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Bulgaria

BEST BANK
HVB Bank Biochim

BEST DEBT HOUSE
ABN Amro

BEST M&A HOUSE
BNP Paribas

HVB Biochim had a vintage year in 2004. It bought Hebros Bank, the tenth-largest bank in Bulgaria, in November – the first time one Bulgarian bank has bought another. But it didn't lose ground as a consequence of the acquisition.

On the contrary, its profits rose 78%, while those of rival Bulbank, owned by UniCredit, fell over the same period. Biochim's cost/income ratio also fell an impressive 3% over the year.

ABN Amro takes the best debt house award for Bulgaria, having financed the most interesting deals in the region, including the €850 million financing package for the leveraged buyout of MobilTel by a private-equity consortium. The package included a €650 million syndicated loan and a A200 million bond issue. ABN Amro also arranged the €200 million debut bond issue for First Investment Bank.

BNP Paribas wins the best M&A house award for having advised the Bulgarian government on the sale of its 67% stake in seven state power distributors to Czech company CEZ, Germany's E.ON and Austria's EVN.

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