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Bye Balaton Airport

After a failed attempt to sell the properties of Fly Balaton Airport, a new auction has been announced by the end of August, Jenő Varga, CEO of the official receiver Vectigalis told the press.

According to real estate experts, now there is even less chance to sell the assets belonging to the Sármellék airport, the only Hungarian international airport outside Budapest.

The underlying reasons are simple. As an investment, Fly Balaton Airport has only one source of income: the rental fee paid by the operator of the airport. The operator of Fly Balaton, however, changed just two weeks ago. The company FB Airport that used to hold the rental rights of the airfield for 100 years was transferred from the portfolio of SCD Group to a new project company named Turisztika Hungária.

SCD Group used to be famous for its commitments to developing tourism in the Balaton region.

“Its company leader Gellért Jászai envisioned a whole complex of entertainment facilities around the Hungarian lake that could only be compared to the ones surrounding the big lakes in northern Italy”, a property expert familiar with SCD real estate developments told the BBJ.

Balatonlelle would have become the site of a €100-million amusement park development, which was going to be modeled after Gardaland, a cluster of amusement and theme parks near Verona, Italy. As for the Sármellék airport, it planned to develop it into the central European hub of a major economy airline as it had happened to Orio al Serio Airport at Bergamo, which now serves as the central hub for Ryanair in northern Italy.

As far as Ryanair is concerned, it had operated flights connecting London and Frankfurt with Sármellék on a weekly basis from 2006 on. In 2007, 150,000 passengers used the airport.

In 2008, however, Ryanair abandoned Hungary, which proved to be fatal for Cape Clear Aviation (CCA), the operator and partial owner of the Sármellék airport at the time. That was when SCD Group acquired rental rights of the airport area; but they failed to lure Ryanair back despite repeated attempts.

The prolonged credit crisis undermined SCD’s plans for the development of Balaton tourism. Even though it owns all camping sites around Lake Balaton, the income they generate is insufficient to meet the company’s liabilities.

On the other hand, operating and maintaining the airport requires HUF 500 million annually. According to SCD estimates, Fly Balaton Airport at Sármellék could have re-achieved the 150 000 passengers registered in 2007 by 2012 the earliest, while rentability seemed like a realistic goal only at around the middle of the decade.

According to an inquiry by economic weekly Figyelő, the real owners of Turisztika Hungária, the new operator of Fly Balaton airport, have so far remained unknown, let alone their intentions concerning Balaton development.

"In this situation nobody would risk to buy the former properties of CCA, except for perhaps Turisztika Hungária itself”, a real estate expert willing to retain anonimity told the BBJ.