By ANA TAVARES[email protected]
The Portuguese government approved the sale of airport operator ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal to French group Vinci Concessions SAS during a Council of Ministers on December 27. The privatisation of the company, part of a series of privatisations following the memorandum of understanding with Troika, will earn the Portuguese government €3.08 billion.
According to the Secretary of State of the Treasury Maria Luís Albuquerque, who spoke to journalists after the ministers’ meeting, the French group’s proposal was the highest amongst the four final offers on the table.
With the sale of ANA, the Portuguese government has now achieved a total of €6.4 billion in privatisations, following the sale of other government-owned companies, such as EDP and REN.
“The goal we set in May last year (2011) was to achieve €5.5 billion in profits. The proposal that was accepted today represents €3.08 billion, which means we’re about to reach a total amount of €6.4 billion,” she said.
Maria Luís Albuquerque also explained how the money paid by the French group will be used: “€1.2 billion will cover the concession’s fee, €700 million will pay for ANA’s debt and another €1.2 billion represents the equivalent of ANA’s equity value”.
Around 90% of the latter figure will then be used to pay the country’s debt, said the Secretary of State, adding that the money will enter the government’s coffers in 2013.
In fact, the sale of the Portuguese airport operator will only be concluded in 2013, at which point the government and Vinci will sign the contract of sale. The state gave the French group a deadline of nine months to pay the total amount of the agreement, but Vinci will have to hand in €100 million to the Portuguese government in the initial stage of the sale.
Since the Regional Government of Madeira also sold its position in the Funchal and Porto Santo infrastructures, Vinci will have total control over all national airports for a period of 50 years.
“Vinci’s proposal (…) was assessed as the most interesting from a strategic point of view,” assured Maria Luís Albuquerque, adding that several of the entities involved in the sale, including the government’s advisers, were very positive about the French group’s offer.
Also speaking to journalists outside the Council of Ministers, Secretary of State of Public Works and Transport Sérgio Monteiro remarked that ANA will still be based in Portugal and will keep paying its taxes in the country. The Secretary of State also assured that the strategic proposal presented by Vinci does not mention any plans to lay off ANA employees. “If Vinci manages to enter other markets successfully through ANA, the company estimates having to hire more staff,” said the Secretary of State.
The other three proposals presented by investors ranged between €2 billion and around €2.4 billion, revealed Sérgio Monteiro. Whilst the second highest bid was made by Fraport and the Australian fund IMF (€2.44 billion), Argentinean consortium Corporación América came third with €2.4 billion and Brazil’s CCR, the Global Infrastructure Partners fund and Swiss Flughafen Zurich offered €2 billion to buy the airport operator.
The Secretary of State of Public Works also noted that ANA’s sale is not by any means linked to a potential purchase of TAP (see story on facing page), but warned that the future owner of ANA will have to maintain the quality, and increase the capacity, of Portugal’s airports.
After the government’s announcement, Vinci released a statement saying that the purchase will turn the French group into “a main player in airport concessions, with 23 airports in Portugal, France and Cambodia welcoming more than 40 million passengers per year”.
According to the French group, “the Lisbon hub is a fundamental asset due to its strategic position” and links to destinations such as Brazil, Angola and Mozambique, whilst the Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto is “a crucial platform for the expansion across the North Atlantic”.
||Prices at Faro airport remain untouched for 10 years
Following the government’s announcement, the CDS party, part of the PSD/CDS-PP coalition government, praised the deal between the Portuguese executive and the French group and complimented Vinci’s intention of maintaining the same prices in the Faro, Azores and Porto airports for at least 10 years.
On the other hand, Vinci plans to reduce prices at Madeira airport, “the most expensive and least competitive Portuguese airport”.
CDS Member of Parliament Hélder Amaral said he was very pleased with the privatisation arrangement and stressed that the government will be receiving an amount “16 times higher” than the company’s current value.
Like the Secretary of State of Public Works and Transports (Sérgio Monteiro), Hélder Amaral also highlighted the transparency of the sale process, following accusations of lack of transparency regarding the TAP deal, which eventually fell through.