Exclusive: Chinese investors to buy Albanian airport

Two Hong Kong-based investment managers have committed to acquire Tirana International Airport, the only operating airport in Albania, for $100m.

China Everbright and Friedmann Pacific Asset Management have teamed up to acquire Albania's Tirana International Airport for around $100 million from a consortium of investors, Infrastructure Investor has learnt.. 

A joint venture, which is majority-owned by China Everbright, has been created for the only operating airport in Albania, according to people with knowledge of the matter.   

A 20-year concession was originally awarded in 2005 to the TIA consortium. Germany’s AviAlliance holds a 47 percent stake in TIA while DEG Deutsche Investitions-und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, a member of the KfW banking group, owns a 31.7 percent stake. The remaining 21.3 percent is held by the Albanian-American Enterprise Fund. 

The operator had been granted exclusive rights to operate international commercial flights, until the Albanian government recently cancelled TIA’s rights in a bid to pave the way for other airport openings. Before that, regional airports, such as Kukës Airport, were not allowed to handle commercial flights because of TIA’s exclusive rights. 

As compensation, the government extended Tirana's airport concession by two years to April 2027. 

The Chinese consortium will take over the concession when the existing shareholders fully exit upon closing of the deal, which is expected in June, according to sources. 

China Everbright declined to comment while Friedmann Pacific hadn’t responded to an email query by press time. 

Hong Kong-listed China Everbright, part of the Beijing-based China Everbright Group, has been planning to turn some of its airport acquisitions into logistic hubs connecting China to Europe, according to the company’s chief executive, Chen Shuang. 

It has developed plans to acquire European infrastructure projects with positive long-term operational track records and build a pipeline of projects to establish infrastructure funds. The firm’s healthcare and real estate funds have begun expanding overseas as well.  

“China Everbright will leverage the growing demand among major institutions in mainland China for larger allocations of quality US dollar assets in overseas markets to further expand its product line, target overseas assets and bolster its product portfolio,” Chen said in a statement, announcing the firm's 2015 financial results.   

The partners have worked together before, teaming up in the aircraft leasing business through China Aircraft Leasing Company, Asia’s only listed aircraft lessor. 

In addition, Friedmann Pacific acquired a 49.99 percent stake, valued at €308 million, in Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, the fourth-largest airport in France. It did the acquisition through its airport investment arm, China Airport Synergy Investment Limited, which is jointly held by the firm and China’s state-owned Shandong Hi-speed Group.