* Vinci only sole bidder, beats 3 international consortia
* ANA also to help Portugal with 2012 deficit target
* Portugal still plans more privatisations in 2013
(Adds Vinci's revenue estimates in paragraph 6, details)
By Sergio Goncalves and Filipa Cunha-Lima
LISBON, Dec 27 French group Vinci won a
privatisation tender for Portugal's airports operator ANA on
Thursday with a hefty 3.08 billion euro ($4.1 billion) bid,
enabling debt-laden Lisbon to beat its EU/IMF asset sale goal.
"This shows our capacity to attract foreign investment and
raise significant sums above market expectations despite
difficult circumstances," Treasury Secretary Maria Luis
Albuquerque told a briefing. "Luckily, the highest bidder also
offered us the best strategic project."
Vinci, the largest construction company in Europe
by revenue, snapped up a 95 percent stake in ANA outbidding
three international consortia. They were led by Germany's
Fraport, Switzerland's Flughafen Zurich and
Argentina's Corporacion America, and involved funds and
companies from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Mexico and Portugal.
Despite Portugal's steep recession and debt crisis, ANA has
been churning out profits out of its network of airports in
Portugal, including those serving the largest cities of Lisbon
and Porto, as well as the Algarve and Alentejo regions and the
Madeira and Azores archipelagos.
Vinci operates 9 regional airports in France and is the
concession company for Cambodia's three international airports.
It said in a statement that with the acquisition, its
airports division will have revenues of more than 600 million
euros serving some 40 million passengers, up sharply from last
year's 150 million euros with 8.5 million passengers.
In Portugal, Vinci is already one of two main shareholders
in Lusoponte that operates Lisbon's two bridges over the Tagus,
including the Vasco da Gama - the longest bridge in Europe.
Lisbon needs to get the most it can from state-owned asset
sales after it agreed to raise 5.5 billion euros by the end of
2013 as part of a 78 billion euro bailout agreement with the
troika of EU/IMF lenders, which also included across-the-board
tax hikes and spending cuts.
The government has been betting on infrastructure deals to
cut its debt as demand for regulated assets in Europe remains
strong despite the region's debt crisis.
MORE TO COME
It had earlier raised about 3.4 billion euros by selling
major stakes in power firms EDP and REN
mainly to Chinese investors, so now it beat the target by nearly
1 billion euros. That is despite having shelved the sell-off of
flag carrier TAP earlier this month after the sole bidder failed
to present the necessary financial guarantees.
"It's a world record for such transactions involving
airports," Albuquerque said of the ANA deal.
Portugal's progress in its economic adjustment, especially
in privatisations, has won praise from Brussels and Berlin and
contrasts sharply with Greece's performance after Athens slashed
its privatisation revenue target in late October
Next year, Portugal is to privatise the profitable national
postal service CTT, the cargo unit of the national railway
company Comboios de Portugal, parts of water utility Aguas de
Portugal, the insurance arm of state-controlled bank Caixa Geral
de Depositos and state broadcaster RTP.
Although privatisation revenues only count to reduce state
debt but not the budget deficit, the government has a concession
agreement with ANA that it argues qualifies some 800 million
euros for deficit reduction purposes this year.
The additional anti-deficit revenue, which is yet to be
approved by Eurostat, is needed after tax collection fell short
due to the worst recession since the 1970s. Portugal has to meet
a budget gap target of 5 percent of GDP this year and 4.5
percent in 2013.
Vinci is eager to build its fledgling airport concessions
business, especially after losing a bidding contest for Turkish
airports operator TAV earlier this year and an upsetting
decision by Germany's Hochtief to suspend a planned
sale of its airports.
More than three fifths of ANA's revenue comes from domestic
and European flights and investors see a potential for growth in
long-haul flights to South America and Africa. Profits could
also be boosted by running ANA more efficiently and developing
non-aviation revenue such as from duty free sales and parking.
($1 = 0.7563 euros)
(Additional reporting by Sophie Sassard in London, Andrei
Khalip in Lisbon, writing by Andrei Khalip; editing by Ron