Spain's Aena, Zurich Airports win auctions to operate Brazil airports

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Spain’s Aena SME SA and Switzerland’s Flughafen Zuerich AG on Friday won the right to operate two key Brazilian airport groups, in one of the first tests of President Jair Bolsonaro’s ability to draw foreign investment.

Aena offered 1.9 billion reais ($496 million) to operate six airports in northeastern Brazil, including the city of Recife, the ninth-largest city in Brazil and a major tourist hub.

Zurich Airport Latin America Ltda, a unit of Flughafen, won an uncontested bid of 437 million reais to operate two airports in southeastern Brazil, including the airport serving Vitoria, the capital of the Espirito Santo state.

Zurich had also bid for the northeastern airports, coming in just 49 million reais under Aena’s winning offer after multiple rounds of bidding.

Bolsonaro celebrated the results on Twitter, saying it was a “great victory” and a sign that “Brazil is growing again.”

Brazilian bank BTG Pactual said the results turned the federal government into “a winner since the auction attracted relatively high granting fees from traditional players already operating in Brazil ... and from newcomers.”

The operating rights for the airports were offered in blocks, a shift from previous auctions in Brazil that had separated the rights for individual airports.

Bolsonaro was elected president on a platform that included privatization of state assets. He has said publicly the airport auctions would help provide better service to passengers and boost the economy.

Reporting by Aluisio Alves, Gabriela Mello and Paula Laier in São Paulo; Writing by Ana Mano and Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Dan Grebler and Sandra Maler