Bulgaria to cancel $1.74 bln armoured vehicle tender, defence minister says

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SOFIA, March 5 (Reuters) - Bulgaria's defence minister said on Friday he has asked the government to cancel a 1.46 billion euro ($1.74 billion) tender to buy 150 armoured vehicles as offers by the two short-listed bidders far exceeded the estimated budget for the order.

Krasimir Karakachanov said he has asked state arms company Terem to deliver a report on whether the Bulgarian arms companies could carry out the project, including assembling the machines and importing some of the equipment from foreign arms producers.

Bulgaria had short-listed U.S. General Dynamics and Finland's Patria and started assessing their offers in October.

Last month, Karakachanov said both bids exceeded the estimated budget by between 30% and 50%.

"I have proposed to the government to cancel the procedure, because the two companies that reached the final stage have offered prices higher than the budget that the parliament had approved," Karakachanov said.

He said the next government, which will take office after the April 4 parliamentary election, would be able to decide how to proceed with the large military procurement deal aimed at improving the Balkan country's operational capabilities within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

($1 = 0.8380 euros) (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Barbara Lewis)