Spanish airports operator Aena takes off with soaring demand

Oliver Smith
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Aena’s chairman and chief executive Jose Manuel Vargas Gomez
EUROPE’S largest initial public offering since 2011 launched to a dramatic start yesterday after shares in Spanish airports group Aena surged 16 per cent on their market debut.

The €3.88bn (£2.88bn) sale sparked strong demand from investors for the group that enjoys relatively few rivals in its domestic market.

Aena, which priced its shares for €58 a piece to value the group at €8.7bn, opened at €65.1 per share and closed up at an even higher €70 valuing the group at over €10bn.

That compares with valuations of €10.5bn and €5bn respectively for France’s ADP and Germany’s Fraport, Aena’s biggest two European counterparts.

Aena has based its pitch on an attractive growth profile after a complete restructuring, and a bright outlook helped by a surge in tourism in the world’s third-most visited country.

“There just aren’t enough assets of this character for the money that’s chasing it,” said one London-based fund manager who has put in for an unspecified slice of the company.

The sale of Aena, which runs 46 Spanish airports and has stakes in London’s Luton and airports in Mexico and Colombia, was postponed in October, hit by demands for more transparency as Spain heads into an election year. A political hot potato because of regional politics, the sale has been an on-off project for years.