After a delay of a month, Monday is expected to bring political approval of the extension of the Athens International Airport (AIA) concession contract, as following repeated efforts, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos is to meet with Infrastructure Minister Christos Spirtzis.
The delay in the approval of the deal, completed since end-December, had generated concerns that fresh obstacles might be raised to block the process, as was the case a year earlier with the delaying tactics adopted by then head of the AIA board Panayiotis Roumeliotis. Negotiations on the technical agreement between the AIA and state sell-off fund TAIPED have lasted for more than a year.
“The approval is unlikely to come up against any problems,” a source told Kathimerini, which also understands that among the reasons for the delay – besides the bailout review that is taking up most of Tsakalotos’s time and the holiday season – was an attempt by certain local authorities in eastern Attica to seek benefits from the contract extension. Local authority representatives had sent a letter to the Finance Ministry but their requests were rejected.
Sources from the government, as well as from the airport’s board and its consultants, speak of an agreement that will be particularly beneficial to the Greek state. They specifically cite the price, which is estimated to come to at least 1.2 billion euros and of which 400 million will go to public coffers this year, a reduction to landing fees and the abolition of the right of first refusal reserved to date by the main shareholder, the Canadian state pension fund’s PSP Investments.
The existing contract expires in 2026, with the extension taking its expiry to 2046. The completion of this process will also open the way for talks about the sale of a 30-percent stake in the airport currently controlled by TAIPED. The official start to the sale process for that stake must also await the ratification of the contract extension by Parliament.
This contract and the concession of 14 regional airports to Fraport, worth 1.23 billion euros, point to Greece’s airports being a key part of the country’s privatization program.