Today UniCredit opened the first facility specially designed to assist the expansion of enterprises from Italy and other countries into Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkan market.
The UniCredit International Center, inaugurated today, will provide support for UniCredit's customers who are carrying out or researching business activities in the country.
The center will function as a temporary office, equipped with space and facilities for companies to work in Bulgaria and facilitate their access to UniCredit's global organization all over the countries where the Group is present.
To help companies establish their presence in Bulgaria, the center's skilled UniCredit specialists can provide consulting, introductions to local officials, and legal and tax assistance. The center will also organize business-to-business networking opportunities, themed sector events and joint-marketing initiatives.
The UniCredit International Centre is part of the project to support the internationalisation of Italian companies, which represents a concrete commitment made two years ago by the bank to help to increase growth.The initiative takes advantage of UniCredit's unique international network spread across 50 countries, 17 of which have a commercial bank presence. In Bulgaria, the Group is present through UniCredit Bulbank.
The Balkans in general and Bulgaria in particular represent an area that is naturally of interest to Italian business people, above all for SMEs, thanks to their geographical location and a series of other advantages. The country is a member of the European Union and presents a number of opportunities for Italy's predominant economic sectors: construction, textiles and energy. Among Bulgaria's other advantages, it has a stable exchange rate, pegged to the euro, a preferential tax regime and competitive labor costs for skilled workers.
With a GDP of approximately €40 billion and limited inflation, Bulgaria will receive EU funds of over €14 billion through to 2020. In the World Competitiveness Index published by the World Economic Forum, it placed 54th out of 148 countries; on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index, Bulgaria in 2013 placed 58th out of 189 countries.
Today, Italy is one of the main commercial partners for the countries of south-east Europe. In 2013, Italian exports to the area reached € 13.6 billion, exceeding the combined exports of China, India and Brazil to the area over the same period. Italian companies that currently have a presence in Bulgaria exceed 1,000, while trade with Italy - the country's third largest trading partner - totals € 4.2 billion. The Italian export ratio (Italian exports with respect to total Bulgarian imports) to Bulgaria exceeds 7 percent, which is more than twice the worldwide average.
UniCredit Bulbank is the largest bank in the country, with a market share of around 15 percent and a strong local presence of over 200 branches. It is a leader in corporate banking across the complete range of financial solutions to support companies. UniCredit Bulbank serves 1,860 international companies, of which 580 are Italian and have expanded into the country.
Sofia, October, 30 2014