SOF Connect wins 35-year concession for Sofia Airport

The French-German consortium SOF Connect has been selected to operate Sofia Airport in the next 35 years. The decision of the concession award commission was announced Wednesday by Transport Minister Rossen Zhelyazkov. He said that all five bidders placed very strong offers.

The concession award procedure was opened in July 2018 and has been supported throughout by the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the EBRD.
SOF Connect with Meridiam Eastern Europe Investments SAS as lead member placed first in the competition with 86.12 points, followed by a consortium between France's Aeroports de Paris and Turkey's TAV Havalimanlari Holding as second, Fraport Bulgaria third, Vitosha Consortium fourth and UBB Consortium Sofia Airport JV coming last.
SOF Connect offered a concession fee of €24.5m a year or 32% of the annual revenue. The French-Turkish consortium offered nearly €32.82m, which was the highest annual concession fee. At €26.5m, the second highest offer was that of UBB Consortium Sofia Airport JV. Fraport Bulgaria EAD offered €21m and Vitosha Consortium nearly €20m.
All five offers exceed considerably the minimum concession fee of BGN 15m, exclusive of VAT, or 10% of the total revenues from all activities in the relevant year.
Three of the five bidders - SOF Connect, Fraport Bulgaria and Vitoshsa Consortium - got the maximum 100 points for their technical proposals.
The financial proposal had 55% weight and the technical proposal 45% weight.
It took the concession commission 90 days to consider the proposals, ask the bidders additional questions and receive their answers.
The concession contract can be signed within 15 days. The decision of the competition commission is appealable within 10 days.
In the event of an appeal, the dispute will heard by the competition regulator and then by the Supreme Administrative Court. The court decision will be final and will be made within a month from the decision of the competition regulator, the Transport Minister explained. "Even if the decision is contested, the appeals procedure will be over in the foreseable future," he said adding that he hopes to have an effective concession contract the soonest possible.
The concession will be a public-private partnership, said Zhelyazkov. The government will continue to have a role in the public infrastructure and secure the strategic and national interests; will be present at Sofia Aiport in regulating the airport fees, border protection, customs, veterinary and other services, he said. The role of the concessionnaire will be to develop the airport as an asset and improve the services it offers by investing in the infrastructure, which shall remain public state property, he added.
During the 35 years of the concession, the operator of the airport will be expected to build a new terminal and a new runway within a ten-year period.

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