Barcelona airport to be privatised, Spanish government says
The Spanish President confirms the privatisation of El Prat airport, in Barcelona, and the Barajas airport, in Madrid. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero aims to reduce the deficit by selling 49% of AENA’s assets. AENA is the public company that manages Spanish airports
Barcelona (ACN).- The Barcelona-El Prat and Madrid-Barajas airports are to be managed by private companies, the Spanish Government confirmed today. In the context of an increasing debt crisis, president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has decided to privatize 49% of the public company that manages Spanish air infrastructures. This will include two main airports. The decision aims to reduce the deficit and calm markets fears about the stability of the Spanish economy.
The government will sell 49% of the assets of AENA to private companies and will allow the Barcelona and Madrid airports to be privately managed through an administrative concession. The move will be the first time private capital will be injected into a sector in which Spanish companies are broadly experienced. The Spanish group Ferrovial, for example, owns six UK airports, including London Heathrow. In fact, the Catalan infrastructures company Abertis has already shown its interest in managing Barcelona's airport. The Chairman of the company, Salvador Alemany, said that they will 'examine' the possibility of managing the Catalan airport. Alemany said that Abertis decided to manage airports abroad \u201Cwith the final aim of getting experience and prestige to be able to, one day, run airports at home\u201D. Currently, Abertis manages the Luton, Cardiff and Belfast International airports in the UK and also has a presence in Sweden, the United States and Latin America. The Spanish Government is expected to approve the privatisation of AENA next Friday, during its cabinet meeting. The announcement was a surprise this Tuesday in the Spanish Parliament, as initial plans included a privatisation of only 30% of AENA. The leader of Convergència i Unió (CiU) and president elect of Catalonia, Artur Mas, urged the Spanish Government to negotiate any decisions to be made about Barcelona's airport with the Catalan Government. Mas criticised the El Prat airport being \u201Cmanaged by a government 600 kilometres from here as if it was similar to other airports\u201D. Mas said that the decision to privatize the airports should be evaluated carefully because the Spanish Government will still keep 51% of AENA\u2019s assets. \u201CThey want to suggest that there will be more autonomy, but the State maintains the majority of the control\u201D, he said. The leader of the Catalan Green Socialist Coalition (ICV), Joan Herrera, said that the privatisation of the airports was a new \u201Cright-wing\u201D initiative by the Socialist president. The MEP for Convergència i Unió, Ramon Tremosa, regretted in an interview with the CNA that Zapatero \u201Cprefers to privatize a centralised monopoly instead of transferring the management of the airport to the regional government\u201D. The leader of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), Joan Puigcercós, said that it would be a \u201Cdisaster and a mistake\u201D if the same private company manages the Barcelona and Madrid airports. Puigcercós argued that the \u201Cmanagement of El Prat must be done from Catalonia, whether it is by a public or private company\u201D. Catalan parties have long campaigned for the transfer of Barcelona's airport management from Madrid to the Catalan capital. They want El Prat to become a more internationally oriented airport, as some consider that under Spanish management the airport is very dependant on Barajas for intercontinental flights and cannot expand properly. \u201CTo be competitive we need to have direct flights to other continents, just as other normal Europeans airports have, and not to be subject to Madrid's decisions\u201D, said Tremosa.