State-owned AENA, the world's biggest airport operator by passenger numbers, on Tuesday priced shares in its inital public offering at €58 per share, valuing the firm at €8.7 billion ($9.8 billion).
The company said it will initially float 44.55 percent of its shares, raising €3.87 billion. The offer can be expanded to a maximum of 49 percent of its shares to meet high demand, which would raise €4.26 billion.
AENA said the offer was almost five times over-subscribed, which allowed it to set the price for the share listing at the very top of the 53-58 euros range it set last week.
Spain, which is privatising the company to help it lower a public debt load that is expected to surpass 100 percent of gross domestic product this year, plans to keep a 51 percent controlling stake in the firm.
"AENA will continue to be a public firm. We will not allow the network of airports to be broken up," Transport Minister Ana Pastor told journalists on the eve of the listing.
The two main unions at AENA, CCOO and USO, called off 27 strike days planned for between February and August in protest at the partial privatisation of the firm after getting guarantees that jobs would not be lost.
AENA runs 46 airports and two heliports in Spain and another 15 in Latin America, the United States and Europe, including London's Luton.
It is the world's largest airport operator by passenger numbers, with nearly 195.9 million traveller arrivals or departures last year, a 4.5 percent increase over 2013.
Return to profit
In January 2012 Spain's new conservative government shelved plans to partially privatise AENA until November 2014 due to tepid investor interest.
It was then pulled at the last minute after government officials discovered that there had not been a public tender for the role of auditor.
While AENA's airports in Madrid and Barcelona, as well as in tourism hotspots like Ibiza and Gran Canaria, are profitable, many handle a small amount of passengers and lose money.
Hit hard by Spain's economic downturn, the operator underwent a massive overhaul which included firing 20 percent of its workers and a rise in airport taxes that have helped restore it back to financial health.
The company reported a net profit of €596.7 million for 2013, emerging from a net loss of €63.5 million the previous year.
Results for 2014 are not yet available, but AENA said its revenues rose 6.4 percent during the first nine months to €2.39 billion thanks to a rise in airport traffic as Spain's economy picked up and stronger sales from duty free shops.
The improved performance allowed the government to raise its price range for the company's listing.
It had initially set the range at €43-55 per share when it approved the new date for the listing at a cabinet meeting on February 3rd.
Initially 21 percent of the public offering had been earmarked for three private-sector anchor investors — Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, British investment fund TCI and Spain's Corporacion Financiera Alba fund – and 28 percent of the operator to be listed on the stock market.
But the three firms had offered to come in at a lower price and the increase in AENA's valuation had edged them out of the operation.
Nearly 95 percent of the offer is reserved for institutional investors, with the rest set aside for private investors.