Spain delays sale of Madrid, Barcelona airports

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Spain said Thursday it is delaying the sale of Madrid and Barcelona airports by three months because bidders are finding it difficult to organise financing.

The government has said it hopes the sale of 90.05 percent of the Madrid-Barajas and Barcelona-El Prat airports will bring in about 5.3 billion euros ($7.2 billion).

But airport operator AENA said Thursday the deadline for the seven bidding consortiums to submit bids was being extended from October 31 to January 31, 2012, because of global financial tensions.

Other conditions would remain unchanged.

The privatisation process is expected to be completed a month after bids are submitted.

"The reason for the deadline extension is a request made by the companies taking part in the contest due to difficulties bringing together financing by the set date," AENA said in a statement.

"The consortiums have reiterated their interest in the contest but conclude that given growing tensions in the international financial system they need more time to bring together the necessary financing."

AENA president Juan Lema will formally submit the delay to the AENA board on Monday, the company said.

Consortiums led by India's GMR Infrastructure, Singapore's Changi Airport, Spain's Ferrovial, the French Aeroports de Paris and Germany's Fraport are eyeing both airports.

For Madrid's Barajas airport, Spain's Grupo San Jose group is also a bidder, while Spanish group Abertis is on the list of those seeking Barcelona's El Prat.

The Spanish government announced on July 15 that it had approved the launching of bids for stakes in the two airports, as well as 49 percent of AENA itself.

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 delay comes exactly two weeks after the government abandoned plans to privatise the national lottery in October because the expected market price was unacceptably low.

The government had been hoping to sell 30 percent of the lottery, famous for doling out a wealth of prizes in its Christmas draw El Gordo, or the Fat One, in the biggest privatisation in Spain's history.

It had been expected to raise up to 7.5 billion euros ($10 billion) to help finance Spain's fast-growing sovereign debt, a major concern of global financial markets.

Spain's conservative Popular Party, widely expected to topple the ruling Socialists in November 20 general elections, had criticised the timing of the lottery and airport sales.

© 2011 AFP

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