Slovakia to allow Flughafen's purchase of airport

City

Slovakia's government won't block the 2.2 billion-koruna ($75 million) sale of Kosice airport, the country's second-busiest, to Flughafen Wien AG, stepping away from earlier threats to cancel the transaction. Prime Minister Robert Fico said yesterday that, even as he opposes the sale, the cabinet will allow Flughafen Wien to complete the takeover after canceling its purchase of the airport in Bratislava, Slovakia's capital, two weeks ago. His comments came a week after Transportation Minister Lubomir Vazny said the government had a right to cancel the sale of 66% of the Kosice airport.

„Unfortunately, we can't cancel the contract” on the sale, Fico said at a news conference in Bratislava. „We are awaiting a response from the buyer.” Fico's government, which has been in power for two months, is seeking to increase state influence in the economy after the former cabinet speeded up asset sales and cut taxes to attract foreign investors to the eastern European country. The cabinet halted the sale of the airport serving Bratislava to Flughafen Wien on Aug. 16 because the Vienna-based company failed to obtain antitrust clearance.

Flughafen Wien, which operates Vienna International Airport, located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Bratislava, is seeking to gain sales from rising traffic in the region. The company, bidding jointly with local private-equity group Penta AS, offered 1.3 billion koruna in cash and 900 million koruna in investment commitments for the Kosice stake. Flughafen rose € 1.11, or 1.8%, to € 62.30, a four-month high, at the close of trading in Vienna. The former Slovak cabinet of Mikulas Dzurinda in February approved the sale of 66% stakes in Bratislava and Kosice airports to Flughafen for a combined 19.8 billion koruna in cash and investment, under a condition the buyer would obtain permission to complete the transaction from the Slovak Anti-Monopoly Office by Aug. 15. Vazny said Aug. 23 the government is allowed to cancel the Kosice sale because Flughafen was a day late in meeting the deadline. (Bloomberg)

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