Ljubljana plans for the future and possible Adria exit
The CEO of Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, Zmago Skobir, says he expects the airport to be privatised by the summer of 2014, adding that many investors have expressed interest in the 75% stake the government intends to sell. Speaking to Slovenia’s national press agency “STA”, Skobir declined to comment on the names of potential new owners but adds most are from Europe. “They include airport operators, pension funds and others looking for an opportunity for long term return on investment, as well as investment groups specialising in restructuring companies for further sale”, Mr. Skobir says. He adds, “We are also selling infrastructure and we still have to sort out land ownership issues. I expect this to be resolved before a call for bids is issued. I hope the company will get a development oriented owner”.
Ljubljana Airport relies heavily on Adria Airways and its performance is directly linked to the Slovenian national carrier. Adria carried a whopping 69.5% of all passengers using Ljubljana Airport this year. Currently, the European Commission is investigating Adria over alleged state aid which it could be ordered to repay. Mr. Skobir admits that if Adria is ordered to pay back millions it would signal a major blow for the airport. "A flag carrier is above all a big advantage for an airport operator but at the same time it is also an obstacle. Adria is a member of Star Alliance and is the only member of the alliance flying to and from Ljubljana. Therefore, we cannot attract other alliance members like for instance Austrian or Swiss. However, if the worst case scenario happens with Adria, other members would start flying to Slovenia”, Mr. Skobir says, adding that, if Adria was to go bust, the airport would see a decline in passenger numbers of up to a year and a half.
Ljubljana Airport is expected to see an 8% passenger increase in 2013 compared to last year. It estimates numbers will improve by a further 7% in 2014. However, the airport's CEO believes it will take a few more years until numbers reach pre crisis levels. Ljubljana Airport saw record passenger numbers in 2008 when it handled 1.630.050 passengers. Since then, figures have been declining each year. Following four years of continual passenger decline, the trend will be overturned in 2013.