The EBRD is exploring providing a long-term financing to support concession of Sofia International Airport.
The Bank's financing would support expansion of the private sector participation in the infrastructure sector in Bulgaria. The project will include modernisation and upgrade of a strategic airport infrastructure in the country.
ETI score: 64
The expected transition impact of the project is derived from material improvements in quality and efficiency of the airport operations contributing to future air transport growth in Bulgaria (Competitive quality), and support for the largest concession in Bulgaria's transport sector and the first major PPP project in Bulgaria over the last decade which will be a landmark private sector transaction (Resilient quality).
SOF CONNECT AD
SOF Connect AD as the concessionaire will be the borrower. SOF Connect is a Special Purpose Vehicle owned by a consortium led by a well-established infrastructure sector long-term independent investment firm Meridiam.
EBRD Finance Summary
Up to EUR 85 million loan.
Project finance loan, which will be a part of a wider debt package provided jointly with other international financial institutions and commercial banks.
Total Project Cost
The Bank's loan fills a market funding gap and is required to structure the project, especially in the current Covid-19 crisis conditions. Considering that the project will be the first large scale infrastructure concession in the country, presence of the EBRD in the process is key to ensure a successful implementation, making the Bank strongly additional.
Environmental and Social Summary
Categorised B (2014 ESP). The Project is associated with a number of environmental, health, safety and social ("EHS") sensitivities that have been assessed during E&S Due Diligence ("ESDD") undertaken by an independent consultant and confirmed to be site-specific and managed through application of good international practice. The EBRD loan will fund primarily upfront concession fee. Findings of the ESDD and Bank's previous experience with Meridiam confirm that the Concessionaire has the institutional capacity to deliver the Project in line with EBRD's Performance Requirements ("PRs") and has already commenced implementation of the Environmental & Social Management System ("ESMS") and strengthening of airport EHS team with plans for certification by 2022 (as per Concession agreement). The ESDD has concluded that current airport operations are aligned with national and EU requirements. It is understood however that the Airport Masterplan under current development will need to undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment ("EIA") process in the future and specific Capex projects in the future will be subject to separate, dedicated financing.
The ESDD has confirmed that the airport manages noise impacts on surrounding communities in line with national regulations developed by Bulgarian Civil Aviation Authority, which are aligned with ICAO noise abatement protocol, and the national ambient noise standards. In line with those regulations the Airport has introduced a ban on take-off and landing between 23:00-6:00 and restrictions on night-time flights overs the city. Following the Airport's expansion in 2000, a Sanitary Protection Zone ("SPZ") was established around the Airport and there have been no new developments within the zone. The SPZ overrides the national ambient noise standards and set it at 60dB within this restricted area. Legacy noise impacts on the residential properties within the SPZ have been addressed through a property insulation programme implemented by the Airport between 2004 and 2012 and covering 260 properties. A noise monitoring programme is in place since 2004 and results are submitted to the national Environmental Agency annually and disclosed to the public. The ESDD and the review of the noise monitoring confirms compliance with the ambient noise and indoor noise standards as per WHO Noise Guidelines for the European Region (2018) outside the SPZ and with indoor standards (through completed noise insulation) within the SPZ. In 2019 the Airport further developed a Strategic Noise Map as a result of new regulations aligned with the EU Noise Directive. The Airport has established a functioning grievance mechanism for the public. The Concession Agreement ("CA") stipulates that the new operator has to update the Noise Action Plan in compliance with EU /ICAO Balanced Approach. This work has already commenced and is covenanted under the ESAP to ensure alignment with PR3 and Balanced Approach.
Sofia Airport is certified under the ACI Europe Airport Carbon Accreditation Programme. The CA requires that climate neutral operations are achieved for all operations of all companies and operators on the Airport by 2036.The ESDD confirmed that management of hazardous substances is at a satisfactory level. Procedures and permits are in place for the site activities including use and storage of fuels, waste storage, waste disposal, groundwater abstraction and discharge of surface drainage to the Iskar River. A contaminated land desktop study has been undertaken and a site investigation is planned to ascertain the level of historical land contamination present on site. The CA sets out responsibilities and liabilities in relation to contamination and places these on Grantor, the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications of the Republic of Bulgaria. The Airport is located approximately 1 km from the European-level designated ecological site Dolin Bogrov-Kazichene, a Special Protection Area ("SPA") designated under the EU Birds Directive. A Biodiversity Management Plan consistent with recommended ICAO practices and the International Bird Strike Committee (Recommended Practices) requirements will be developed as per the Concession Agreement. Furthermore, the ESAP requires a biodiversity assessment to be undertaken for the SPA and wildlife of the River Iskar to ascertain PR6 related impacts and determine further mitigation measures if required.
The current operator's HR provisions are in line with local requirements and broadly comply with PR 2. The airport currently employs over 2300 staff and the Concessionaire is planning retrenchment in the medium term, however there are no defined plans in this regard yet. Both the Concession Agreement and the Collective Agreement in place require development of a detailed Retrenchment Plan and consultation process with two registered trade unions and individual employees. Further PR2 requirements relating to future retrenchment and improvements to HR management are covenanted in the proposed ESAP. The current OHS management is limited and follows national requirements. Further work is required to achieve compliance with PR4, and as part of the CA and overall ESMS review. This has been confirmed by Concessionaires plans to achieve ISO 45001 certification by 2022.
