Bank Austria grants 70m euro loan for Serdika Center Sofia realized by ECE and Sparkassen Immobilien AG

Press release

Positive signal from the capital market

Sparkassen Immobilien AG and ECE Projektmanagement have concluded a financing agreement with Bank Austria for the Serdika Center in the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The loan amount totals 70m euro; the loan has a term of 10 years.

After a construction period of around two years, the Serdika Center was opened on 15 March, 2010 as one of Southern Europe’s largest shopping centers. It provides more than 51,000m² of retail rental space distributed on three floors. Around 210 shops offer the visitors a large range of fashion, international and national cuisine as well as numerous services. More than 2,000 new jobs were created by the project. The investment volume of the shopping center amounted to around 160m euro, which was procured by Sparkassen Immobilien AG from Vienna (65%) and the European shopping center market leader ECE from Hamburg (35%).

Alexander Otto, ECE CEO: “I am pleased that Sparkassen Immobilien AG and ECE were able to realize the Serdika Center even in rough times as financially sound partners. On time for the Expo Real, Bulgaria now receives a first positive sign from the capital market. For first-class real estate, loan capital is starting to be available again at reasonable conditions.”

Ernst Vejdovszky, Chairman of Sparkassen Immobilien AG, adds: “In this project all partners proved that they have the financial strength, expertise and the required network to realize their projects successfully. With the Serdika Center we show that we always base our investment decisions – particularly in difficult times – on a long-term perspective.”

Helmut Bernkopf, Bank Austria Chairman Corporate & Investment Banking: “Considering the current economic environment, infrastructure projects such as the Serdika Center in Sofia are important stimuli for the local economy. The high project quality, our partners’ professionalism and the business case convinced us when making the financing decision.”

Successful with attractive branch mixture and perfect location

With 205 leased shops, the occupancy rate is 99% – currently an extraordinary figure for a property in Bulgaria. In July and August, concepts such as Oysho, Massimo Dutti, First Investment Bank, Jennyfer or Vivacom opened as well; the number of visitors has increased by 20% since July.

Numerous popular retail brands are already represented in the Serdika Center: Peek & Cloppenburg (first shop in Bulgaria), a consumer electronics market of the Bulgarian Technopolis, a supermarket of the Bulgarian operator Piccadilly, fashion stores of Zara, Bershka, Pull&Bear, Stradivarius, Reserved, Esprit, New Yorker, Marc O’Polo; shoe stores such as Ecco, Humanic, Deichmann, Camper; Puma and Tempo Sport sports outfitters, and many more international retailers such as Douglas, Swarovski, Bijou Brigitte, Guess Kids or I-Style, an Apple specialist store for computers and mobile phone. A food court with international and Bulgarian cuisine as well as several restaurants and cafés invite the visitors to stay and enjoy.

The shopping and business center is located at the Sitnyakovo Boulevard in the inner-city district Oborishte. Around 1,600 parking spaces are made available to the visitors. Moreover, there are several bus and city train station in close proximity. Thanks to the good traffic connection, the Serdika Center is an attraction for more than one million customers and business people residing in the capital and its surroundings.

Within UniCredit Bank Austria is responsible for Central and Eastern Europe. UniCredit is a large international financial institute with strong roots in 22 European countries and an international network in around 50 markets, with 9,600 subsidiaries and more than 162,000 employees as at 30 June 2010. In the Central and Eastern Europe region UniCredit operates the largest international bank network with around 4,000 branches. The group is currently represented in the following countries: Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Poland, Rumania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Hungary.

Sparkassen Immobilien AG (Bloomberg: SPI.AV, Reuters: SIAG.VI) has been listed on the Vienna stock exchange since 1987 and is thus the longest established real estate investment company in Austria. As property investor it invested in residential, office, hotel and business property in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Rumania and Bulgaria. As at 30 June 2010, the company has property assets in the amount of EUR 1,853.7m with a total floor space of 1.409m m².

ECE develops, plans, builds, leases and manages large commercial real estate in the sectors shopping, office, industries since 1965 and is active in 14 European countries. The company is European market leader with 116 managed shopping centers. On an overall sales area of 3.6 million square meters, about 12,500 retail businesses generate 13.3bn euro in annual sales. Another 21 shopping centers are currently under construction or planned throughout Europe. Recently, ECE took under management another 14 centers in Spain. Further information: www.ece.de