Bulgaria’s Transport Ministry opened the bids in the concession tender for Sofia Airport on May 9, with the consortium between France’s Aeroports de Paris and Turkish TAV Havalimanlari Holding emerging as the early front-runner, having offered the highest annual concession fee.
The consortium offered an annual fee of 32.4 million euro, while the other four bids ranged between 19.9 million euro and 26 million euro, the ministry said in a statement. All bids were significantly higher than the 15 million leva (about 7.7 million euro) minimum threshold that the ministry set in the tender documentation.
All five bidders that submitted offers before the April 11 deadline were qualified to proceed to the offer appraisal stage, Transport Minister Rossen Zhelyazkov said. “We are glad that this is such a competitive process. The offers themselves and the way they are structured show a very serious approach towards the airport’s development,” he said.
The five bidders were the Aeroports de Paris-TAV Havalimanlari Holding consortium, 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, and Frankfurt airport operator Fraport.
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. Aeroports de Paris is the largest single shareholder in TAV Havalimanlari Holding.
Manchester Airports Group operates the Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted airports. Fraport already operates in Bulgaria as the concession holder of the Varna and Bourgas airports at the country’s Black Sea coast.
Zhelyazkov warned against drawing premature conclusions about the outcome of the tender. “You know that the appraisal is a complex one and we currently have clarity about the components that form 55 per cent of the final score,” he said, referring to the concession fee offers. The remaining 45 per cent of the score will be based on the technical criteria of the bids, under the tender’s terms.
Speaking to reporters, he declined to give a deadline for designating the tender winner, but said that it would take at least 10 days, Bulgarian National Radio reported.
Bulgaria called the tender for a 35-year concession of Sofia Airport, the country’s largest air hub, in July 2018. In addition to annual fees, it asked for a 550 million leva (about 281.2 million euro) up-front payment and 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.
Four of the five bidders also indicated planned investment amounts, which ranged from 608 million euro to one billion euro.