A consortium led by HNA Group’s airport management subsidiary has won a tender for a 35-year concession to operate Plovdiv Airport, Bulgaria’s fourth-busiest aviation facility. As part of the bid, the consortium will invest at least $97 million over the first five years of the concession on new facilities and the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure.
The tender, first announced in January 2017, was suspended in July of that year when a disqualified bidder lodged a court appeal. The tender was resumed after Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court dismissed the appeal in March.
HNA Group is one of a number of private conglomerates facing pressure from the Chinese government to curb so-called “irrational investment” and reduce its leverage. While the Plovdiv bid is surprising in this context, it may indicate that airport investments are seen as within the constraints of Belt and Road, given that new Chinese capital controls explicitly carved out space for BRI-related investment.