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Costa Rica’s main airport completes restructuring, gears up for expansion with IDB, OPIC support

$100 million in loans disbursed last month will pave the way for the airport to more than double its passenger capacity

Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José has successfully completed a three-year restructuring and is preparing to more than double its passenger capacity after partnering with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

Last month, the IDB and OPIC disbursed $100 million in loans to Aeris Holding S.A., the airport’s operating company, owned by sponsors Brazil’s Andrade Gutierrez Concessões and ADC & HAS Finance Ltd., a holding company controlled by HAS Development Corporation, an affiliate of the Houston Airport System, and the Toronto-based Airport Development Corporation. 

Juan Santamaría International airport, Central America’s second biggest airport, receives 85 percent of all international arrivals in Costa Rica and 80 percent of all tourists that arrive into the country. 

The restructuring and financing is the result of close work between the IDB, OPIC, the sponsors and the Costa Rican government to revamp the airport operations, complete all pending construction works under the first two phases of the expansion program, restructure existing debt and obtain additional financing to complete new expansion phases. 

“This project has provided the financial structure and contractual stability for the airport to continue to expand and meet rising demand,’’ said Gian Franco Carassale, the project team leader at the IDB’s Structured and Corporate Finance Department. “With the completion of the first two phases of the expansion plan, the airport now has the capacity to better serve its passengers and airlines and become an important transportation hub in Central America.”

Proceeds from the IDB and OPIC loans were used to refinance the debt plus all bridge loans taken by the operator to fund the construction activities under the first two phases of the expansion program. These works included a terminal extension to permanently house security, immigration and customs processing, additional hold rooms, renovation of existing and new boarding bridges, remote stands for buses and an additional remote parking positions, and reconstruction of the apron and one of the taxiways, among other investments.

New Expansion Phases

IDB and OPIC loans created a financial structure to facilitate the financing of the phases three and four of the expansion plan that will allow the operator to provide services to over 9 million passengers a year by 2026 from 3.5 million today.

Under these two phases the operator will build sterile corridors to separate incoming from connecting passengers, expand the international terminal to accommodate more gates and parking positions, add a new modern domestic terminal, provide additional baggage claim facilities, extend the taxiway D, build a new rescue and fire fighting facility and many other safety upgrades.

The Government of Costa Rica firstentered into a management contract with a private operator in 2001 but disagreements between original sponsors and the government prompted the country to seek new sponsors for the airport in early 2008. The IDB and OPIC partnered with Aeris in early 2009, a few months after its new sponsors took over the operator following a bidding process held by the Costa Rican government.

As a confirmation of this successful turnaround, the Juan Santamaría International Airport was recently selected by Airports Council International, the leading industry group constituted by 580 members that operate 1650 airports worldwide, as the third best airport in Latin America and the one that has most improved its customer service.