Small scale land acquisition of arable land undertaken in 2006 has been reviewed as part of ESDD and found compliant with the PR5. Although the Project is not expected to be associated with future land acquisition, the ESAP contains references to PR5.
E&S performance information (inclusive of noise monitoring results) is regularly disclosed to public via airport website. This includes operational restrictions and additional safety procedures related to Covid-19 and other public emergency situations. A Public Grievance Mechanism in place. A Non-Technical Summary ("NTS") of the Project and a corporate Stakeholder Engagement Plan ("SEP") have been prepared and will be published on the Client's web-site.
An ESAP has been developed and agreed, in principle, with the Borrower. The ESAP includes the requirements to prepare an overarching ESMS including E&S management plans and an updated OHS management system; undertake appropriate E&S due diligence of any future development plans to Lenders' requirements including preparation of land acquisition documents; update HR policies to include provision of Grievance Mechanism; improve energy efficiency; assess historical land contamination, biodiversity assessment of the SPA, third party life and fire safety audit and preparation of project-specific SEPs for future developments at the airport. The Bank will monitor environmental and social compliance of the Borrower through annual environmental and social reports ("AESRs") and site visits as required.
Technical Cooperation and Grant Financing
The following technical cooperation (the "TC") assignments were undertaken for the Grantor and related to early development phases of this project:
A total of EUR 1.42 million in support of the project preparation work including: (i) EUR 0.26 million from the EBRD IPPF; (ii) EUR 0.95 million from the World Bank Global Infrastructure Facility ("GIF") mobilised by both EBRD and International Finance Corporation (IFC); and (iii) EUR 0.21 million in financial and transaction advisory services from IFC. EBRD procured and funded legal consultancy services while IFC covered the technical, environmental and social advisory services. Under the terms of IPPF's reimbursability policy, the full amount of TC was repaid to the Bank at the time of the signing the concession agreement. EBRD was not involved in the decision-making process of the Grantor.
Company Contact Information
+33 1 53 34 96 96
4 Place de l'Opera 75002 Paris France
PSD last updated
18 Dec 2020
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Environmental and Social Policy (ESP)
The ESP and the associated Performance Requirements (PRs) set out the ways in which the EBRD implements its commitment to promoting “environmentally sound and sustainable development”. The ESP and the PRs include specific provisions for clients to comply with the applicable requirements of national laws on public information and consultation as well as to establish a grievance mechanism to receive and facilitate resolution of stakeholders’ concerns and grievances, in particular, about environmental and social performance of the client and the project. Proportionate to the nature and scale of a project’s environmental and social risks and impacts, the EBRD additionally requires its clients to disclose information, as appropriate, about the risks and impacts arising from projects or to undertake meaningful consultation with stakeholders and consider and respond to their feedback.
More information on the EBRD’s practices in this regard is set out in the ESP.
Integrity and Compliance
The EBRD's Office of the Chief Compliance Officer (OCCO) promotes good governance and ensures that the highest standards of integrity are applied to all activities of the Bank in accordance with international best practice. Integrity due diligence is conducted on all Bank clients to ensure that projects do not present unacceptable integrity or reputational risks to the Bank. The Bank believes that identifying and resolving issues at the project assessment approval stages is the most effective means of ensuring the integrity of Bank transactions. OCCO plays a key role in these protective efforts, and also helps to monitor integrity risks in projects post-investment.
OCCO is also responsible for investigating allegations of fraud, corruption and misconduct in EBRD-financed projects. Anyone, both within or outside the Bank, who suspects fraud or corruption should submit a written report to the Chief Compliance Officer by email to email@example.com. All matters reported will be handled by OCCO for follow-up. All reports, including anonymous ones, will be reviewed. Reports can be made in any language of the Bank or of the Bank's countries of operation. The information provided must be made in good faith.
Access to Information Policy (AIP)
The AIP sets out how the EBRD discloses information and consults with its stakeholders so as to promote better awareness and understanding of its strategies, policies and operations following its entry into force on 1 January 2020. Please visit the Access to Information Policy page to find out what information is available from the EBRD website.
Specific requests for information can be made using the EBRD Enquiries form.
Independent Project Accountability Mechanism (IPAM)
If efforts to address environmental, social or public disclosure concerns with the Client or the Bank are unsuccessful (e.g. through the Client’s Project-level grievance mechanism or through direct engagement with Bank management), individuals and organisations may seek to address their concerns through the EBRD’s Independent Project Accountability Mechanism (IPAM).
IPAM independently reviews Project issues that are believed to have caused (or to be likely to cause) harm. The purpose of the Mechanism is: to support dialogue between Project stakeholders to resolve environmental, social and public disclosure issues; to determine whether the Bank has complied with its Environmental and Social Policy or Project-specific provisions of its Access to Information Policy; and where applicable, to address any existing non-compliance with these policies, while preventing future non-compliance by the Bank.
Please visit the Independent Project Accountability Mechanism webpage to find out how to submit a Request for review through our confidential online form, by email, mail or telephone. IPAM is available to discuss your concerns and answer any questions you may have about the submission or handling of Requests, which follow the Project Accountability Policy and Guidance. Requesters’ identities may be kept confidential, upon request.