WARSAW, Poland — Bulgaria has decided to halt the privatization of a number of state-owned companies, including the country's two leading defense manufacturers, arms maker VMZ Sopot and weapons exporter Kintex.

Bulgarian Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said the cabinet aims to increase the defense industry's role in supplying modernized gear to the country's military and generating additional budget revenues, as reported by news agency PAP.

In 2016, the state-run defense industry managed to significantly increase its sales due to higher exports to the Middle East, Africa and Asia. VMZ Sopot expanded its annual revenues to about 501.3 million lev (US$ 277.7 million), up 392.5 percent compared with a year earlier, according to data obtained by local business daily Capital.

Last year, Bulgaria's Ministry of Finance unveiled plans to privatize VMZ Sopot in 2018 and Kintex in 2019. The funds gained from the sales were to be used to acquire new fighter jets for the Bulgarian Air Force with the aim to replace its Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG-21s.

Bulgaria's Ministry of Economy has drafted a bill under which state-owned companies could only be privatized after a proposal by the country's government is accepted by the parliament. In 2012 and 2013, Sofia attempted to sell a 100 percent stake in VMZ Sopot, which at that time struggled to stay financially afloat, but deals were never completed.

VMZ Sopot's portfolio includes artillery ammunition as well as anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. Kintex specializes in exporting weapons, military equipment and machinery.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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