Negotiations have resumed with the six prequalified bidders for the long-awaited build-transfer-operate (BTO) contract for a new airport at Enfidha. The resumption follows a positive response by Tunis on several points regarded as crucial to the process of attracting investors.

The existing airport at Monastir, 60 kilometres from the proposed Enfidha facility, will now be made part of the concession. Its inclusion is important to give the selected operator a revenue stream during construction and to remove the issue of competition between the two airports.

The government has also agreed to raise the cost of landing fees and passenger taxes over the course of three-four years to bring them broadly in line with similar tourist airports in North Africa. Finally, Tunis has accepted that the new airport will not be as luxurious as originally envisaged. Demands for a costly state-of-the-art facility were seen as a discouragement to potential bidders, since the airport will serve mainly tourist charter flights.

The six prequalifiers for the BTO contract are: Turkey’s Tepe Akfen Ventures (TAV); a French team of Aeroports de Paris and Vinci; Germany’s Hochtief, with Canada’s SNC Lavalin and Aeroport de Nice; Airports Company South Africa; Aeropuertos & Servicios Auxiliares with Immobilliaria Furnisa, both of Mexico; and Argentina’s Corporacion America Sudamericana. The first three are viewed as the frontrunners for the project (MEED 9:9:05).

The contract is now due to be finalised by year-end. A consortium led by Rothschild is advising the government. Some urgency has been added by plans to build a major greenfield deepwater port at Enfidha.