Marquee names swoop in for Athens International Airport

Greece’s privatisation agency agreed an extension to the existing concession agreement through November 2046 in order to make the 30% stake on offer ‘sexier and more attractive’.

Greece’s privatisation agency has received 10 expressions of interest from leading infrastructure investors and fund managers as it seeks to sell the 30 percent stake it currently holds in the concessionaire operating Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos.

France’s ADP Groupe, PSP Investments-backed AviAlliance and Global Infrastructure Partners are among those who responded to HRADF’s (Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund) expressions of interest invitation, issued in June, the agency said in a statement.

The remaining seven EOIs were submitted by APG Asset Management; Ardian; KKR; Macquarie Infrastructure & Real Assets in partnership with Raffles Infra Holding and Chengdong Investment Corporation; Ferrovial; First State Investments; and Vinci Airports.

The strong response was to be expected, a source familiar with the sale process told Infrastructure Investor. “It’s an iconic asset that has performed well,” this person said, citing the robust financial performance of its concessionaire, Athens International Airport SA, and the upward trend in Greece’s tourism sector.

HRADF has already extended the existing concession agreement, which is set to expire in 2026, by an additional 20 years. In February, it received €1.14 billion for a 20-year extension through November 2046.

“The Greek government allowed HRADF to negotiate on its behalf the extension 10 years before it was set to expire,” the source explained. “The privatisation agency then decided to proceed with the extension before putting up its stake for sale in order to make it sexier and more attractive for potential investors.”

It is unclear when the agency will announce a shortlist of candidates that will qualify for the next step in the sale process. The agency declined to comment through a spokeswoman beyond the statement. However, evaluation of the EOIs received will take at least one month, with a shortlist most likely to be announced in early 2020, the source said.

Currently, AIA’s other major shareholders include the Greek State (25 percent), AviAlliance GmbH (26.7 percent plus 8 shares) and AviAlliance Capital GmbH (13.3 percent).

The sale of the 30 percent stake is part of the country’s broader privatisation programme of state-owned assets, a condition of the bailout agreements Greece signed with the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund after it was hit by a debt crisis in 2010.

Greece has already privatised 14 of its regional airports, awarding a €1.2 billion concession agreement in December 2015 to Frankfurt-based Fraport and Greek energy group Copelouzos.