|From East to West, strong interest for Ljubljana Airport|
More than twenty companies have expressed interest to purchase a 75% stake in Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport. Among them are airlines, airports and pension funds, as well as investment groups specialising in restructuring companies for later sale. Among the interested parties is Asia’s busiest carrier, China Southern Airlines, as well as the Fraport Group, which manages Frankfurt Airport. Others who have expressed strong interest to bid for Slovenia’s busiest airport include Munich Airport, Zurich Airport, French engineering and consulting group Egis, French concession and construction company VINCI, as well as Italy’s SAVE which manages Venice Marco Polo Airport, Treviso Airport, Verona Airport and is the part operator of Charleroi Airport in Belgium.
The strong interest comes as Ljubljana Airport overturned its downward passenger trend last year by handling 1.321.100 passengers. The airport saw record numbers in 2008 when it welcomed 1.630.050 travellers but has been unable to improve on its results since. Trends so far this year have been encouraging. The airport has seen an almost 13% increase in passenger numbers in the first quarter. In addition, it reported a net profit of 857.000 euros during the first three months, up 5.4% year-on-year, as revenue rose almost 6% to 7.13 million euros. The airport is in talks with low cost airlines Wizz Air and easyJet to launch new flights to the Slovenian capital later this year. The CEO of Ljubljana Airport, Zmago Skobir, says, “We are in the final stages of talks with Wizz Air and easyJet on launching routes to northern Germany and maybe Scandinavia towards the end of the year".
The sale of Jože Pučnik Airport is expected to be finalised during the summer. Over the week, institutions in charge of overseeing the privatisation process of key Slovenian government-owned companies ensured both investors and the public that the pace of privatisations in the country will not be slowed following Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek’s resignation on Monday. A new owner will have to address the issue of constructing of a new terminal buidling. Late last year, the airport’s minority shareholders, which are mostly made up of banks, rejected plans for the construction of a new terminal, which was pitched by the state. Enrico Marchi, the CEO of Italy’s SAVE, says the company’s long term goal is to create a complex of interlinked airports in north-eastern Italy which could also include Ljubljana. It would prove as a replacement for Trieste Airport which is operated by another company. Furthermore, China Southern Airlines is considering purchasing a stake in Ljubljana Airport but also other sectors of the Slovenian aviation industry including Adria Airways and maintenance company Adria Airways Tehnika, which are also up for sale.