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Oct 15, 2007 15:58 EEST
SOFIA (Bulgaria), October 15 (SeeNews) – Bulgarian Internet provider Novo plans to list on the stock exchange in Sofia in March next year to raise funds for backing a 40 million lev ($29 million/20.4 million euro) investment programme and raise its profile, a company official said.
An increasing number of Bulgarian companies have announced plans to go public recently, aiming to capitalise on the growing popularity of the EU newcomer's stock market among foreign and local investors.
“We plan to list on the stock exchange (…) in March 2008,” Novo marketing manager Dobrin Dimitrov told SeeNews in a recent interview.
He said the company, which is operating mainly in the Black Sea city of Varna, plans to invest 40 million levs in expanding its network to cover most of the country’s big cities by the end of 2008.
“By the end of 2008 we should have [equipment at] total of 8,000 points in the large cities,” Dimitrov said, adding 2,000 of those will be in the capital Sofia.
Novo has transmission devices at 1,000 points, mainly in Varna and the region around it. The company, which now offers a paid Internet service, plans to offer free wireless Internet access to customers with limited speed. The free service will be sustained by payments from companies that want to advertise their products and services to its users.
The company plans to shift entirely to the free service and abandon the paid one by the end of 2008. Novo has already purchased an advertising platform from the U.S.-based voice, video, and data equipment supplier SysMaster Corporation.
“It is the first time a chance is given to companies to advertise not only on a single website but to all of the users of this Internet service,” Dimitrov said. The company is in talks with potential advertisers and is also negotiating possible partnerships with the three wireless operators doing business in the country of 7.7 million people - Mobiltel, a unit of Telekom Austria, Globul, an arm of Greece's Cosmote, and Vivatel, owned by Bulgaria's dominant fixed-line operator BTC.
“This is rather a business-to-business model. It is not directly targeting end customers,” Mladenov said.
He added Internet advertising, which has been gaining speed in the past few years, has great potential and will inevitably displace radio ads in the future.
Internet advertising had the strongest growth in Bulgaria, of 88%, last year, although it accounted only for 1.9% of the country's net advertising market in 2006. The country’s net advertising market is seen growing by some 35% to 247 million euro ($351.4 million) this year. Bulgaria joined the EU in January.
Television advertising accounted for 49% of the total market in 2006, while press made up 26.7% of it. Outdoor advertising was 10.6% and the radio segment accounted for 9.5%.
(1 euro = 1.95583 Bulgarian levs)
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