UPDATE 1-Saudi-led group wins tender to build gas pipeline in Bulgaria

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SOFIA, April 3 (Reuters) - A consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Arkad Engineering has won a tender to build a pipeline that will carry Russian natural gas across Bulgaria, state network operator Bulgartransgaz said on Wednesday.

The group, which also includes a Milan-based joint venture between Arkad and Swiss-based ABB, offered to complete the project by the end of 2020 for 1.1 billion euros ($1.24 billion), or within eight months for 1.29 billion euros.

Last week Bulgartransgaz said the Saudi-led group had filed the lowest bid to build the pipeline.

Bulgaria is rushing to build the 474-km (294-mile) pipeline linking its southern border with Turkey to its western border with Serbia to secure a link to the Russia-backed TurkStream twin pipeline to Serbia and Hungary.

Bulgartransgaz said the selected consortium had offered the most economically advantageous tender in line with the awarding criteria.

Other bids for the project were received from Hungarian oil and gas group MOL, and a consortium including Italian energy contractor Bonatti, German construction firm Max Streicher and a Luxembourg-based unit of Russia’s TMK.

Russia, which is building TurkStream to bypass Ukraine, has said it would need guarantees from the European Union that it would not oppose extending one of the legs of the 15.75 billion cubic metre pipeline via Bulgaria. ($1 = 0.8901 euros) (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jan Harvey)