Joe Phillips for the first investments in the "Three Seas" initiative in an interview with BNT

Joe Phillips, Investment Director at Amber Infrastructure Group, exclusive investment advisor to the Three Seas Fund in the show Business.BG

Mr. Phillips, how many projects could be invested in Bulgaria and is there a financial limit?

The Fund currently has a capital of EUR 1 billion and the idea is to make equity investments, and, thus, we can finance between 50 and 250 million euros in a company or project. We hope that the Fund will continue to grow and reach EUR 5 billion, so at the moment our goal is to make a good portfolio of various companies and sectors in these 12 countries. Our goal is to find at least one large investment in Bulgaria and increase the investments after the Fund also increases financially. We are now very actively focused on two projects, but we are looking at 3 or 4 more, and from all of them I hope that in the short term we will choose one and then others.

In which sector will this first investment be?

We are focused on infrastructure, energy, transport and digitalization. The investments we are considering cover transport and energy, and the one with the biggest advantage is in transport.

Can you name specific companies?

We cannot give you any names. There are two things in Bulgaria that excite us in the short term, I emphasize on the short term: one is gas storage, and the other is the ports. There is enough potential on the Black Sea for the ports and trade through them to grow.

The following question comes quite naturally: Because some time ago Bulgarian politicians announced that there are already proposed projects such as the Chiren gas storage facility and the Varna-Burgas highway. Are they still on the table?

Indeed, these two proposals came from Bulgaria and yes, we are considering them. And the one that has the biggest advantage in terms of energy is the gas storage facility.

But as far as I understand highways are not such a priority?

No, we can invest, but rather it is a state policy how to use private financing. If a private company invests in a highway it should be like a concession or a public private partnership, so it is up to the state how and whether it will settle it.

When should we expect all this to happen?

It is always difficult to predict. We believe that the short term we are talking about is the end of this year, and the long term is after 2022. The Fund itself will operate for a total of 5 years – until 2024, so this window should be used for new investments. We have key criteria for each company, we are looking for returns for each investment. We have a 15-year financial horizon, so we must be sure that any project or company we invest in can provide long-term returns.

 As to the short terms you mentioned, are you worried about the political uncertainty in the country?

Certainty is always better. Investors prefer no elections, but it is not unusual and I don’t think we have any worries.


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