Hungary Seeks to Get Control of Budapest Airport Operator

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Hungary’s government is seeking to acquire a majority stake in the operator of Budapest Airport, despite a message by the hub’s owners that they aren’t looking to sell their stakes.

The cabinet gave Innovation and Technology Minister Laszlo Palkovics a mandate to begin talks with the current owners, according to a statement sent on Friday. Reversing the hub’s privatization, which started in 2005 and was completed after Prime Minister Viktor Orban returned to power in 2010, would help improve services at the airport, the government said.

Budapest Airport has rejected allegations that it’s not investing enough and has complained about government pressure tactics seen as trying to force the owners to sell. Last year, a private consortium of Orban’s allies tried to gain control of the airport but has so far proved unsuccessful.

Budapest Airport posted a loss of 110 million euros ($134 million) in 2020 after travel collapsed during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite that, the operator invested 167 million euros in airport development over the past two years, including half last year, according to a company statement.

“The financially strong owners, who are committed to the airport in the long run, spent the profit realized in 2019 on the crisis management of Budapest Airport,” the airport said in a statement on Friday.

AviAlliance, a German-based airport management company, is the biggest shareholder, while Singapore sovereign-wealth fund GIC and a Canadian fund hold minority stakes.

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