Air Transport World

From under the boot.(Aeroporti di Roma)

Aeroporti di Roma, free of government and Alitalia shackles, also must shake off its own poor reputation

ROME--Italy's scramble to qualify for European Monetary Union has forced it to sell numerous assets, including Aeroporti di Roma. That gives ADR the chance to stop blaming others for shortfalls and prove it can run an efficient airport system without government subsidy.

ADR was created in 1974 out of 50-plus companies then providing services at Rome's main airport at Fiumicino. Until last year, ADR was controlled by primary tenant and owner Alitalia. IRI, the octopus-like state holding company, owned most of the rest.

But the approaching EMU deadline refocused politicians' thoughts. ADR is slowly being allowed to remake itself. A 1996 law lets it expand activities beyond Fiumicino and sister airport Ciampino. In 1997, IRI bought Alitalia's 58% stake in ADR. The 650 billion lire-plus boost to Alitalia's bottom line arrived at a convenient time, just before IRI is due to sell part of it this year.

The next step for ADR came in July, 1997, when 1111 sold 45% of its shares: 5% of it to employees, 30% to retail purchasers, mostly individuals, and 65% to financial houses. This summer, IRI will sell the remaining 54.2%. The Rome Chamber of Commerce retains a 0.8% stake.

The airport company's shares have more than doubled since the initial offer. Despite that, ADR has plenty of challenges: Playing catchup in FCO's modernization; replacing government funding and Alitalia's monopoly business; competing against Milan's rebuilt Malpensa Airport; competing for new business outside Rome; reducing costs and boosting efficiency.

Management seems confident. It blames many problems on Alitalia or the government, whether for holding down rates and charges to keep Alitalia afloat or slowing needed expenditures for the same reason. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.