BUSINESS

Concession of majority stake in airport lacks clearance for takeoff

By Vangelis Mandravelis

State sell-off fund TAIPED is turning its sights to the part-privatization of Athens International Airport, which however would entail a stake of no more than the 30 percent provided for in the country’s bailout agreement instead of the majority stake originally envisaged.

Following the acquisition of a 26.7 percent stake in AIA by its Canadian investors, AviAlliance, last summer, there has been particular interest from China. However the Chinese investors are not interested in anything less than the majority of shares – i.e. at least 51 percent – along with the company’s management. They have also brought up the subject of extending the concession contract, as they wish to obtain a complete and long-term share and managerial control of the airport.

Such a prospect goes against the wishes of the Canadians, who are opposed to TAIPED’s proposal for a sale of shares that would fetch them some considerable capital gains. After all, with their 26.7 percent they practically control the company operating the country’s main airport.

To appease the Greek side and the other shareholders, Canada’s PSP Investments, which controls AviAlliance, has informed Athens it intends to increase its stake. Still, it does not appear willing to offer what the Chinese are offering, which is proving a sticking point and is the main reason that the AIA privatization has already been delayed by several months.

Observers say that the Greek state and TAIPED should not have given minority stakeholders the right to veto before the sale of the 26.7 percent stake from Germany’s Hochtief to AviAlliance. The shareholders’ agreement states that all shareholders must agree before a change is made in ownership, thereby allowing the Canadians to block the sale of even a small stake in the company.

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