Bulgaria high court rules to uphold Sofia Airport concessionaire pick

Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) said on June 5 that it has upheld the competition regulator’s ruling that confirmed the Transport Ministry’s pick of the consortium between French infrastructure investor Meridiam and Munich Airport as the future concessionaire of Sofia Airport.

In a statement, the court said that the Commission for Protection of Competition was correct in its findings that there were no breaches in the concession tender. CPC was also diligent in its oversight of the Transport Ministry’s conduct of the tender and its decision to award the concession in line with the tender’s requirements, the court said.

The case was filed by three of the losing bidders and the court did not say whether the ruling by a three-judge panel could be appealed further. The full court ruling was not immediately available on the SAC website, which had an explanatory note that it was still undergoing the process to remove personal identification data.

Bulgaria’s Transport Ministry picked Meridiam and Munich Airort as the winners in the concession tender in July 2019, a decision that was appealed at the CPC by all four losing bidders – the 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 ruled in November 2019 against the appeal, dismissing them as groundless.

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 photo: Aisano)

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