ATHENS – Investor interest in the sale of a 30% stake in Greece’s main tourist gateway, Athens International Airport, is also seen as further propelling the country’s accelerating economic comeback.
The state raised €784.7 million ($848.04 million) through the sale of its holding in the 23-year-old airport, known as Eleftherios Venizelos, with the IPO priced at €8.20 ($8.83) a share, the high end of the range.
“It’s a landmark transaction for Greece,” said Thanassis Drogossis, head of investment banking at Pantelakis Securities SA. “It’s a quality asset that enhances the reach of the Greek capital markets by attracting new classes of investors and serves as a proxy for Greek tourism, the heavyweight industry of the country.”
In a report, Bloomberg financial news agency noted that it came after Greece’s first new bond sale since it regained investment-grade status – a 10-year debt that attracted €35 billion ($37.7 billion) in orders, the most ever.
“The blockbuster IPO (Initial Public Offering) is one more marker bolstering Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis since his reelection in June. Greece’s economy outperformed most of its European peers last year, making the country’s financial crisis more than 10 years ago a distant memory,” the report said.
It will also help the country’s largest airport expand as tourist arrivals set new records. The Athens airport, which connects Greece with 155 cities worldwide, handled more than 28 million passengers in 2023 — a 24% increase from 2022 when COVID-19 health measures were lifted.
About 19 million of them came from overseas, showing its central role in Greece’s crucial tourism sector, with a record 32 million visitors arriving through November and the country trying to lure them in the winter period.
“Athens Airport’s entry into the stock market is one of the components to help it proceed with its investment activity, aiming to increase its capacity,” Elias Kikilias, General Manager of the Institute of the Greek Tourism Confederation, or INSETE, said.
“The outlook for the airport is very positive and it’s linked to the wider outlook for tourism, which is also very good,” he told the news agency, with the airport rated among the best and most efficient in Europe.
The Athens Airport is more than just an area for arriving and departing passengers since “it controls a broader area around the terminal with a hotel, exhibition spaces, and large shopping malls,” Kikilias said.
That means it effectively serves an area with almost 6 million inhabitants, more than half of Greece’s population. A three-phase expansion is planned to increase the terminal’s capacity to 50 million passengers by 2046. That includes an extension of the central terminal, a new parking runway for 32 aircraft, a new VIP terminal, and a multi-story parking lot.
In the last five years, the airport has added 69 new destinations to its network and developed partnerships with 32 new airlines, making it the 9th busiest in Europe, according to OAG’s Megahubs 2023 ranking.
Not everyone is impressed. “For a long time, I’ve thought its services were expensive and I’m not impressed by the drop-off charges or its short-time limit,” said Myriam Fotou, who uses the airport to fly between Athens and London.
A huge interactive video wall on the way to the airport’s baggage claims area carries realistic-looking waves gently tumbling on the floor, making a soothing sound and transporting the visitor to a beach, the report added.