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Spain shortlists three bidders for ‘ghost’ airport

Despite the process being part suspended, the regional government of Murcia has gone ahead with the tender, shortlisting Aena, Edeis and Corporación América.

The south-eastern Spanish region of Murcia has received three bids to operate a site dubbed as a “ghost airport”.

The regional government yesterday shortlisted France-based Edeis Management, a platform backed by private equity firm Ciclad, as well as Argentinian airport manager Corporación América and Spain’s Aena, which has previously invested alongside Ardian.

The government hopes the €495 million tender of Corvera Airport will bring in more than 3.5 million passengers to one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations.

Unlike many airport tenders though, the contract does not include a requirement to build the site as construction was completed in 2012 by local firm Sacyr, following a €270 million investment. However, Sacyr failed to open the airport on time with concession deadlines and the Murcia government subsequently removed Sacyr from the contract in 2015. Since then, Corvera has remained an unopened and idle location.

The tender is also temporarily part suspended while Spain’s public contracts courts tribunal examines a complaint by Aena about what it believes to be unfair tariffs subjected to the company. Aena operates the nearby San Javier airport, which received 1.1 million passengers last year, but would be requested by the Murcia government to close the site once Corvera opens. Aena is demanding €34 million from the government to do so, although tender documentation omitted such details.

“We respect that any interested bidder can go to this review to resolve their doubts regarding the technical-administrative aspects included in the documentation of the airport,” said Pedro Rivera, Murcia’s Minister of Development and Infrastructure. “They were made thinking of the general interests of all of Murcia and not in the particular interest of any company.”

Despite the suspension, interested parties remained able to submit bids until yesterday’s deadline. The government declined to say when a final decision could be made while Ardian declined to comment on their potential involvement with Aena.

The ongoing saga is another setback in Spain’s recent history of airport privatisations. Efforts to sell Madrid’s Barajas and Barcelona’s El Prat airports were cancelled in early 2012, with the government citing market instability at the time despite receiving seven offers from the likes of Ferrovial and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The government eventually decided to privatise 49 percent of then state-owned Aena, raising about €3.8 billion in 2015 via an IPO.