"We regard retail in a rapidly growing economy such as Bulgariaa compelling investment opportunity," says Peter Donnelly, aprincipal of Quinlan Private, in a release announcing the Plovdivpact. The asset should be further enhanced, he says, from ascensioninto the European Union, increased investment among foreign playersand needed infrastructure upgrades.

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Dublin-based Quinlan Private will continue to identify andacquire "similarly attractive assets" in Bulgaria, says Donnelly,whose firm is acting on behalf of several investment funds. QuinlanPrivate and GE share a 50/50 ownership platform in the Plovdivproperty, similar to the deal in Sofia. The partnership declined toprovide any financial details on the latest investment, but oneestimate puts the transaction at more than $60 million.

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Both the Mall of Plovdiv and the Mall of Sofia in Bulgaria'scapital city were purchased from a development team of Ocif andCCI. The retail market of Plovdiv is undersupplied with modernretail facilities, according to GE Real Estate managing directorKarim Habra, who oversees the Stamford, CT-based group's Centraland Eastern Europe division.

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Not only do market fundamentals appear favorable in Plovdiv,Habra explains that retail has also been one of GE Real Estate's"cornerstones of growth" regionally. "We firmly believe that thissector of the market offers us a strong opportunity in Bulgaria,"he says, and comes following successful buying campaigns in Polandand the Czech Republic focused on retail product.

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GE and Quinlan have already made 50% of their investment to buythe Mall at Plovdiv, with the remainder to be issued upon itscompletion in late 2008. More than 50% of a three-story, 160,000-sfretail gallery that will anchor the mall has been pre-leased, andthe new ownership reports brisk demand for the remainder. Otherelements of the Mall at Plovdiv will be a 27,000-sf supermarket; a160,000-sf electronics store run by Technomarket; and a 10-screenmovie theater totaling 32,000 sf.

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Located in the southern tier of Bulgaria, Plovdiv has about350,000 residents, with only Sofia, the capital, more populated at1.25 million. The Mall of Sofia, which opened a year ago, is largerthan the Plovdiv entry. The 800,000-sf Sofia complex is anchored by350,000 sf of retail, and also contains 10,000 meters of officespace, a 12-screen cinema and parking for 700 vehicles. Donnellysays Quinlan is pursuing other retail deals in Central Europe, butdeclined to identify the prospects.

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