1 December 2023

Augustin de Romanet, CEO of Groupe ADP, has a smile on his face. While traveling in India, he even sketched a dance step under the paneling of the Taj Falaknuma Palace, the former royal residence, in Hyderabad. It is true that he has reason to rejoice. The acquisition by his group for 1.2 billion euros, in 2020, after two aborted attempts, of 49% of the capital of GMR Airports, a subsidiary of the Indian family construction group GMR, is finally starting to bear fruit.

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For three years, Covid-19 requires, the partnership seemed to have remained dormant. Now that the pandemic has ebbed in India, ADP and GMR are accelerating. It was in Goa, the former base of the hippies of the 1970s, considered today as the Indian Saint-Tropez, that the two partners made their union a reality. On January 5, they inaugurated a brand new airport with a capacity of 4.4 million passengers. It replaces an old military airfield with no parking and which could only accommodate a few hundred thousand passengers each year.

For its debut, the Goa platform, with a hall decorated with Luso-Brazilian-inspired building facades, operated only domestic flights. A warm-up before the terminal for international lines opens its doors this summer. In Goa, ADP and GMR are thinking big. Within five years, the airport “will welcome 13.5 million passengers”, says Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao, founding president of GMR. An optimism that delighted M. de Romanet. In three years, he says, “the value of (her) investment in GMR Airports has already doubled”.

Settle the debt

And that’s just the beginning. Under the impetus of the very nationalist Prime Minister, Narendra Modī, India wants to develop at a forced march. In particular to establish itself as a hub between Europe and Asia. To achieve this, it needs infrastructures commensurate with this ambition. Since Mr. Modi came to power in 2014, the number of airports has doubled.

The country already has 146, including 39 international platforms. A total that the Prime Minister wants to increase to 200 in the coming years. “With GMR, ADP will participate in the wave of airport privatizations” which should soon begin in India, explains Mr. de Romanet. Twenty-five airports should be privatized, including a dozen, mainly regional platforms, in the next twelve months.

So as not to miss India’s take-off – until now, only 5% of the 1.4 billion Indians have already taken the plane – the two partners have undertaken pharaonic work. Example with the Indira-Gandhi airport, in New Delhi. In 2019, it had welcomed 68.5 million passengers. After expansion, including a brand new terminal, it will be able to receive more than 100 million.

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