Manchester airport among bidders for Sofia Airport deal – despite €550m concession fee

Bulgaria’s Transport Ministry has received five bids to take over Sofia Airport, build a third terminal and study the feasibility of adding second runway, it was announced at the end of last week.

The five bidders for the concession are:

  • The Vitosha Consortium, consisting of Manchester Airports Group and its partner the Beijing Construction Engineering Group;
  • SOF Connect Consortium, made up of Munich Airport and French infrastructure investor Meridiam;
  • The UBB Consortium Sofia Airport JV, comprising Copenhagen Airports with Swiss-based SSB Sauerwein & Schaefer;
  • Fraport Bulgari, with Frankfurt operator Fraport;
  • The Aéroports de Paris Consortium, which also includes Turkey’s TAV Havalimanlari Holding.

The Aéroports de Paris Consortium, which also includes Turkey’s TAV Havalimanlari Holding.

The Sofia Globe notes that Manchester Airports Group, which also operates London Stansted airports, announced its intention to bid as far back as October 2018.

A model of the planned third terminal in the airport’s departure hall (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The team with the best knowledge of Bulgaria is probably Fraport, which already operates in Bulgaria as the concession holder of the Varna and Bourgas airports on the Black Sea coast.

TAV Havalimanlari Holding has regional knowledge, as it operates airports in Turkey, including Istanbul Ataturk, as well as airports in Croatia and North Macedonia.

Bulgaria will charge the winning bidder an up-front concession fee of at least €550m, which it intends to spend on upgrading the state-owned railway.

The ministry said on its website that the tenders will be examined at an open commission meeting, which will be held on 9 May. Participants or their representatives, as well as others, may attend the meeting.

The concession tender, which was announced in July 2018, is Bulgaria’s second attempt to pick a concessionaire for the country’s largest airport. 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.

Top image: In 2017, Sofia airport recorded more than 6 million visitors for the first time (Aisano/CC BY-SA 4.0)

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