UPDATE 1-Spain seeks to privatise up to 60 pct of Aena - study

Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:01am EDT

MADRID Oct 28 (Reuters) - Spain is seeking three to five core investors to buy 20 percent to 30 percent of debt-burdened state airport operator Aena and may then float further shares to leave as much as 60 percent of the company in private hands, according to an official report.

The Privatisation Consulting Council (CCP) study made public on Monday was commissioned by Aena to assess the legal basis for the government's privatisation plan. Details of the plan were unknown until now.

Investment bank Lazard and Spain's N+1 brokerage have been hired to help line up investors for Aena. However, sources close to the process said there was a slim chance of meeting the government's goal of a deal early next year unless Madrid's Barajas airport, which represents 20 percent of Aena's income, can turn around a decline in traffic.

Spain has struggled for years to privatise Aena, which operates 46 Spanish airports and London's Luton and has stakes in 14 Latin American airports. The last attempt was cancelled in 2011 as Spain's deep economic and fiscal crisis made it difficult to get a good price.

In the past the government had sought infrastructure firms to take control of Aena. But sources have told Reuters that this time the government has approached financial investors to take the core stakes.

The CCP report said that Aena's plan was that none of the major investors would take more than a 10 percent stake.

Aena has debts of 13 billion euros ($17.9 billion) from a rapid expansion during the country's decade-long construction bubble.

Investors are beginning to look at Spanish assets again after signs the country's economy may be returning to growth after two years of recession.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently bought a 6 percent stake in Spanish builder FCC, Colombian and U.S. investors bought new shares in Spanish lender Banco Sabadell and sources say a Canadian paper group is interested in Spain's Indas.

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