EBRD backs private operator of Sofia airport

By Olga Rosca

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  • EBRD backs transformation of Sofia airport through financing and advisory services
  • Private investment to boost growth in Bulgarian capital and beyond
  • Concession to pave the way for greater private sector involvement in country’s infrastructure

The airport in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, is set to transform into a modern and competitive European hub under a 35-year public-private partnership arrangement backed by a €50 million loan and advisory services from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Starting today, the airport will be operated by a joint venture between the France-based, infrastructure-focused equity firm Meridiam, Munich airport and the Austrian construction company Strabag

The consortium, also known as SOF Connect, has committed, among other goals, to an investment plan of a minimum of €624 million, which includes building a new Terminal 3 in the next 10 years as well as making environmental, health and safety upgrades.

Sofia Airport is the sixth-largest international airport in central and eastern Europe, with around 7.1 million passengers in 2019. Its modernisation will benefit Bulgaria’s citizens, airport employees and partners, and will boost social, economic, environmental and inclusive growth in the capital and the wider country.

The private operator has received financial backing worth €240 million, which includes the EBRD loan as well as financing from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, and commercial lenders UniCredit, Société Générale, Kommunalkredit and DSK Bank.

In addition, jointly with IFC, the EBRD has provided advisory services through its Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility to the Bulgarian authorities on the structure of the concession, paving the way for greater private sector involvement in the country’s infrastructure.

The Bank is a major investor in Bulgaria, where it focuses on making local firms more competitive at home and abroad, financing modern, sustainable infrastructure and developing financial products and capital markets, given the country’s plans to adopt the euro. To date, the EBRD has invested €4 billion in the Bulgaria’s economy through 268 projects.

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