ATTRACTIVE CANDIDATES COMPETE FOR THE SECOND DANUBE BRIDGE
The designing and the construction of the second bridge across the Danube river near the towns of Vidin and Kalafat attracted quite respectable European construction companies. Five consortiums and an independent company were included in the short list approved by the European Commission (EC) early last week. Among the candidates, according to the Ministry of Transport's official announcement made on October 19, there are corporations with an impressive construction record but with no experience in Bulgaria, as well as companies already well known in the country. All of them will compete for winning the project which will cost EUR236MN, of which EUR226MN will be used for construction of the bridge and the adjoining infrastructure and the rest will serve for preliminary research works, designing and consulting. The resources are provided under the PHARE and ISPA programs of the European Union (EU), as well as by the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Federal Republic of Germany's reconstruction credit institution (KfW), France's development agency (AFD), and Bulgaria's budget.
A consortium between the German Bilfinger Berger and the Belgian Besix companies tops the list. The Germans execute construction contracts in the private and public sector. Their interests spread to the markets in Australia, Europe and Germany. The group's portfolio includes designing and building blocks of flats and infrastructural projects. Among the last projects completed by Bilfinger Berger is one for building six schools in Great Britain worth EUR130MN. The company is building 26 km of the Trans Canada highway. The price of the project amounts to some EU100MN. Bilfinger Berger's first half profit before tax is EUR31MN and its net profit amounts to EUR16MN. The managers expect its net profit to grow to EUR70MN as of December 31, 2005, since contracts totalling EUR6.9BN have been signed.
The other participant in the consortium, Besix, is Belgium's biggest construction group. It was established in 1909 and is currently operating in Central and East Europe, Egypt, Libya, Central Africa and the Middle East. In 2004, the company reported a EUR876MN turnover. It employs more than 10,000 people.
A leading partner in the second consortium applying for the construction of the second Danube bridge is the French Bouygues Travaux Publics. The two other members are the Varna-based Transstroy and the Italian Rizzani de Eccher. According to information published on the French company's website, the French candidates are experts in the building of tunnel infrastructure and public transport. The company has subsidiaries in Switzerland, South Africa and Hong Kong. In 2004, it signed agreements totally worth EUR749MN. Among the most important of them are those for construction of several large tunnels - Ferden in the Swiss Alpes, Soumagne in Belgium, Lok Mu Chau in Hong Kong, Groene Hart in the Netherlands and the underground in Toulouse.
The Bulgarian member of the tripartite coalition, the Varna-based Transstroy, is the only contractor in Bulgaria of all types of sea and river ports with the adjoining buildings, warehouses, crane mechanisation, electricity supply and other engineering communications. The company has specialists, workers and specific equipment that allow it to build bridges, tunnels, overhead crossings and subways. Its foreign projects include highways, a by-road in Iraq, a port complex in the Ukranian port of Reni, port complexes and transport infrastructure in Nigeria.
Rizzani de Eccher is among Italy's largest holdings occupied with designing and construction. It operates in the Philippines, Singapur, Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Bosnia, Greece, Cyprus, etc. The Italians are aware of the business climate in Bulgaria. They were among the companies that applied for the Vassil Levski national stadium reconstruction contract. They were defeated in the competition by Glavbolgarstroy.
In fact, Rizzani de Eccher will again face Bulgaria's biggest constructor. Glavbolgarstroy is also among the short-listed applicants for the Danube bridge, but in partnership with another local company, Moststroy, and the French Vinci C.G.P. Moststroy is owned by the businessman Vassil Bozhkov and is going to build the road to the new Sofia airport. In turn, the French are part of the Vinci Group which took part in the competition for concessionaire of the air ports in Varna and Bourgas through subsidiaries and is now appealing against the choice made.
The fourth consortium was formed by the Singapur-registered Ed. Zublin AG, the Austrian Alpine Mayreder Bau and the French Eiffel Construction Metallique. There is only scant information about the first company. Yet, the other two are well known in Bulgaria. Alpine Mayreder Bau is among the contractors of the Tsankov Kamuk power plant and the Yadenitsa reservoir. The Austrians were also among the candidates to modernize the Plovdiv-Svilengrad railway road, but they lost against the Greek Terna. Eiffel Construction Metallique hardly needs to be introduced, too. It is the leader on the French market of metal constructions. It is building a hoisting crane for the reactor of the new Okiluoto nuclear power plant in Finland (44.3 metres high, able to lift 320 tons), it is working on the rehabilitation of the Tunisian railway roads which should be finished by April 2006, as well as on the renovation of the city-hall in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.
The last consortium in the list is between the German Hochtief Construction and the Spanish Obrascon Huarte Lain. The Germans were among the contestants to become concessionaire of the airports in the seaside towns along with Albena joint-stock company, but they lost against the Danish Kopenhagen Airports. The Spaniards are among the biggest construction companies not just in their home country but also abroad. They have representative offices in 16 countries on four different continents.
The only independent applicant to gain the Danube bridge construction contract is the Spanish Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas. The company was established back in 1900 and can boast of considerable achievements. Last year the Romanian government entrusted it the reconstruction of 30 km of the highway between Cluj and Livada totally worth EUR25.3MN. Last February the Spaniards won the competition for maintenance of the Ostende - Bruge airport. They are now building a 2.8-km section of the Madrid underground worth EUR87MN, a mountain tunnel in Bilbao, a 60-km highway in Costa Rica. Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas is Europe's largest cement producer. It has six factories in Spain as well as two in the United States. The contracts it signed in 2004 total EUR6.28BN, of which EUR3.09BN are due to construction works. The gross profit of the company for that period amounts to EUR851MN.
According to the conditions set by the EC, short-listed applicants can neither establish alliances nor subcontract with each other. As established by the preliminary schedule, the agreement with the selected contractor must be signed by the middle of 2006. The term for construction of the equipment is 38 months. The adjoining infrastructure will be shaped within two years and the construction will finish simultaneously with the completion of the bridge in 2009.