German and French firms to contest Sofia’s airport project awards

SOFIA – Fraport and Vinci Airports is contesting a Bulgarian government decision to let Denmark’s Copenhagen Airports upgrade and run its two main Black Sea airports, court and company officials said yesterday. Germany’s Fraport and France’s Vinci Airports took part in the tender to operate the terminals in the coastal cities of Varna and Burgas. Copenhagen won the tender earlier this month but a court official said its competitors have appealed the result, which could potentially delay the deal. «We have two appeals against the government’s decision from Fraport and Vinci, which were filed on Friday. They will be processed in due course,» Rosa Georgieva, spokeswoman for the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court, said. Georgieva said she could not reveal details of the appeals before the court decides on their validity. Fraport declined to comment yesterday, but last week said it would ask for information concerning the government’s decision because Copenhagen would be hard pressed to meet certain commitments in its offer. Vinci Airports’ senior vice president of operations, Chris Orphanou, said his company had appealed to clear up how the bids had been ranked. «We were told we had the strongest business plan and investment plan and the second-highest concession fee… and we were astonished to be third,» Orphanou told Reuters. «We hope the court will provide us with a justifiable explanation.» Bulgarian Transport Minister Nikolai Vassilev has said the government picked Copenhagen Airports mainly due to the high annual concession fee offered – 30 percent of either airport taxes or concession activities, whichever is higher. Vassilev said the company offered to invest 106 million euros over the first three years and 526 million euros in total over the 35-year concession period. A German-Bulgarian consortium, led by construction firm Hochtief, was also vying for the deal. The government is struggling to bring the terminals up to EU standards before Bulgaria joins the Union in 2007, as they are the main gateways to its booming Black Sea tourism industry.

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