Bulgaria assesses offers in $875 mln armoured vehicle tender

SOFIA, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s defence ministry is assessing offers from U.S. General Dynamics and Finland’s Patria in a 1.46 billion lev ($875 million) tender to provide 150 armoured vehicles for the army, it said on Friday.

Bulgaria, which joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004, has raised its annual defence expenditure following NATO’s recommendations to its eastern members to develop, buy and operate new alliance equipment.

In Friday’s statement, the ministry said a special team would evaluate the offers and following field tests and direct talks with the two bidders, would either propose a winner or ask the defence minister to cancel the tender.

It did not provide a timeline for the large procurement military deal, but a deputy defence minister has said he hoped a contract could be signed in January or February.

Last December, before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the ministry expected to close the deal by the middle of 2020.

Two other companies have already been eliminated from the tender: Germany’s Artec, which had offered a specific project and France’s Nexter, which wanted direct government negotiations.

Last year, Bulgaria signed a $1.26 billion deal with the United States to acquire eight new F-16 Block 70 warplanes and in August sent a letter to the United States asking about prices and delivery terms for another eight F-16 fighter jets. ($1 = 1.6681 leva) (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Barbara Lewis)