|Serbian government undecided on Belgrade Airport’s future|
The Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, has announced that a concession of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport is still possible, over a month after he set an initial deadline to decide on the airport’s future development model. He noted that either a concession or a Public Private Partnership (PPP) is possible, adding that similar plans are being made for the country’s other commercial airports such as Niš Constantine the Great and Kraljevo’s Morava Airport. The statements mark a significant shift from previous plans which called for the creation of a state-run operator, which was to manage up to 25 of the country’s airports, among which were both Niš and Kraljevo. The enterprise was to be set up by April at the latest. The PM has so far only ruled out the sale of Belgrade Airport, which is one of Serbia’s most profitable state-owned companies.
Decisions on Belgrade Airport’s future have been muddled and dragged out since December 2013. In June last year, the Serbian government held talks with the Persian Gulf’s largest construction company, Arabtec Holding, to discuss a possible concession of Belgrade Airport. At the time, it was suggested for a twenty year concession to be offered to a foreign partner and a PPP model to be used to build a third terminal, for Air Serbia’s exclusive use, reconstruct Terminal 1 and build a second runway, a cargo centre and a nearby hotel. The investment was estimated to be worth one billion dollars. Several parties have previously expressed their interest in taking part in the concession. Among them were the Greek based Copelouzos Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the French concession and construction company Vinci.
With several deadlines come and gone, the airport has initiated a short-term investment cycle to expand capacity to 7.5 million passengers per year. It will invest forty million euros in upgrading and expanding its terminals by 2017. In a recent report by the World Economic Forum, Serbia was ranked 112th out of 144 countries in the world for quality of air traffic infrastructure, receiving a score of 3.5 (out of the highest possible 7). The ranking was compiled in the organisation’s 2014-2015 Global Competitiveness Index report. Despite slowing passenger growth, Belgrade Airport is confident it will continue to see its numbers rise in the coming future and its profits soar. It is on course to handle over five million passengers this year, with the record figure expected to be achieved by December.