Santos Dumont Airport, close to downtown Rio de Janeiro, will be auctioned together with Galeão International Airport in the second half of 2023, announced today (10) the Minister of Infrastructure, Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas. In a press conference, he confirmed the departure of Santos Dumont from the 7th Round of Airport Bids, which takes place this year.
With the decision, the 7th round was left with 15 airports that will be sold in three blocks: São Paulo–Mato Grosso do Sul–Pará (lot that includes Congonhas Airport, in the capital of São Paulo and eight other airports); Rio de Janeiro–Minas Gerais (which only had the airports of Jacarepaguá, in Rio de Janeiro, Montes Claros, Uberlândia and Uberaba, in Minas Gerais) and Norte 2 (comprised of the airports in the capitals Macapá and Belém).
“It no longer makes sense to walk with Santos Dumont in isolation in the 7th round. We are going to study the two airports together. We will jointly evaluate the Galeão and Santos Dumont concession. This is a response to the concern of the productive sector and the government of Rio de Janeiro. Let’s consider the Rio terminal moving together”, declared the minister.
The postponement of the Santos Dumont auction came after the announcement that the Singapore company Changi, which controls the concessionaire that manages Galeão, will withdraw from the deal. The Asian company filed a request this afternoon with the National Civil Aviation Agency (Anac) to leave the concession, after the agency had denied, earlier this month, a request to review the balance of the contract.
According to Changi, losses from the reduction of air traffic during the pandemic reached R$ 7.5 billion. The concessionaire, which currently owns 51% of the airport, wanted to deduct this amount from the grants to be paid to the government until 2039, when the current contract would end. In updated values, the company would have to disburse just over R$ 1 billion per year.
The minister announced that Changi will continue to provide services at Galeão until the new bidding contract is signed. The other 49% of Galeão is managed by the state-owned Infraero.
“We had been following this issue at Galeão for some time, and this is due to the way in which the concession was made and the bid [lance] that was given back there. The proposal offered at the time was R$19 billion, exceeding R$30 billion in updated funds. This generates a grant of more than R$ 1 billion per year and the revenue is insufficient for this grant”, explained Freitas.
With the postponement of the Santos Dumont auction, the working group of the federal government and state and municipal authorities in Rio de Janeiro will be terminated. The group discussed the bidding model for Santos Dumont. Prior to the decision, negotiations faced an impasse, because local authorities were against an eventual expansion of Santos Dumont, which would further reduce air traffic at Galeão, which had been having difficulties in recovering demand before the pandemic.
The Galeão concession contract has been in force since 2014. At the time, the consortium formed by contractor Odebrecht and Changi won the auction. In 2017, Odebrecht sold its share of the consortium to Changi, amid financial difficulties for the contractor after Operation Car Wash.
Shortly before the press conference, the president of the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro, André Ceciliano, had regretted the withdrawal of Changi and defended the suspension of the Santos Dumont tender.
“For me, who always fought to balance the operation of the terminals in Centro and Ilha [do Governador, onde fica o Galeão]it is obvious that, with this announcement, the Santos Dumont bidding has to be immediately suspended in order to discuss a new model for Rio de Janeiro that makes the operations of Galeão International Airport viable, not only in terms of passengers, but also in terms of movement of cargo and aircraft maintenance”, highlighted the president of Alerj.