The Spanish government has vowed to press ahead with the privatisation of part of the country’s airport authority, despite being forced to scrap a €7bn ($9.5bn) stock market listing of the state lottery.
The final list of consortiums planning to make bids to manage the Madrid and Barcelona airports was approved by the government in an auction process that will raise more than €5bn if completed just ahead of general elections in November.
Elena Salgado, Spain’s economy minister, said on Thursday that the shelving of the lottery sale would have no effect on the plans to auction the airport concessions, and to sell 49 per cent of AENA, the national airport authority.
The failure of the government’s plan to sell 30 per cent of Loterías y Apuestas del Estado, in what would have been the country’s largest share listing to date, was seen as having dealt a blow to already minimal demand in Europe for initial public offerings.
“If this can’t get done it’s difficult to see what will,” said David Vaughan, head of IPOs at Ernst & Young.
“New issuance is going to be very, very tough, particularly larger deals . . . We started the year thinking it might be a good one, but now we might be looking at another 12 months before we see a meaningful improvement in the European IPO market.”
Madrid’s rush to push through the privatisations before elections in November that are expected to see Spain’s incumbent socialist government swept from power has been met with mounting protest from the opposition Popular party to the sale of the country’s “crown jewels”.
The deadline for the final offers for the airport concessions falls at the end of October, meaning the process can be completed just ahead of the November 20 election.
Companies including Ferrovial, the owner of the UK’s BAA, FCC, Grupo ACS, Abertis, and Aéroports de Paris have teamed up with various international infrastructure funds to bid.
Bankers said that aside from the failed Loterías deal, there were very few if any companies in Europe considering listing this year after market turmoil triggered by the eurozone debt crisis has seen the number of pulled IPOs on course to surpass the record levels of last year.
Globally, companies cancelled or postponed $8.9bn in initial public offerings in the third quarter, according to Bloomberg data. The value of withdrawn and delayed IPOs this year has risen to $34bn, approaching the $40bn pulled in 2010.
People who had been working on the lottery listing said the fact that part of the offering was due to be marketed to retail investors had been unpopular with some Spanish banks. They feared the high-yielding shares would have drained away deposits at a time when lenders are battling to win savers’ funds.
The deal’s demise has also been seen as auguring poorly for other indebted European countries seeking to raise funds via selling assets. Greece has started on a €50bn programme of asset sales as part of its battle to stave off default.