New planes for Air One

SOFIA – Italy’s second-largest airline Air One offered to buy new planes worth 500 million euros ($626.9 million) for Bulgaria’s state flag-carrier Bulgaria Air if it wins a tender to buy the airline, it said yesterday. Air One offered to pay 5.3 million Bulgarian levs ($3.4 million) to buy 99.99 percent in Bulgaria Air and to invest 11.6 million euros over five years in a tender last week. A bid by its only rival, Bulgarian privately held Hemus Air, was higher at 13 million levs and 82 million respectively. But Air One said it would buy 15 new Airbus-320s to replace Bulgaria Air’s nine leased Boeings from 2007 to 2011, a plan not revealed when the bids were initially opened on October 12. «We are offering to replace Bulgaria Air’s planes with new ones,» said Veselina Panova, a lawyer with Air One. The planes would be owned by a leasing unit to be established by Air One and maintained by another part of the future Bulgaria Air Group, she said. The company would secure around 200 million euros of the total value of the new planes in the first two years, but Panova would give no details on the financing. Bulgaria Air has around a 30 percent market share on flights in and out of the Black Sea country and is a main conduit for Western Europeans to access Bulgaria’s booming tourist resorts. The state-run carrier has not released financial results this year, but sources close to the company have said it was around 8 million levs in the red through September. The privatization agency has said it would assess the two bids and choose a winner a week from the date the offers were opened.