Abertis wants 67 million euros in compensation for expropriation of Bolivian unit

Concession holder has fully provisioned for its stake in Sabsa

Business only accounts for 0.2 percent of its gross operating income

Spanish airport and toll-road operator Abertis said Tuesday it would seek compensation of $90 million (67 million euros) for the loss of its jointly owned Bolivian unit Servicios de Aeropuertos Bolivianos (Sabsa), which President Evo Morales nationalized the previous day.

At a press conference to present the company’s earnings for last year, Chief Executive Officer Francisco Reynés said Abertis was also studying international legal action against the Bolivian government.

Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo on Monday described the expropriation as an "unfriendly act" that "would have its consequences."

Sabsa, which manages the airports of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, is jointly owned with AENA, the Spanish state-controlled airport operator. Morales justified the nationalization on the failure of the concession holders of Sabsa to sufficiently invest in the company.

Reynés said Sabsa’s capacity to invest was restricted by the fact that the rates charged by the airports had been frozen since 2001, while the Bolivian government decreed a 140-percent hike in the wages of the company’s employees in 2005. He said Abertis had fully provisioned for its stake in Sabsa.

Abertis booked a net profit last year of 1.024 billion euros, an increase of 42.3 percent over a year earlier. Earnings were boosted by the capital gains generated by the sale of a 23-percent stake in the French satellite operator Eutelsat and 14.6 percent of the Portuguese toll-road operator Brisa.

After factoring out the one-off gains, recurrent net profit was 2 percent at 613 million euros in a year in which traffic in Spain declined 10.4 percent as the country slipped back into recession for the second time in three years.

After incorporating the contribution of the toll-road concessions in Brazil it acquired from OHL Brasil in the last month of the year, Abertis’ revenues exceeded 4 billion euros for the year for the first time ever, climbing 3.2 percent from a year earlier to 4.033 billion.

The contribution of Sabsa to Abertis’ gross operating profit in the form of EBITDA was 5 million euros, barely 0.2 percent of the total, which was 2.459 billion euros, largely unchanged from a year earlier. The 5 million euros represents 5.3 percent of its airport division’s EBITDA.

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