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COFECO Issues Unfavorable Opinion on ASUR’s Participation in Bidding Process for Riviera Maya Airport

COFECO Issues Unfavorable Opinion on ASUR’s Participation in Bidding Process for Riviera Maya Airport

Tulum Real Estate InformationBy Paul Kiernan, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

MEXICO CITY -(Dow Jones)- Mexico’s antitrust commission, the CFC, has decided not to allow airport operator Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (ASR, ASUR.MX) to participate in the tender for a new airport in the Caribbean tourist destination of Riviera Maya.

Asur, as the company is known, operates the airport in nearby Cancun, which is Mexico’s second busiest, with passenger traffic rising 11% in 2010 to 12.4 million.

“The Riviera Maya airport is a historic opportunity to have competition between two neighboring airports,” CFC President Eduardo Perez Motta said in a weekend release. “To allow the entrance of Asur would have put at risk this opportunity and would have hurt consumers and tourism in the country’s most important destination.”

Asur couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Placing a new airport in Riviera Maya, around 130 kilometers south of Cancun, has been one of the main infrastructure goals on President Felipe Calderon’s 2006-2012 agenda. Unlike previous airport concessions, whereby the government essentially privatized three groups of existing airports to separate companies, the Riviera Maya project would be built from scratch. The necessary investment has been estimated at 3.2 billion pesos ($263 million).

The CFC said its decision will have particular significance for tourists visiting Playa del Carmen, a destination roughly halfway between Cancun and Riviera Maya. “The tourists staying in Playa del Carmen–and the airlines that transport them–will be able to choose between the two airports according to price and quality,” the commission said. It noted that Playa del Carmen accounts for nearly 30% of the region’s hotel rooms and is seeing the fastest growth on the Caribbean strip.

By excluding Asur, the CFC opens the door for rival Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (PAC, GAP.MX), or GAP, to add a potentially high-traffic, defensive airport to its product mix. During the 2009 economic crisis and A/H1N1 influenza outbreak, Asur’s passenger traffic benefited from the resiliency of Cancun, a relatively cheap destination for foreign tourists, where hotels responded quickly with aggressive promotions.

GAP is participating in the tender process alongside mining and railroads conglomerate Grupo Mexico (GMEXICO.MX). Competing with that consortium is a team comprising Argentine tycoon Eduardo Eurnekian’s Corporacion America, Mexican construction firm Tradeco Infraestructura and an individual investor, the CFC said. Neither consortium has a presence in the region.

In 2009, Asur completed a second runway at Cancun, doubling capacity to 28 million passengers per year.

The Riviera Maya airport tender requires the construction of a terminal and a runway capable of receiving direct flights from places as distant as Europe, which, according to the Communications and Transport Ministry, is Riviera Maya’s principal market. The winner of the concession will be allowed to operate the airport–forecast to have passenger traffic of 3 million by its third year in operation–for 50 years.

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