Bulgaria signs concession deal for Sofia Airport

Bulgaria’s transport ministry signed on Wednesday a deal with a consortium led by asset manager Meridiam to run and operate Sofia Airport, the Balkan country’s main air transport hub, for 35 years, the government said.

Meridiam, which has teamed up with Germany’s Munich Airport as operator for the Sofia Airport, won the tender last July, offering an annual concession fee of €24.5 million ($28.24 million) and investment of €608 million.

The deal was signed on Wednesday after a Bulgarian court cleared appeals by three other contenders for the concession: a consortium led by France’s ADP, Germany’s Fraport and Britain’s largest airport operator Manchester Airports Group.

Austrian construction company Strabag is also part of the consortium that will run the airport as well as renovate it and build a third passenger terminal.

Bulgaria picked the Meridiam-led consortium for the long-term deal although the consortium did not offer the highest annual concession fees, nor the biggest investment in the airport.

Bulgaria will seek to grant a 35-year concession to operate the airport in the country’s second largest city, Plovdiv, following two unsuccessful attempts to find an investor, the transport minister said on Thursday.

Rosen Zhelyazkov said he expected prospective bidders to pay 5% of the annual gross revenue from the concession on top of a fixed annual concession fee and invest at least 100 million levs ($56 million) in the small airport in southern Bulgaria.

“We expect an interest for the airport, whose development will boost transport connectivity in the region,” he told reporters after a government meeting.

The state-owned airport has also served as a reserve landing ground for Sofia Airport.

In 2018, Sofia picked China’s HNA Group to run and operate Plovdiv, but the company did not sign the contract amid a large-scale divestment plan to cut its debts and the government cancelled the process. An earlier attempt in 2016 failed to attract bidders.

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