BUSINESS

Strong interest expected for AIA’s 30 pct stake

VANGELIS MANDRAVELIS

TAGS: Privatizations, Business

State sell-off fund TAIPED is expecting very strong investor interest in the sale of a 30 percent stake in Athens International Airport.

More than five bidders are seen tabling non-binding offers by next Tuesday’s deadline, with market sources speaking of as many as eight suitors, although nothing can be taken for granted yet.

Among the groups viewed as the main suitors are Canadian-owned AviAlliance, which already controls 40 percent of AIA (as well as its management), and the Australian investment fund Macquarie Capital, which is considered one of the world’s leading investors in infrastructure.

Macquarie’s interest – considered to be strong too – is generating particularly competitive conditions for the process and is likely to lead the tender to a higher price.

In the past there had been interest from three Chinese-owned groups, which may participate in the tender but are likely to run into the broader objections of the European Union against Chinese investments in EU infrastructure.

The word on the market is that French group Vinci has expressed an interest, while local business development company Copelouzos Group is known to be interested in the AIA stake.

The recent 20-year extension of the airport’s concession contract with the payment of 1.403 billion euros (value-added tax included) by AIA, the current operating company, has significantly raised the value of the stake to be sold.

Market calculations have raised the possible revenues from the sale of the 30 percent share to between 1.1 and 1.5 billion euros, or possibly even higher.

TAIPED has not yet conducted an official valuation and is set to commission (through tender) independent consultants to support the sale process.

The high profits of AIA and the considerable dividend distributed to its shareholders constitute strong incentives for institutional investors seeking returns for their profits in an international environment that currently has very low yields.

This is the kind of investment that buying this 30 percent stake would be seen as, given that the management is exercised by Canadian social security fund PSP Investments, which also controls 40 percent of AIA.

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