15 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has made a provisional offer to take a 70 percent majority stake in Zaventem airport in Brussels as part of a plan to ward off aggressive competition from European rivals.
A Schiphol spokeswoman said the Dutch airport will decide after the summer if a definite offer will be lodged for the Belgian international airport. She refused to confirm a price, but Schiphol is rumoured to be offering between EUR 400 and 500 million.
Schiphol has yearned for many years to extend its reach into foreign airports. It currently has stakes in terminal four of JFK airport in New York and in Brisbane airport, Australia.
The Dutch airport now wants to take a 70 percent stake in Zaventem. The shares were made available in the aftermath of the bankruptcy of Belgian airline Sabena, which cast the Brussels airport into a privatisation process, Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Tuesday.
The Belgian government holds a 63 percent stake in Zaventem operator BIAC, but wants to reduce that holding to 30 percent. The rest is in the hands of 10 small shareholders who also wish to sell up, bringing the total number of shares on offer to 70 percent.
Schiphol said in principle it is interested in all European airports that become available. “We are keeping our ears and eyes open,” the spokeswoman told Dutch news agency ANP.
Schiphol’s market share has declined in recent years and the airport is now under threat of being overtaken by Madrid as the fourth-largest airport in Europe. About 40 million passengers pass through Schiphol every year. It booked EUR 137 million net profit in 2003.
Zaventem recorded a net profit of EUR 18.9 million last year, but after Sabena’s collapse its passenger numbers fell from 21.6 million in 2002 to 15.2 million in 2003.
The Brussels airport has been high on the list of Schiphol’s takeover targets for some time, claiming it has huge potential, especially due to its location on the Amsterdam-Paris route. Schiphol also said Zaventem is underdeveloped.
But Schiphol is not the only candidate vying to take a stake in Zaventem. Belgian media reported last week that between 20 and 22 parties were interested in the airport, but it is not yet known how many will make a non-binding offer.
The operators of the airports in Paris (Charles de Gaulle), Copenhagen, Vienna, Frankfurt and investors 3i (British) and Macquarie (Australian) are among those to have shown interest.
Schiphol is keen to avoid tough competition in its own backyard and is reportedly keen to find a Belgian partner in its takeover bid. Belgium will make a definite choice on the new operator of Zaventem in the autumn.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch + Belgian news