The Slovenia Times

Union-Owned Bank Buys Maribor Airport

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The bank acquired the 57% stake by investing EUR 900,000 into Aerodrom Maribor to shore up its finances at the end of October, after months of efforts by the existing owner to find a partner.

While Maribor Airport currently lives off charter flights and occasional cargo transport, Delavska hranilnica chairman Jo┼że Stegne is convinced that scheduled flights are in the offing for the airport in Slovenia's second city.

Stegne told the STA that he sees Aerodrom Maribor developing into a modern airport catering to scheduled lines, charter flights and cargo traffic. But he would not venture to speculate on how quickly scheduled flights could be established.

Moreover, he admitted that one of the reasons for the investment was to show that the sale of Slovenia's largest airport operator, Aerodrom Ljubljana, to a foreign owner (it was sold to Germany's Fraport in early September) was a mistake. He also rejected criticism that Delavska hranilnica was straying too far off its core business.

"Those who think that the bank should stick to its core activity obviously don't know what are the activities of a bank. Financial investments are a core part of the operations of every bank and the same applies to us," he said.

With the bank becoming a 57% owner, the minority share remains in the hands of Aviofun, a small aviation company from Slovenj Gradec which stepped into ownership following the collapse of Prevent, the car seat cover maker which had owned the airport for many years.

Stegne said he wants the minority owner to stay on in order to provide specialised support in the field of aviation.

The arrival of a new majority owner was also welcomed by Aerodrom Maribor general manager Marko Gros, who said that this will enable the completion of three years of financial restructuring at the company. A new owner will enable faster development for the airport, Gros added.

With the state recently investing in the overhaul of airport infrastructure, Gros believes the door is open for a major development drive. He expects the state to publish a call for a long-term lease for the airport in the coming months.

The Infrastructure Ministry said that the call would be published following changes to the aviation act, which are currently being drafted. These will allow the airport infrastructure to be leased out for longer periods.

Aerodrom Maribor saw a 15% rise in passenger numbers in the first eight months of 2014 and the company expects to finish the year with 15,000-17,000 passengers passing through the airport. It plans to close they year with a profit.

Delavska hranilnica is owned by a number of trade unions associated in the influential ZSSS union confederation and several public sector unions

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