Vinci to appeal Bulgarian decision on airports deal

SOFIA (Reuters) – French construction group Vinci has appealed against a Bulgarian government decision to grant its two Black Sea airport concessions to Germany’s Fraport, a court official said yesterday. The move will delay once again the Balkan country’s efforts to remove bottlenecks and modernize the gateways to its booming tourism industry before planned European Union entry next year. Fraport won a tender to run the airports at the Black Sea cities of Varna and Burgas last month, outbidding a tie-up of Vinci Airports and Vinci Concessions, after pledging to invest 403 million euros for 35 years. Supreme Administrative Court spokeswoman Rosa Georgieva said the French group had appealed but a hearing was not likely to be held before September due to court summer recess. She declined to give details of the appeal, and the French consortium was not immediately available for comment. The Transport Ministry, which has been eager to close the deal to boost the upgrade of the two outdated airports, said the move would block the concession until the court rules. It declined to comment on the appeal’s grounds. «We will wait for the court to rule before we can move forward on the concession,» said Valia Luleva, Transport Ministry spokeswoman. A Fraport spokesman said the company remained optimistic on the outcome but declined further comment. Besides the investment pledge, the German operator also has agreed to pay an annual concession fee of 19.2 percent of either airport taxes or all airport revenue, whichever is higher. A source from the Bulgarian Transport Ministry who declined to be named said Vinci believed the government had violated the tender procedure by renegotiating with Fraport the annual concession fee from its initial bid of 16.8 percent. In June of last year, the previous government signed a 526-million-euro deal allowing Denmark’s Copenhagen Airports to operate the airports. But the Supreme Administrative Court annulled that contract following appeals from Fraport and Vinci, who ranked second and third respectively in the tender, and ordered the government to choose a new winner.