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Flughafen Wien to buy Slovak airport as government opposes move

Flughafen Wien AG said it will complete the 2.2 billion-koruna ($75 million) purchase of Kosice airport, Slovakia's second-biggest, even as the government threatened to block the transaction. Flughafen, which bid for airports in Kosice and Bratislava, Slovakia's capital, with a local private-equity group Penta AS, will soon pay the remaining portion of the purchase price for the Kosice facility to the government's escrow account, the group said. On Wednesday, Transportation Minister Lubomir Vazny said the government may block the sale. „We will meet all obligations stemming from the sale contract,” Penta's partner Jozef Oravkin said at a news conference yesterday in Bratislava. „We consider the ministry's statement as absurd.” The Flughafen group is trying to save the purchase of Slovakia's two largest airports in the face of increased opposition by the seven-week-old cabinet of Robert Fico, who wants to retain state ownership. The Fico government on Aug. 16 canceled the sale of the Bratislava airport, saying Flughafen failed to meet a deadline to obtain antitrust clearance. The government of former Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda agreed to sell 66% stakes in the two airports to Flughafen in February for a combined 19.8 billion koruna in cash and committed investment. For the Kosice stake, Flughafen pledged to pay 1.3 billion koruna in cash and 900 million koruna in committed investment. Vazny said on Wednesday the government has the right to block the sale of Kosice airport as the Anti-Monopoly Office's approval was delivered to the ministry a day after an Aug. 15 deadline. Oravkin reiterated yesterday that the bidding group will appeal the government's cancellation of the Bratislava airfield deal. The consortium is also considering seeking arbitration with Slovakia for breaching international investment protection treaties, he said. (Bloomberg)