|France’s Vinci still interested in Belgrade Airport concession|
French concession and construction company Vinci has reaffirmed its interest to vie for a concession of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport following talks between French investors and the Serbian government in Paris last week. Serbia’s Economy Minister, Željko Sertić, met with representatives of French companies and confirmed Vinci’s interest in the country’s main international airport. Representatives from Vinci are expected to visit Belgrade next month as part of a wider French delegation which will feature various transport-oriented companies. The Serbian government has announced plans to launch a state-run company to manage up to 25 of the country’s airports, including Belgrade, by April. The public company running Belgrade Airport will be renamed to “Airports of Serbia” with more than twenty smaller airports to be added under its wing. The move is believed to be in relation to the upcoming concession of Serbia’s busiest airport, through which the future operator will also gain control to the rest of the country’s airport infrastructure.
In November last year, Vinci signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Belgrade Airport for the development of joint projects. The MoU was also co-signed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić. Vinci Airports Chairman, Nicolas Notebaert, has said, "Vinci Airports have an ambition to cooperate on the development of Belgrade Airport and other Serbian airports. We are interested in long-term partnerships". Serbia’s Prime Minister has previously said that his government will decide on whether to give Belgrade Airport up for concession in June, noting that the future operator will have to invest in infrastructure such as a new terminal, runway and hotel. “Nikola Tesla Airport is experiencing problems as a result of increased traffic, in particular with baggage sorting and aging technology”, the Prime Minister said. Belgrade Airport is estimated to handle between 5 and 5.5 million passengers this year.
Last year, Vinci lost out in a bid to acquire a majority stake in Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport. The concession company has also expressed interest in establishing a partnership with Airports of Montenegro, the state-owned company that runs the country’s two international airports - Podgorica and Tivat. However, the Montenegrin government has since ruled out a concession or privatisation of its airport operator. In case of a tie-up with Belgrade Airport, two major French companies would have control over the former Yugoslavia’s two busiest airports. Zagreb Airport is managed by a consortium led by France’s Aéroports de Paris. Vinci runs a total of 23 airports across France, Portugal and Cambodia. It employs over 179.000 people and is the world’s leading construction company by revenue. It profits total almost two billion euros per year. The company’s subsidiary, Vinci Construction, has also been involved in the recent expansion of Abu Dhabi Airport’s terminal three.
Last summer, two companies from the United Arab Emirates, one of which is Arabtec Holding, the Persian Gulf’s largest construction company, expressed interest to take part in a potential concession of Belgrade Airport. However, it is believed that awarding control of the country’s main airport to a company from the Middle East, in addition to Etihad Airways’ part-ownership of Serbia’s national carrier, would not be looked upon kindly by the European Union which Serbia hopes to join. Documents signed between the Serbian government and Etihad Airways, for the latter’s minority takeover of Air Serbia, show that the Serbian national carrier is to be given a dedicated terminal at its hub.