EBRD acquires equity stake in Sofia airport operator

By Olga Rosca

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  • EBRD equity investment in airport operator to total €74.3 million
  • SOF Connect is a joint venture between Meridiam, Munich Airport and Strabag
  • Investment aims to develop a key infrastructure asset in a sustainable manner

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is supporting the development of Sofia airport with an indirect equity investment in SOF Connect, the company operating and managing the airport through a concession agreement with the Bulgarian government. The EBRD’s total investment of €74.3 million will include a €58 million equity investment and a further €16.3 million contingent equity exposure.

The equity investment follows a €50 million loan to SOF Connect earlier this year to support the airport’s transformation.

SOF Connect is a joint venture between Meridiam, an asset manager specialising in public-private-partnership projects, Munich airport and Austrian construction company Strabag, which started operating in April 2021. Among other things, it has committed to a significant airport investment plan, which includes building a new, third Terminal over the next 10 years and making environmental, health and safety upgrades.

Sofia airport is Bulgaria’s main international airport and a focal point for economic development. The arrival of a leading private-sector operator is expected to increase the airport’s competitiveness and significantly improve service standards, boosting long-term growth and development in the country’s capital city and beyond.

Meridiam, the majority owner of SOF Connect, aims to make the airport a model of sustainability. As part of the concession agreement, the operator has committed to improving corporate climate governance and to applying the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. The airport will target climate neutrality by 2036.

Anca Ioana Ionescu, EBRD Director for Bulgaria, said: “This is a landmark investment for us. We are delighted to support the development of Sofia airport as a key infrastructure asset for Bulgaria. Together with our partners, we view this as a market-based solution, with a view to achieving sustainable development. As an investor in Meridiam Infrastructure Eastern Europe Fund and Meridiam Infrastructure Europe III Fund, the EBRD is delighted to join its long-term partner, Meridiam, in this transaction.”

Thierry Déau, Meridiam CEO and founder, said: “We look forward to partnering with the EBRD on this important project, which constitutes a major upgrade to the sustainability and resilience of Bulgaria’s infrastructure and will contribute to its post-Covid economic recovery.”

The EBRD 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 amid the country’s plans to adopt the euro. To date, the EBRD has invested €4 billion in Bulgaria’s economy through 267 projects.

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