CYPRUS: French stakeholder in airports operation looking to Chinese buyers

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France's Bouygues Batiment International, the owner of 21.99% of Hermes Airports, is reportedly in advanced negotiations with Chinese investors to sell their stake in the Cyprus operation.

According to Phileleftheros daily, Chinese investors have submitted an offer to the subsidiary of French building giants Bouygues Construction for the acquisition of their share of the company running the island’s two airports.

Bouygues Batiment International is the largest shareholder in Cyprus airports operator Hermes and a sale of its shares would see a change in the structure of the company.

When approached by the Financial Mirror, Hermes Airports declined to comment, but a possible sale of Bouygues’ stake will come as no surprise as the French construction group is known for investing in construction of airports and then proceeding with selling their shares.

The French company has been searching for buyers since the beginning of the year, as a well-informed source told the Financial Mirror, while the increase of passengers flying through Larnaca and Paphos airports is expected to facilitate a possible transaction.

A total of 9.9 million passengers passed through the island’s airports in the first ten months of the year, compared to 9.3 million during the same period last year.

The agreement with the government will see Hermes Airports operating the two airports until 2031.

According to figures given at the time, construction of the two airports cost EUR 574.5 mln. Finance Ministry sources, quoted by Phileleftheros, said state revenues from the agreement with Hermes Airports amounted to EUR 49.7 mln in 2017.

Hermes current capital structure sees the French construction company owning 21.99% of Hermes’ equity, Egis Projects 20%, the Cyprus Trading Corporation 11.34%, Hellenic Mining 11.33%,  Vantage Airport Group 11%, Aer Rianta International 11%,  Iacovou Brothers 5.6% and Charilaos Apostolides Ltd 5.6%.

If Bouygues eventually sells its stake in Hermes, it will also summon the end of its presence in the Cypriot market for which the company had big plans pre-crisis.

Bouygues had previously shown interest in the Larnaca Marina development project.