Spain launches airport sell-off

15th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Spanish government Friday took the first step in the partial privatisation of the airport operating authority AENA as well as of the Madrid and Barcelona airports.

The government hopes the sale of the airports in Spain's two largest cities will bring in around 5.3 billion euros ($7.5 billion) for the public coffers to help rein in a massive public deficit.

"The government approved (the launching) of bids for (Madrid's) Barajas and El Prat (in Barcelona) and the partial privatisation of AENA," government spokesman Jose Blanco told a news conference after a cabinet meeting.

The call for bids involves more than 90 percent of the management contracts for the two airports - 3.7 billion euros for Barajas and 1.6 billion euros for El Prat -- for 20 years, extendable by a further five years.

The process will be launched on July 30 and completed at the end of November, the transport ministry said in a statement.

The winning group will have three months before taking over the airports, which would likely take place in early 2012.

The government also launched the sale of 49 percent of AENA but Blanco said "the completion of the sale as well as the final percentage will depend on market conditions in order to find the maximum value for the company."

Madrid announced the partial sale of AENA in December, along with the privatization of up to 30 percent of the state lottery, in a bid to calm markets nervous over the country's large deficit.

Madrid has promised to cut the public deficit from 9.24 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 to the eurozone limit of 3.0 percent in 2013.

© 2011 AFP

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