Athens airport stake sale ‘is positive’

The government’s strategy regarding the sale of its stake in Athens International Airport (AIA) remains unchanged despite Tuesday’s transfer of Hochtief’s 26.7 percent stake in the country’s main terminal to PSP Investments, a Canadian pension fund.

Germany’s Hochtief announced the sale of its subsidiary Hochtief AirPort Capital to the Canadian state pension fund for 1.5 billion euros, including 400 million euros in minority rights. The deal includes only two-thirds of Hochtief’s original stake (40 percent) in AIA, as the remaining 13.3 percent of the terminal’s company had already passed to Australian and Canadian investment funds while still managed by Hochtief AirPort.

Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis greeted the arrival of the Canadian firm as a “positive development,” stating that “a reliable investor has chosen to invest in Athens Airport, among others.”

Finance Ministry officials said the effort to sell the state’s 55 percent stake in AIA is continuing apace, with talks with interested parties remaining open. Officials at the state privatization fund (TAIPED) appeared more reserved than Hatzidakis, saying that the sale of Hochtief’s stake has no bearing on the tender for the majority holding owned by the state. However they did add that in case Hochtief was unable to sell its stake, the Greek state can expect a decent price for its own holding.

TAIPED will launch the tender for the stake sale in the third quarter of the year. Government sources point to two Chinese companies that are likely to express an interest in the tender. Representatives of Shenzhen Airport and Friedmann Pacific Asset Management have already conducted talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, confirming their interest in the stake. This issue will also form part of the talks Samaras will have during his official visit to China next week.

The balance in the airport’s ownership is now as follows: The Hellenic Republic holds 55 percent, PSP Investments has received 26.7 percent, the Canadian and Australian institutional funds have 13.3 percent and the Copelouzos family maintains 4.99 percent.