Bulgaria’s Transport Ministry has postponed the deadline for bids in the tender for the 35-year concession on Sofia Airport for a fifth time, to April 11.
The previous deadline was April 3, but the Transport Ministry initially sought to receive binding bids by October 22 2018, which was pushed back several times to give additional information at the request of prospective bidders.
The latest postponement, however, has been caused by changes to the tender documentation to reflect changes to Bulgaria’s Concession Act, meant to ease concerns raised by prospective investors in the tender for the Sofia Airport.
Some reports in Bulgarian media claimed that Bulgarian President Roumen Radev, who opposes the concession tender, deliberately delayed the publication of the bill in order to cause a new postponement. The amended law was published in Bulgaria’s State Gazette on March 25, the Transport Ministry said, the same day that it sent the notification about tender documentation changes for publication in the Official Journal of the EU.
Called in July 2018, this is Bulgaria’s second attempt to pick a concessionaire for the country’s largest air hub. The first process, launched in 2016 by the previous government of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, also saw several delays before it was scrapped by a Radev-appointed caretaker government in March 2017.
Its arguments for calling the tender off closely mirrored those put forward by the opposition socialists, who claimed that it was against the state’s interests to offer the airport on concession. The socialists have made several calls in parliament for the Cabinet to cancel the tender and.
The Cabinet wants to use the large up-front concession fee – at least 550 million euro – on the country’s ailing state railway BDZ, settling its outstanding debts and to purchase new rolling stock. It also set an ambitious investment programme for the future concession holder, requiring it to build a third terminal at the airport and to undertake a study on possibly building a second runway.
So far, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which operates the Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted airports, has said it planned to make a bid in the tender.
Media reports have named Germany’s Fraport, which holds the concession on the Varna and Bourgas airports at Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, France’s Aeroports de Paris and Switzerland’s Flughaven Zurich as interested parties that could join the race for Bulgaria’s largest air hub.