ECONOMY

Consortium sues Cyprus over airport tender competition

NICOSIA – A consortium of firms, including a unit of Britain’s BAA, is suing Cyprus for leaving the group out of a tender competition for its airports worth millions of pounds. Cyprus is seeking a strategic investor to plough some 200 million pounds (347 million euros or $302.8 million) into the Larnaca and Paphos airports and run them for the next 20 years. Sources close to the Cypriot-led J&P Consortium told Reuters it had filed a recourse to court for being disqualified from bidding for the build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract for the airports. Government sources, who confirmed the information, said they were reviewing the screening procedure. If the consortium’s petition is upheld by the court, it could delay government plans to hand over administration of the airports to the private sector, a project that has already incurred the wrath of workers’ unions. The government is supposed to ask the five consortia that did qualify for bidding to submit their plans by next month. The J&P consortium is seeking a court decision to either restate the group in the process or declare the bidding process null and void, a source close to the group said. «We believe we submitted all the data required in the prequalification stage, and that we should have got top marks in the assessment,» said the source who requested anonymity. The consortium – comprised of the Joannou and Paraskevaides (J&P) construction group, BAA International, ABB Equity Ventures and Hellenic Technodomiki – filed a lawsuit in the Nicosia district court 10 days ago. A hearing has been set for this month. Eyebrows were raised when the consortium was excluded in the screening process. Nicosia-based J&P, one of the largest construction groups in the Middle East, was among the most prominent of Cypriot firms on the list. The Politis newspaper reported yesterday that its complaints at being ditched went as far as the presidential palace. Government sources said the J&P consortium came sixth out of 10 consortia assessed on the merits of technical know-how, airport experience and financial resources. Acting on advice from the attorney general, the government’s central tenders commission has now been brought in to review the screening process. «We will respect the decision of the board, which will have the final say,» a Communications Ministry official said. The board reviews all public sector contracting and would under normal circumstances have vetted only the final tender contract, not the companies which prequalified in the race.The ministry had initially planned to allow only three to five companies to make final bids.