(Adds details, background)
SOFIA, March 21 Bulgaria should cancel its
tender to run and operate Sofia airport, interim Transport
Minister Hristo Aleksiev said on Tuesday, adding that granting
concession rights for 35 years at the country's main airport was
not in the public interest.
The deadline for bids, currently May 19, has been delayed
four times since last May when the previous government launched
"The public interest is not sufficiently protected and it
(the concession) will lead to an increase in airport fees and an
outflow of traffic through Bulgaria and the airport," Aleksiev
told a news conference.
He said he will sent the proposal for the cancellation of
the tender, which was projected to bring 1.2 billion levs
($663.42 million) into state coffers, to the government this
One of the first jobs of the interim government after it
took office in January was to extend the deadline for the tender
until May to allow a new government that will take over after
snap polls this Sunday pick a winner.
Aleksiev's statement came days after Kornelia Ninova, the
leader of the leftist Socialist party, appealed to the
government to cancel the tender to avoid Turkish companies
taking control of the airport amid rising tensions with
neighbouring Turkey over its meddling in the Bulgarian election.
Turkey's Limak Holding, Russia's VTB Capital and
Switzerland's Flughafen Zuerich are planning to jointly
bid for the right to operate the airport, a source familiar with
the process told Reuters.
Turkish airports group TAV, in which French
Groupe ADP has a 38 percent stake, is also considering
a bid, local media reported.
Last week, Bulgaria's national security agency said it had
expelled a Turkish citizen and banned two others from entering
the country over what it described as activities against
Bulgaria's sovereignty and national unity.
The interim government summoned Turkey's envoy to Sofia
after reports that a Turkish minister had campaigned for a
Bulgarian party in Istanbul, where many Bulgarian citizens live.
It also recalled its own ambassador to Turkey for consultations.
The airport, which was used by 5 million passengers last
year, is currently operated by the state.
($1 = 1.8088 leva)
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing
by Jason Neely and Ed Osmond)