Abertis, AXA and CVC in talks to bid for Spanish airports

The consortium has yet to be finalised and could still include other members. Teams led by Ferrovial and Global Infrastructure Partners are also said to be coalescing to bid for the privatisation of airports in Madrid and Barcelona. The government is targeting an upfront payment of €5.3bn for the two airports.

A consortium of Spanish infrastructure developer Abertis, French investor AXA Private Equity and private equity firm CVC Capital Partners is shaping up to be one of the potential bidders for the privatisation of airports in Madrid and Barcelona, a source familiar with the consortium told Infrastructure Investor.

Negotiations between the three companies are underway and the consortium is by no means finalised, the source explained, hinting that other firms might still join it or, conversely, one of its members might still drop out.

The three firms are all linked to each other: CVC bought a 15.55 percent stake in Abertis last year from Spanish developer ACS for €1.7 billion whilst AXA and Abertis are both shareholders in Sanef, a concessionaire which operates 1,757 kilometres of road across France.

Other rumoured contenders lining up to bid for the two airports include Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, the owner of UK airports operator BAA, and Global Infrastructure Partners, the operator of London’s Gatwick Airport. Interested parties have until September 5 to submit their qualifications to Aena, Spain’s airports operator.

Aena plans to transfer Madrid’s Barajas and Barcelona’s El Prat airports to two special purpose vehicles (SPV), in which it will sell a 90.05 percent stake to the private sector, retaining the remaining capital of the two SPVs. 

The government is said to be looking for a minimum upfront payment of €3.7 billion for Barajas and €1.6 billion for El Prat. Additionally, the authorities are targeting an annual payment from the private partner equal to 20 percent of each airport’s revenues, or a minimum of €150 million annually for Barajas and €80 million a year for El Prat. The concession for both airports will run over 15 years, extendable for a further five, Aena had previously said.

Aena has appointed Royal Bank of Scotland to assist it with the tenders for the airports as well as the privatisation of up to 49 percent of its capital. The government calls Aena the “world’s largest airports operator”, managing 47 airports across Spain and holding stakes in 27 airports throughout the world. 

The government says Aena has assets worth more than €16.4 billion and debt of €13.4 billion. It added the airports operator will be in a position to start cutting debt next year, thanks to an increase in traffic, cost-cutting measures and higher revenues. In the first five months of the year, Aena’s airports carried more than 75 million passengers, an 8.5 percent increase compared with the same period in 2010. Freight traffic has also grown by 3.7 percent during the same time period. 

The part-privatisation of Aena and the tenders for the Madrid and Barcelona airports are part of the Spanish government’s plans of raising over €14 billion to help cut debt at a time when Spain has been under severe pressure from the international money markets. The sale of a 30 percent stake in the country’s publicly owned lottery, worth an estimated €5 billion, is also part of its divestment strategy.