According to an ACI Europe report, issued this morning at the 8th ACI Airport Economics & Finance Conference in London, 41% of European airports – 205 airports – now have private shareholders, up from only 22% in 2010.
Close to 39% of these airports (79 airports) have full private ownership, while 61% (126 airports) are ‘public-private partnerships’ involving a combination of private and public shareholders.
Private shareholders continue to be more prevalent at larger airports – as airports with private participation now handle close to 75% of passenger traffic.
This reflects the fact that smaller regional airports tend to be structurally unprofitable, says ACI Europe, meaning that they are suitable to a more limited range of private operation models than their larger counterparts.
ACI Europe, director general, Olivier Jankovec, notes: “In just six years, private investors have gotten involved in an additional circa 100 airports in Europe.
"This means that the number of European airports with private shareholders has more than doubled - and that 3 in 4 passengers are now travelling through an airport with private shareholders.
"Meanwhile, almost all fully publicly-owned airports are now corporatised and managed on a purely commercial basis.
"These are not anecdotal changes to our industry – they are truly transformative changes. They underline the fact hat airports are now run as businesses focused on air connectivity development, operational efficiency, service quality, revenue diversification and sustainable investments.
He adds: “The challenge now is to ensure that we have in place a regulatory framework which fully mirrors and promotes this continued business transformation - and helps ensure that the travelling public continues to enjoy the fruits of a healthy and competitive airport market.”
The increase of private investors’ involvement in airports has been more pronounced in the EU than in the non-EU bloc, reveals the report, and has led to a rise in both ‘private-public partnerships’ and full privatisations.
Prominent examples of EU airport operators which opened up to private shareholders since 2010 include the national airport networks of Spain (AENA – 46 airports) and Portugal (ANA – 10 airports) as well as MAG (Manchester Airports Group), SEA (Milan airports), Zagreb, Ljubljana and Toulouse airports.
Only 7 EU Member States still have all of their ACI Europe-member airports 100% publicly owned, says ACI Europe.
Conversely, Cyprus, Hungary, Portugal, Slovenia and the UK are the countries where private ownership is the more prevalent - followed by Belgium, Malta, Spain and France.
Jankovec says: “This shift towards more private involvement in EU airports is ongoing. Alongside Nice and Lyon airports in France, as well as the Lithuanian airports network, 14 Greek regional airports are expected to be transferred to a private consortium over the coming months.
When completed, these transactions will see private shareholders being involved in more than half of the EU’s airports.
Outside the EU, full public ownership remains the norm for all airports in Belarus, Iceland, Israel, Montenegro and Norway, while private ownership is the most widespread in Albania, Kosovo, Moldavia and Russia.