Fabio Falkenburger and Julia Souza Torres

Amidst controversy, the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) published, on February 23, the final adjustments to the draft of the bid notice for the 7th round of airport concessions.

The first draft was published in September 2021, but the layout of airports blocks to be tendered has undergone some changes since then. Initially, Santos Dumont airport in Rio de Janeiro (RJ), considered one of the crown jewels of this bid, would be auctioned in RJ-MG block, together with the Jacarepaguá airport, also in the city of Rio de Janeiro, and three other airports in Minas Gerais. Under intense scrutiny from the state and municipal governments of Rio de Janeiro, who argued that the block’s configuration would weaken the Galeão airport and accentuate Santos Dumont’s overcapacity operations, the Ministry of Infrastructure decided to bid Santos Dumont airport separately.

In February 2022, the Ministry of Infrastructure revisited the concession format once again and decided to tender the main Rio terminals, Santos Dumont and Galeão, together in the same block in the 8th round, which is scheduled only for 2023. The Minister of Infrastructure, Tarcísio de Freitas, stated that this change was due to concerns about possible predatory competition between the two airports, should the bidding be continued with the old configuration. Galeão airport is already facing difficulties with the reduction of passenger and cargo traffic caused by the economic crisis and aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. These difficulties led to a deficit of R$ 7.5 billion in the operation and resulted in the return of the concession by the Singaporean operator Changi Airports International.

The 7th round, despite not having a set date, is scheduled to take place at the end of the first half of 2022. The modeling of the concession of the 15 airports in three blocks, and the respective minimum initial contributions, is as follows:

  • The General Aviation Block will be composed of the airports of Campo de Marte/SP and Jacarepaguá/RJ. The minimum initial contribution is R$ 138.3 million.
  • The North Block II will be composed of the airports of Belém/PA and Macapá/AP. The minimum initial contribution is R$ 56.6 million.
  • The Block SP/MS/PA/MG will be composed of the airports of Congonhas/SP, Campo Grande/MS, Ponta Porã/MS, Santarém/PA, Marabá/PA, Parauapebas/PA, Altamira/PA, Montes Claros/MG, Uberlândia/MG, and Uberaba/MG. The minimum initial contribution is R$ 255.2 million.

The concession contract will be valid for 30 years for all blocks. The extension of such a contract will be admitted in extraordinary circumstances for five years only.

The investments to be made over the three decades of the concession are expected to total R$ 25 billion, with almost half of this amount corresponding to the investments to be made in the block that includes Congonhas airport, one of the most profitable in the country. According to Anac, the airports of this round correspond to 26% of the paid passengers that circulate in the country's air transport market.

The draft of the bid notice allows the participation of Brazilian or foreign legal entities, complementary pension entities, and investment funds, alone or in a consortium. However, it does not allow a legal entity, or its subsidiaries and parent companies, to participate in more than one consortium to submit a proposal for the same block. It also does not allow the participation of airlines in the auction, except as a consortium member with less than 2%, considering the sum of their holdings.

As in the last round, the draft also allows the hiring of a technical assistant, in other words, if the winning bidder does not meet the technical qualifications required by the Agency, it must submit a commitment to hiring technical assistance to ensure the effective realization of the project. On the other hand, the tender notice requires that the single bidder company or one of the members to be an airport operator which has operated, in at least one of the last five years, an airport that has processed, in that year, at least:

  • For the General Aviation Block, 200,000 passengers or 17,000 aircraft movements (landings and takeoffs).
  • For the North Block II, 1 million passengers.
  • For the Block SP/MS/PA/MG, 5 million passengers.

The published draft will be reviewed by the Federal Accounting Court (TCU) and then returns to ANAC to set the date and publish the final bid notice.

It is expected that, as with the previous rounds, the auction will move the aviation sector, which slowly recovers from the economic crisis of recent years.