* Hungary escapes compensation threat at Budapest Airport
* $3.6 bln compensation claim loomed after Malev went bust
* Other airlines made up for drop in business - Hochtief
By Peter Dinkloh and Marton Dunai
FRANKFURT/BUDAPEST, Jan 15 The danger of an 800
billion forint ($3.61 billion) hit to the Hungarian budget from
compensation payments linked to a fall in business at Budapest
airport faded on Tuesday as airport operator Hochtief
said the facility was doing well.
Last year's collapse of state-owned carrier Malev,
which was responsible for 40 percent of annual sales at Budapest
airport, raised concerns a corresponding fall in passenger
numbers could trigger payments to the five airport operators
under a so-called hardship clause.
However a spokeswoman for Hochtief, the German construction
and infrastructure company which owns 40 percent of the airport
concession, said in an email on Tuesday that the airport was
showing a good performance and passenger numbers fell no more
than 6 percent in 2012.
Low-cost carriers and other airlines including Deutsche
Lufthansa filled some of the slots occupied by Malev,
The Hungarian government last year said that compensation
payments could run to 800 billion forints - nearly 1.5 times the
government's 2012 budget deficit target - if the five operators
of Budapest Airport claimed compensation.
That sum would have "grave consequences" for the budget, the
Development Ministry said. The International Monetary Fund added
the Malev demise posed new threats to growth for the country.
The Hungarian government was not immediately available for
comment on Tuesday.
"We are happy with the good development of Budapest airport
in the difficult year 2012," said the spokeswoman for Hochtief,
which had said in February 2012 it was examining claims for
"The hardship clause could come into effect if the basis for
doing business at the airport does not exist any longer. That
does not only depend on passenger numbers," she said, without
giving any further details.
The other airport shareholders are a Canadian investment
fund, a fund from Goldman Sachs, a fund from Singapore
and German state owned development bank KfW.