Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has ruled against the appeals lodged by the four losing bidders in the Sofia Airport concession tender, dismissing them as groundless.
In a lengthy ruling posted on its website late on November 15, the CPC for the first time made public the substance of the appeals. Previously, it had only acknowledged their existence, but gave no details.
The formal appeals covered extensive grounds – their description took 118 pages of the 264-page CPC ruling – and included complaints against their rival bids, as well as the process followed by the Transport Ministry.
By dismissing the appeals from the losing bidders – consortia fronted by Manchester Airports Group and Aéroports de Paris, Germany’s Fraport and the tie-up between Swiss-based SSB Sauerwein & Schaefer and Copenhagen Airports – the regulator effectively confirmed the ministry’s pick of the consortium between French infrastructure investor Meridiam and Munich Airport as the future concessionaire.
The Meridiam-Munich Airport tie-up offered the third-highest guaranteed annual concession fee and had the lowest investment commitment of 608 million euro, but had the most ambitious plan for growing Sofia Airport’s infrastructure and passenger traffic, envisioning to nearly triple the latter to 18 million by 2040.
Called in July 2018, this is Bulgaria’s second attempt to select 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.
(Sofia Airport Terminal 2 photo: Bulgarian Interior Ministry)