should be able to invest in Bulgaria – otherwise, it is an intervention," he added.
Marev stressed that the pension sector was one of the "most regulated" industries in Bulgaria.
His predecessor at DSK Rodina, Stanislav Dimitrov, now chief executive at life insurance company Saglasie, also raised concerns about Doverie's large market share, currently 30%.
He told IPE Doverie's "dominating position impedes the cut in charges and better results from asset management, and weakens smaller companies", as the pension fund was "able to defend its own interest sometimes against the interests of the whole market".
Last week, the Bulgarian Finance Ministry told IPE it might investigate the sale of Doverie even if the supervisory authority FSC gives the go-ahead.