Airport is planning to target
low-cost carriers and cargo growth as the Dutch national Government and Province
of Limburg prepare to sell their
majority stake in the airport to Omniport of Scotland and leading Dutch
construction company Dura Vermeer.
consortium have reached an agreement “on the main points” of the sale with the
Dutch state and province to acquire the shares. The deal will go before the
shareholders’ meeting or the airport holding company Holding Businesspark
Luchthaven Maastricht on 1 July and is expected to close on 2 July.
which holds a majority interest in UK
airport Norwich but recently sold
its interest in Glasgow Prestwick, and Dura Vermeer have agreed to buy a 100%
shareholding for €5 million ($6 million) and to invest €7.5 million into the
airport while taking on the restructuring losses anticipated for 2004. The
consortium will pay €3.5 million for the 70%. If the remaining local government
shareholders – Maastricht municipal
government, NV Industriebank LIOF and the Chamber of Commerce for South
Limburg – decide to sell their shareholding the other €2.5 million
will go toward the 30%.
decision follows on from long-term plans by the national Government to withdraw
from ownership of regional airports.
managing director Jan Tindemans points out that the regional government had the
option to buy the national Government’s shareholding in the airport but decided
against it. He says that the Province
of Limburg would be “wearing too
many hats” if it owned the majority stake as well as acted as regulator.
the new ownership Tindemans sees opportunities for growth in low-cost
operations at Maastricht. The
airport generates most of its earnings from cargo and charter operations. He
points out: “There is a strong market for charter, but I think the biggest
growth will be low-cost and cargo.”
airport currently has limited service from low-cost carriers with only Dutch
low-cost operator Vbird and some eastern European low-cost carriers serving it.
From early 2003 until January this year, Irish no-frills airline Ryanair offered
services to the airport from London Stansted but cancelled the route because
yields were too low.
stresses that the state’s decision to privatise the airport came long before
the European Commission’s Brussels South Charleroi airport ruling restricting
state subsidises at regional airports. But he says: “It certainly makes it
easier for the airport if it is privately owned to do business with low-cost airlines.”
reported operating losses of €1 billion in 2003 and expects to have “bigger
losses” in 2004.