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Bolivia won't compensate Spanish firm for airport takeover

BOLIVIA SPAIN/AIRPORTS | 13 de septiembre de 2013

Bolivian President Evo Morales is shown in this file photo. Morales said Friday that Spain's Abertis Infraestructuras SA and Aena would not be compensated for the nationalization of their Sabsa unit, which had managed the Andean nation's three largest airports. EFE/File

La Paz, Sep 13 (EFE).- Bolivian President Evo Morales said Friday that Spain's Abertis Infraestructuras SA and Aena would not be compensated for the nationalization of their Sabsa unit, which had managed the Andean nation's three largest airports.

At the same time, Morales said talks aimed at compensating Spanish utility giant Iberdrola for the expropriation of four of its Bolivian subsidiaries in December 2012 should be "accelerated."

Regarding Abertis, "there's nothing to negotiate ..., there's nothing to discuss, they should be paying us instead," the president said during the inauguration of new passenger boarding bridges at the Jorge Wilstermann airport in the central city of Cochabamba.

The Bolivian government expropriated Servicios de Aeropuertos Bolivianos S.A., or Sabsa, on Feb. 18, accusing the company of not investing enough in improvements to the three airports.

A 25-year-concession to operate Bolivia's three main airports - serving La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz - was awarded to Sabsa in 1997.

Sabsa has changed hands twice since then, passing in 1999 from U.S.-based Airport Group International to Britain's TBI, which five years later sold the firm to two Spanish concerns: state-owned aviation administrator AENA and infrastructure giant Abertis.

Like in previous nationalization processes, Bolivia said then it would appoint an independent auditor to determine appropriate compensation for Abertis and Aena.

A day after the nationalization, Abertis said it would seek $90 million (nearly 70 million euros) in compensation from Bolivia for the unit.

Morales said Friday the Iberdrola units were nationalized for "social reasons" but added that talks to compensate the Spanish utility should be accelerated.

He said he took up the matter last week in Madrid during meetings with Spanish King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

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