Flughafen Zürich AG has (26-Aug-2011) been awarded the concession for the extension and operation of Antofagasta Airport, Chile's second-busiest, through its Joint Venture A-port Chile SA. The concession agreement is for 15 years. Flughafen Zürich now has interests in nine airports in South and Central America, including three in Chile, and Benagaluru International Airport. [more]
Flughafen Zürich AG awarded concession for airport in Chile
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Qatar Airways buys 10% of oneworld's LATAM, to add to its 15% in IAG
Enter Qatar Airways. As Etihad Airways looks to bed down its investments in other airlines, Qatar is gradually expanding its airline investment portfolio. Qatar's 15% stake in IAG is now being followed with a 10% stake in LATAM for USD613 million – nearly 1.5 times Qatar's net profit of USD446 million, disclosed (for the first time) on the day prior to the LATAM equity announcement. It is a safe investment; LATAM group has a strong market position and its share price has remained strong even in the face of a brutal downturn in Latin American economies.
Qatar gives LATAM needed cash and a distant shareholder. Latin America is the smallest market by far for Gulf airlines, but while currently in the economic doldrums, has a longer term potential for growth. It is also a key future market for US airlines, albeit very small on the Gulf airlines' networks. Qatar is spending nearly EUR2.5 billion on equity investments, still smaller than Etihad's but illustrating a willingness to acquire airline assets, for investment and strategic reasons. In this case the immediate strategic purpose for Qatar is less apparent.
Star Alliance's privately owned Avianca is also considering a strategic shareholder; that would mean five of Latin America's eight largest airline groups could have an airline investor from outside the region.
Private investment in airport infrastructure is popular again: the growing importance of the PPP
Privatisation of airports, or at the very least their corporatisation into independent business units that behave along business lines, has again become fashionable. This follows a dip in transactions and prices during the period of the global financial downturn from 2008-2012. Money is now easier to obtain and air transport infrastructure is popular with investors as it typically has a long term cycle attached to it, usually quite the opposite of the airlines that use it.
For now at least traffic figures are rising and airport EBITDAs with them, along with the earnings multiples when they are sold. What is more, the activity is across the board - in PPPs, BOTs, trade sales, even IPOs.
Meanwhile, for the airlines, this is the first time for decades that they are not caught up in a fight for survival. And on the other side, many countries are facing low levels of economic growth where infrastructure funding, while vital, is not possible out of the public purse.