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Chinese suitors seen for Budapest Airport

Chinese companies could line up to buy Budapest Airport, the operator of Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport, weekly Heti Válasz said.

Heti Valász said it learnt from government circles that Budapest's international airport could be important for Beijing, and Chinese companies could show interest in Budapest Airport, but only in an alliance with the Hungarian state. The Chinese want to see an express road built between Budapest and the airport and they are also prepared to buy troubled Malév, the paper said.

The paper said in a teaser for the article published on its website on Wednesday that the government is very likely to try to renationalize Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport in a manner “conforming to the market” by July or August.

Spain's Grupo ACS is expected to boost its stake in Germany's Hochtief, which owns Budapest Airport, over 50% by July. Grupo ACS is reported to want to sell Hochtief's airport assets.

Grupo ACS CEO Florentino Perez, who is also the president of football club Real Madrid, announced half a year earlier his intent to start a sports school in Hungary in partnership with the Puskás Ferenc Football Academy, which was founded by Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Heti Válasz noted.

When asked to comment on the story by MTI on Thursday, Hungary's National Economy Ministry said it does not comment on press reports.

The airport, earlier called Ferihegy International Airport, was privatized in 2005. The UK's BAA paid HUF 465 billion in the transaction and promised to invest a further €260.6 million at the airport by 2011. BAA was acquired by Spain's Ferrovial in 2006 and Budapest Airport was sold to Hochtief for €1.9 billion in 2007.

The number of Chinese passengers who used the airport came to 10,287 in Q1, a tiny fraction of the 1,607,721 total, data from the Central Statistical Office (KSH) show. About 2,181 tons of air freight from China arrived at the airport during the same period, just under one-third of the 7,390-ton total.