New Market Report Now Available: Bulgaria Infrastructure Report Q4 2013

From: Fast Market Research, Inc.
Published: Wed Sep 25 2013

We continue to forecast a contraction of -2.7% for Bulgaria's construction industry in 2013. The industry recession that started in 2009 and experienced record low of -17.9% in 2010 is expected to continue through 2013. Negative growth recorded in Q1 2013 suggests a negative outcome for the industry again this year. However, we believe that the worst could now be over. Signs of growth are expected in the transport sector from 2014, when we forecast positive growth of 2.6%, mostly driven by roads and railway projects. This leads us to forecast a return to growth in the overall construction sector from 2014.

Key developments in Bulgaria's infrastructure sector:

* Important road projects have recently been completed. In Q3 2013, the 4th section of the Trakia highway was opened, connecting the capital Sofia with Burgas in the Black Sea. This 360km road had been under construction for 40 years. In addition, lot 1 of the Struma motorway and 8km of the Hemus highway were also completed in August 2013.
* Additional sections Struma motorway development project secured EUR274mn (US$359.48mn) in financial assistance from the European Commission. Work comprises the construction of a dual carriageway between Dolna Dikanya and Blagoevgrad, and from Sandanski to the border crossing with Greece at Kulata. The three sections - lots 1, 2 and 4 - cover 68.5km and are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015. Work is also due to include preparation for the construction of the Blagoevgrad- Sandanski section (lot 3), entailing tunnels bypassing the Kresna gorge.
* However, infrastructure projects in Bulgaria continue to face strong headwinds due to the lack of investor confidence and endemic corruption. We only forecast positive growth to return to the construction industry in 2014 with 1.2% real growth, after five years of recession.
* Bulgaria's export-based economic recovery has ameliorated some of the country's structural imbalances but looking ahead, it will face greater competition in its external environment. In addition, weak final consumption expenditure growth coupled with domestic asset price deflation will hang over the country's economic outlook.
* Our Country Risk team anticipates that political instability is likely to be prolonged, posing a downside risk to our forecast for the construction industry. A negative investor sentiment towards the country will particularly affect the commercial property market (retail and office space) and macro-infrastructure projects for which the government has no capacity to fund.

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