COVID-19: bailouts for airport investors? Only China plans expansion

Premium Analysis

Much is made of the disastrous impact of the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on the airline sector, but airports are suffering too, of course, and those organisations which invest in airports must reappraise their strategies. The remorseless progress of the coronavirus globally is threatening the world’s air transport and tourism industries in 2020 and beyond.

A company does not easily come back from disasters of this order, even if the mechanics and infrastructure of the industry remain in place.

In most countries the majority of airports are still state-owned (central, regional or local government); in others, the private sector runs the show. Those private sector investors entered the business because it was perceived as a safe haven for pension funds, for example, with perhaps relatively low returns but proven longevity.

Now, the airports, like the airlines, will hit severe cash flow problems quickly, if they have not already. While some airport development projects will continue because too much time and energy has already been invested to do otherwise, others will inevitably be delayed and possibly for years, rather than months. That is hardly an enticing prospect to a potential investor.

For some, perhaps many, airport investment is not going to look like the long term cash cow it was up until January of 2020.

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