The bid deadline for Sofia Airport 35-year concession, has been extended to November 23rd 2018

The previous deadline for the one-stage process was October 22nd. However, this was pushed back as a result of changes to the draft concession agreement.

Among the active bidders are: VTB Group, TAV Airports Group, Fraport, Eiffage and newly bidder Manchester Airports Group(MAG).

MAG also pointed out its successful track record in “working with Middle Eastern hub to develop onward global connectivity from its UK airports via Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Muscat, which are all within 5 hours flight time of Sofia,” and said that part of its focus would be to introduce more flights to Western Balkan cities such as Belgrade, Zagreb, Sarajevo and Tirana.

“We have already undertaken a considerable amount of work in relation to this opportunity and have a clear vision as to how we will deliver a passenger experience and global route network for Sofia airport that is comparable to other top-tier airports around the world.”

MAG and its team of local advisers have spent more than two years to assess the potential of Sofia Airport.

Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said: “MAG has invested heavily in its airports in the UK and has seen consistent sustainable growth. I am pleased to support their bid to share this success at Sofia airport and a trusted airport operator like MAG is the right company to be investing in Bulgaria as Britain seeks to strengthen its economic ties.”

At the same time, the involvement of Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG), which MAG described as “one of the world’s top 250 construction companies”, would bring new opportunities for collaboration between Bulgaria and China, the company said.

“We see our involvement in our bid for Sofia Airport as an extension of the memorandum of understanding between China and Bulgaria as part of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative. The project represents a real opportunity for us to further explore joint infrastructure opportunities,” said Xing Yan, regional director of BCEG International.

In 2000 Sofia Airport renovated Terminal 1 with annual capacity for 1.8 million passengers per year. It added a second runway in 2006.

It opened an eight-level Terminal 2 in 2006 with capacity for 2.6 million passengers per year and then extended it to add 200,000 extra annual capacity in December 2013.

The delay has allowed the government to update the tender criteria and it has opted to set more ambitious goals for the future concession holder – instead of building a new Terminal 1 with seven jetways with an annual passenger flow capacity of at least three million people, it now requires building a Terminal 3, keeping the old Terminal 1, currently in use mainly by low-cost airlines, in operation.