Slovakia launches search for investor at Bratislava Airport

By bne IntelliNews April 26, 2013

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Slovakia is to launch a search to find an investor to operate the country's main air hub, Bratislava Airport. The news comes in the wake of reports that low-cost carrier Ryanair is mulling setting up a base in the country from which to boost its Central European operations.

The transport ministry announced on April 24 that it has selected Deloitte and law firm Sullivan & Worcester as winners of a tender worth €890,000 to advise on the deal for the airport, Hospodarske Noviny reported. The ministry confirmed the report, which says that Bratislava will seek to either lease M.R. Stefanik Airport - which has seen passenger traffic dropping off in recent years - or find a strategic investor.

"[Deloitte and Sullivan & Worcester] are the winning bidders because they offered the lowest price, which was the only criterion for assessing the bids," ministry spokesman Martin Kona told the TASR newswire.

Meanwhile, Deloitte commented that, apart from leasing the facility, another solution could be to invite a strategic investor to take an interest. Slovakia's National Property Fund holds 50.3%, with the transport ministry holding the remaining stake.

A plan to lease the airport on a 30-year concession was floated by the previous government in 2011. Analysis at the time estimated its investment needs at a minimum of €350m.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary told reporters on April 10 that the budget carrier is looking at setting up a base for part of its recently expanded fleet at Bratislava, although he stressed that the final decision will depend on the level of incentives on offer.

A major plank in Ryanair's ambition to expand Slovak operations is that it claims its 16 routes to Bratislava also serve Vienna, which sits around 60km down the road. Meanwhile, Slovakia has no airlines based in the country. It has had no flag carrier since Slovak Airlines - created in the wake of the break up of Czechoslovakia in 1993 - ceased flying in 2007, while various budget airline start ups have come and gone in recent years.

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