BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The Hungarian government has submitted a non-binding offer to the shareholders of Budapest Airport to buy the airport, its operator AviAlliance GmbH said on Monday.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government earlier this year expressed its interest in buying a majority stake in Hungary’s main international airport saying its privatisation had been against the country’s “strategic interests”.
Orban, a nationalist often at loggerheads with the European Commission on a range of issues, has said he wants to see the airport in domestic hands, but until now its owners have expressed no interest in selling it.
Top shareholder with 55.44% is AviAlliance GmbH, formerly Hochtief AirPort GmbH, which is owned by Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments).
Singapore’s GIC Special Investments and Canada’s Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec each hold a little over 21%.
“We can confirm that the Hungarian Government submitted a non-binding offer to the shareholders of Budapest Airport. In the interest of our co-shareholders and on legal grounds we are obliged to review potential offers,” AviAlliance said in an emailed reply to Reuters questions.
“Nonetheless, this NBO was not initiated by us. AviAlliance is a committed long-term investor.... We deeply hope to be given the opportunity to remain invested in this airport.”
A government spokesman declined comment.
Orban’s government has expanded state ownership in several sectors since he took office in 2010.
The state currently has no stake in the airport, which was privatised in 2005.
Budapest Airport is a fast-growing, medium-sized airport that has benefited from a boom in low-cost travel, but is facing a difficult market due to the pandemic.
AviAlliance, which holds interests in five airports including Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Athens, said like all European airports, Budapest has been severely affected by COVID-19.
“Yet, we continued our investments in the airport’s infrastructure and operation during the current crisis as we believe in its fast economic recovery and long-term growth potential,” it said.
Reporting by Krisztina Than, editing by Louise Heavens and Jason Neely