Bolivia planning state takeover of airports-report
June 27, 2008 - Reuters

Reporting by Carlos Quiroga; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

LA PAZ, June 27 (Reuters) -- Bolivia's leftist government is preparing a state takeover of the country's three biggest airports, currently run by a subsidiary of Spain's Abertis, a local newspaper reported on Friday.

President Evo Morales has increased state control over the economy since taking office in 2006, nationalizing the vital energy sector and more recently taking control of Italian-owned Entel, Bolivia's biggest telephone company.

Daily newspaper La Razon said Morales was planning a similar move on the airports serving the main cities of La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.

"The (the concessionary) company hasn't invested adequately," Fernando Azuga, technical director of state-run airport authority AASANA, was quoted as saying by the newspaper, referring to the Abertis subsidiary SABSA.

Morales' government accused Entel of failing to invest before the president decreed its takeover earlier this year.

AASANA, which runs the Andean country's other airports, would take control of the three airports that have been managed by SABSA since 1997, the newspaper said.

It quoted SABSA's managing director, Anthony Alicastro, as saying returning the airports to state control would be "unwise ... when new investments are about to be made."

SABSA is part of British airport operator TBI, which is in turn managed by a company owned by Abertis and Aena Internacional, also of Spain.

No one at Abertis or SABSA could immediately be reached to comment.