The Brazilian airports of Natal and Viracopos — in the states of Rio Grande do Norte and São Paulo, respectively — were famously handed back to government control earlier this decade after their private owners struggled to make them profitable. The Infrastructure Ministry’s plan was to tender the airport concessions for a second time in 2021, but the process faced several delays.
Last week, Bruno Westin Leal, head of the government’s Investment Partnership Program, announced that the Natal auction will be delayed for another 12 months, while the Viracopos tender will have to wait another two years.
The Natal airport was the first in Brazil to be handed over to private control when it was auctioned off to administrator Inframérica in 2011.
However, just nine years later, the company handed its concession back, saying the forecasts sold to them during the initial tender did not turn out to be realistic. The “re-auction” process is currently stalled in the Federal Accounts Court (TCU).
A TCU decision on the airport tender is being watched very closely, as the ruling is set to be used as a precedent for all future auctions of returned airport and highway concessions.
With regard to Viracopos Airport, located 95 kilometers away from the city of São Paulo, the reasons for the delay are different. Aeroportos Brasil Viracopos, which controls the airport, disagrees with the TCU over how compensation should be paid for unamortized investments, and plans to take the case to arbitration.