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A month after launching the privatization of VMZ Sopot, Bulgaria's largest defense manufacturer, officials have extended the deadline for joining the bidding pool.
The state has extended until August 24 the deadline for buying the documentation necessary to participate in the tender, according to the head of the state privatization agency, Emil Karanikolov.
The privatization process for the troubled defense plant is scheduled to be wrapped up within the next six months, during which time the state is to clear all of the company's debts, including unpaid salaries to its workers, according to the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, BTA.
The bidders will be identified after 30 days, after which the State Agency for National Security, DANS, and the special services will launch inspections.
In three months' time, the plant is to be purchased by a strategic investor which operates in the sector.
Bulgaria's Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev has vowed that the state will ensure the payment of workers' salaries through new orders for the plant. Employees are due over BGN 1.5 million in unpaid salaries.
Dobrev has said that that the privatization strategy for VMZ Sopot envisages a commitment for the buyer to maintain both the plant's activity and its staff.
The manufacturer, located in central Bulgaria, employs 3,700 people.
It was founded in 1936, and during the communist period was developed into a large-scale military industrial unit.
VMZ Sopot produces anti-tank guided and unguided missiles, aviation unguided missiles, artillery ammunition, and fuses.
It also manufactures civilian products, including diamond tools, abrasive discs and grinding wheels, gas cylinders, food industry equipment, and household appliances.
After the plant began to struggle with its finances in 2007, Bulgaria's privatization agency began selling off some of its assets.
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