Exporting to Bulgaria
Gateway to emerging Europe
Bulgaria is a part of the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region, with over 100 million consumers, so it can act as a gateway into these markets. The CEE region is easily accessible from the UK, offers considerable potential for British businesses and has widespread use of English as the business language.
Bulgaria is bordered by large countries such as Turkey, Greece, Serbia and Romania, while its eastern coast borders the Black Sea. If your business is looking to export to a larger Eastern European market, Bulgaria may be a good place to base your operations.
Since the 2009 global economic and financial crisis, Bulgaria has made a sustained economic recovery, with GDP growth reaching 3.2% in 2018 (World Bank, 2019). The economy has proved relatively resilient due to growth in export, offshoring and tourism.
High potential industries in the country for UK businesses
There are opportunities for UK companies across a broad range of industries. Our trade advisers in Bulgaria have identified particular opportunities in several sectors.
A recent cyber attack on the Bulgarian National Revenue Agency and other similar attempts have highlighted a need to strengthen national cyber security. Standards and solutions for protecting large databases and servers are of particular interest.
Being an external EU border, border security is among the top priorities for the government - in particular managing security at land and sea borders. Relevant UK products include those that improve situational awareness along the border, drone protection, and monitoring and protection of the water border of the Black Sea.
Funding for nuclear projects
Decommissioning and waste management projects funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) at Kozloduy nuclear power plant will run to 2026. With 63 million Euros allocated from 2021 onwards, there are opportunities for UK companies. Kozloduy also plans to diversify its fuel supply.
Gas infrastructure opportunities
Bulgaria’s strategic location makes it a location for major gas pipelines and associated interconnectors and storage, including the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). The country needs to diversify gas supply in order to improve energy security and reduce dependence on Russian gas. There are opportunities in consultancy services and specialised technologies for UK companies.
Expertise in transitioning from coal
To meet European Commission emission control and climate change directives, Bulgaria is on a path to close down coal-fired power plants by the 2030s. This creates opportunities for UK companies with expertise and know-how in transitioning from coal and mitigating the social and economic impact on coal-producing regions.
Opening of the water services sector
Bulgaria’s national water strategy forecasts that the water and wastewater sector will need 6 billion euros funding until 2025. Less than one third will come from EU funding. The water services sector will therefore be opened for concessions and private management contracts.
Bulgaria’s Transport Infrastructure 2021-2027 Programme will bring opportunities for UK companies, with EU funding of over £1.5 billion. Priority areas include the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) rail and road projects, intermodal transport services and sustainable urban transport, such as the Sofia metro. The programme will also cover traffic management systems and services and feasibility studies.
The capital city Sofia has an ambitious program for smart city transformation, and has set up a new department for the purpose. Sofia has a specific interest in measures to improve air quality, integrated urban transport, and traffic management/parking systems. Other cities including Bourgas, Varna and Stara Zagora are also developing in this direction.
Existing UK presence
There are major UK pharmaceutical companies in Bulgaria (GlaxoSmithKline , Astra Zeneca) who hold significant market share, fly the flag for UK healthcare expertise and offer a foot in the door to the sector.
The Bulgarian public health system is in the process of digitalisation, in order to deliver healthcare services to patients more efficiently and cost-effectively, and to maintain tighter control on costs. This programme creates opportunities for UK IT companies with solutions including: managing patient data on a national level; managing hospital staff and clinical pathways; remote monitoring and self-care.
Need for equipment
Bulgaria offers significant opportunities for upgrading hospital equipment in both public and private hospitals. The private sector is growing fast with new hospitals and clinics springing up in the major cities. There is a need to acquire and modernise equipment, including for surgery, ultrasound, laboratory and testing, and diagnostic imaging.