France's Vinci formally takes over Belgrade airport

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A man is caught in the light show as he watches the ceremony as France's Vinci Airports takes over the running of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. France's Vinci Airports has formally started a 25-year concession to run Belgrade airport, with massive investment giving the group a foothold in southeastern Europe for its ambitious airport division. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

The airport division of French construction and concession company Vinci has started running the airport in Serbia's capital after it was picked for the 25-year job.

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Officials said Wednesday at a ceremony at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport that Vinci Airports provided an upfront payment of 501 million euros ($564 million) and promised to invest another 730 million euros ($823 million) in new infrastructure.

CEO Nicolas Notebaert says Vinci plans to make the airport a regional hub and triple the number of passengers from 5 million to 15 million a year.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic says the concession is of "strategic importance" to Serbia.

Vinci Airports is one of the top five international players in the airport sector.