Serbia delays airport tender for third time

The €500m concession has attracted interest from 27 bidders, including the likes of IFM, Meridiam and Ferrovial.

The government of Serbia has delayed the privatisation of Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport for a third time since the launch of the tender in February.

Parties interested in the €500 million financing, maintenance and reconstruction of the operating Nikola Tesla site now have until the end of the month to submit offers following previous deadlines set for March and April.

The Serbian government said the latest delay in the process follows requests from a majority of the airport’s bidders in order to form consortiums with third parties. The tender has generated a wealth of interest from 27 international investors, with Meridiam, Ferrovial and IFM-backed Manchester Airports Group among the interested parties. Other European operators such as Zurich Airport, VINCI and Eiffage have also been shortlisted alongside China’s HNA Group and India’s GMR Infrastructure.

Nikola Tesla Airport has for the last two years experienced a 3 percent uplift in passenger numbers, rising to 4.9 million at the end of 2016. In 2014, the 31 percent increase in passengers made the airport one of the fastest-growing hubs in Europe.

Serbia’s government is required to sell off the airport as part of its $1.4 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund in 2015.

The tender was partially responsible for neighbouring Bulgaria cancelling its own privatisation of Sofia Airport last month, itself a process that was delayed four times before being scrapped. Bulgaria’s government said the concurrent tenders of airports with similar characteristics was unhelpful to its aim of receiving 1.2 billion lev ($652.3 million; €613.4 million) for the site, describing the process as “insufficiently competitive”. Bidders for Nikola Tesla are also required to have no more than a 20 percent ownership in another airport within 450km of the Belgrade site.