Bulgaria breaks through to sign Great Wall joint venture

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SOFIA // The beleaguered Bulgarian economy has received some much-needed good news with Great Wall Motor Company, one the biggest Chinese car makers, signing a joint venture deal with Litex Commerce. Great Wall will be investing in a car factory in the eastern European country with plans to assemble four different vehicles under the Great Wall badge - an SUV, a pickup and two passenger cars - by 2011. The deal is seen as an economic coup for Bulgaria and will be the country's first car manufacturing plant. Since the fall of communism, Bulgaria had fallen behind its neighbours - the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania - in this sector, largely because of a lack of history in car making, as well as relative poverty and a small domestic market. But low labour costs, EU membership and low corporate tax have all made the country very attractive to Great Wall. The deal's initial worth is ?80 million (Dh420 million).