Bulgaria receives five offers in Sofia Airport concession tender

Bulgaria’s Transport Ministry said on April 11 that it has received five bids in the concession tender for the Sofia Airport, the country’s largest air hub.

The five bidders listed by the ministry were Manchester Airports Group in consortium with China’s state-owned Beijing Construction Engineering Group, French infrastructure investor Meridiam alongside Munich Airport, Swiss-based SSB Sauerwein & Schaefer with Copenhagen Airports, Frankfurt airport operator Fraport, and Turkey’s TAV Havalimanlari Holding with Aeroports de Paris.

Of those bidders, Manchester Airports Group, which operates the Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted airports, had announced its intention to bid as far back as October 2018, before the first of five deadline extensions ordered by the transport ministry.

Fraport already operates in Bulgaria as the concession holder of the Varna and Bourgas airports at the country’s Black Sea coast.

TAV Havalimanlari Holding has extensive operations in the region, as it operates several airports in Turkey, including the Istanbul Ataturk Airport, but also airports in Croatia and North Macedonia.

Bulgaria’s government wants to use the large up-front concession fee from the tender – at least 550 million leva (about 281.2 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.

The next stage of the process will take place on May 9, when the assessment committee will open the bids, the transport ministry said in a statement.

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 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.



The Sofia Globe staff

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