By Stelios Orphanides
A company run by former Cobalt director Urs Meisterhans is bidding for a Bulgarian airport concession with a firm owned by the airline’s chairman Gregory Diacou, Bulgaria’s financial news-site Capital.bg reported on Thursday.
Prinz von Preussen Capital Ltd, a company run by Meisterhans, is the leader of the Silk Road Plovdiv Airport (DZZD) consortium, one of the three bidders, Capital.bg said, citing the website of Bulgaria’s ministry of transport. Prinz von Preussen Capital is affiliated with Switzerland’s Prinz von Preussen AG.
Cyprus’s Pictet Capital, owned by Diacou, is a partner in Silk Road Plovdiv Airport together with VVL Consulting, a Bulgarian company, the news-site reported. Pictet Capital, not related to the Swiss financial group Pictet, is owner of 49 per cent of Cobalt New Age Airlines Group, which launched its flight operations last year. Meisterhans, who a year ago was indicted on three counts, one of which was dropped pending further investigation, stepped down from Cobalt in December.
According to an order issued by a US court last summer, Swiss authorities indicted Meisterhans in 2015 “for aggravated money laundering, securities fraud, and negligence in financial operations based on Meisterhans role in laundering Penny Stock Scheme proceeds” controlled by the German national Florian Homm and his former wife Susan Elaine Devine, a US citizen born in Brazil. The Swiss attorney general’s office, which in June said that one of the charges had been dropped pending further investigation, was not immediately available for comment.
Meisterhans who says he has a clean record, and Diacou did not respond to phone calls and texts sent by the Cyprus Business Mail.
In November, FINMA, the Swiss financial markets supervisor, banned Meisterhans from exercising or advertising regulated activities, especially in the area of financial intermediation.
The other two bidders are the Consortium Plovdiv Airport and consortium of Hainan and Plovdiv Airport Invest, according to the website of the Bulgarian transport ministry.
“The concession of Plovdiv Airport aims to attract a financially stable investor with experience in the management, operation and development of airports,” the ministry said. “Thus, will be ensured the future development of the airport. The concession will help to improve the existing airport infrastructure, meet international standards and categories, generate traffic and develop business activities in the region”.
Capital.bg reported that the duration of the concession is 35 years and that candidates are required to prove that they have managed international airports with a passenger volume of 450,000 in five years. The average of 90,000 a year is slightly below Plovdiv airport’s annual passenger traffic.
Prinz von Preussen Capital was listed last year on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange.
Both, the Consortium Plovdiv Airport and Hainan and Plovdiv Airport Invest, said that they intend to expand the airport’s cargo capacity, according to Capital.bg adding that Hainan and Plovdiv Airport Invest also intends to introduce passenger flights to and from China three times a week.
The Swiss bidder’s plans on the other hand remain unknown, Capital.bg said.