Privatisation is always a sensitive theme. And particularly sensitive if you broach the subject in Bolivia.
Announcing the South American nation’s intention to nationalise three airports in the country run by Spanish operator Abertis, charismatic President Evo Morales said the privatisation process had been “robbery” and “looting” and accused Abertis of making “exorbitant” profits from the airports, having made “ridiculous” investments over the years.
For its part, Abertis said it has made significant investments in the Bolivian airports ever since it acquired them in 1997, including spending $12.6 million in capex and paying a total of $48 million in fees and tax to the Bolivian government from 2005 to 2012.
The Spanish company said it was already at odds with the authorities over what it sees as several breaches of the government’s concessions obligations and was seeking compensation of $90 million. To date, no compensation has been paid out.
Given Abertis’ defence, you may feel Morales is being overly critical. At least he cannot be accused of sitting on the fence, however.