Airports up next on sell-off list

The Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Ministry is pushing ahead with plans to develop 34 regional airports across the country. In a draft law discussed during a Cabinet meeting yesterday, private companies will be set up to take on the administration, development, operation and commercial use of the airports for a set period of time. Majority stakes in each of these firms will be held by the state. Essentially, the development model will follow that of Athens International Airport (AIA). Each state-controlled company, which can also hook up with a strategic investor, will be awarded the commercial rights to one or more airport, which could also be listed on the Athens bourse at a later date. According to government sources, the airports will be put into groups before being offered to the private sector, making their investment potential more appealing. The groupings of airports will be finalized after a study is completed based on their geographical positions and other criteria such as passenger traffic. The categorization procedure may also be based on a recent study of regional airports carried out for the deregulation of ground-handling services. This may help prevent the government from having to wait for another time-consuming study to be completed. It is obvious that airports with annual passenger traffic of less than 100,000 will not be able to be privatized alone without the transport facility being combined with another airport. The categorization of airports is likely to be done in seven groups. The seven groups will be headed by the following airports: Hania, Kos, Zakynthos, Santorini, Mytilene, Myconos and Samos.