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Spanish state may be saddled with bankrupt motorways, minister says
December 12, 2016 / 3:04 PM / 10 months ago

Spanish state may be saddled with bankrupt motorways, minister says

MADRID, Dec 12 (Reuters) - The Spanish government may to have to take over several bankrupt toll roads, the minister for public works said on Monday, adding that the state’s chances of reaching a rescue deal involving the motorways’ bank lenders was slim.

The government has been trying for the past three years to negotiate some arrangement with creditors to help prop up nine struggling toll roads while also avoiding saddling the state deficit with several billions euros of debt.

The deal would have involved steep losses for lenders - one plan envisage a 50 percent writedown on the debt - alongside an aid package.

But the public works minister, Inigo de la Serna, told state television that talks had been hampered by banks selling off much of the loans to other investors.

“This is a very complicated process, some (of the highways) are in bankruptcy proceedings and already at the liquidation stage and so the scenario we are presented with is that they would revert back to the state,” de la Serna said.

“We are trying to negotiate with the banks ... but it’s complicated.”

De la Serna did not detail how much debt the motorways were lumbered with. Construction lobby group Seopan last year estimated that the cost of a nationalisation could be around 5.5 billion euros ($5.84 billion)

The Spanish government has been trying to keep the roads open and already appealed one court ruling that would have caused two motorways backed by Abertis, Sacyr and ACS to be liquidated and closed.

The road operators struggled to attract enough traffic during a long economic downturn. Though Spain exited recession three years ago, the highways have also had to compete in many instances with toll-free roads running alongside them. ($1 = 0.9425 euros) ($1 = 0.9422 euros) (Reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez and Robbie Hetz, Writing by Sarah White)

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