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This abandoned airport is a testament to the danger of building booms not grounded in reality.
Got a private jet already? Why not buy your own airport? One of Spain’s biggest white elephants, the airport at Ciudad Real in La Mancha, is up for auction: starting price €100m ($132m), a steal, bearing in mind that it cost €1bn ($132bn) to build.
The airport, 100 miles south of Madrid, is in mint condition as it has barely been used and boasts a runway long enough to land an Airbus 380, the world’s largest airliner. The catch is paying off the outstanding €529m ($703m) debt. Creditors include a variety of savings banks (€233m ($310m) Air Nostrum (€2.6m) ($3.5m) and Air Berlin (€1.8m) ($2.4m). Local residents whose property was compulsorily purchased to build the airport are claiming a further €106m ($141m). The airport drove the Castilla-La Mancha savings bank, a 68% shareholder in the scheme, to bankruptcy, but not before it had handed out multimillion euro payoffs to its directors.
The judge in charge of administering the bankrupt airport has ordered that it be auctioned in order to meet its debts. If no buyer emerges, it will go to private auction with a €80m ($106m) reserve price and after that, to a judicial auction, that is, a compulsory sale.
Should a buyer be found, those running the auction will be the first to be paid, an estimated €2m ($2.7m), followed by the 71 airport workers who were made redundant. Last in line will be the suppliers.
The airport is one of the most egregious examples of the excesses of Spain’s building boom and the vainglory of the local political barons who, jealous of Bilbao’s emblematic Guggenheim Museum, plundered the savings banks to build cultural centres, high-speed rail networks and airports without pausing to carry out a feasibility study.
The administrators of the airport say that its proponents “never carried out an investment analysis” nor did they produce a realistic business model and “produced a financial plan that was not based on any studies of the market or of demand that would justify the anticipated traffic.” Ciudad Real has a population of just 75,000 and many Spaniards would have trouble finding it on a map.
Meanwhile, latest figures from the national statistics office show that 2,408 Spanish companies filed for bankruptcy in the second quarter of this year, a 15.1% rise on the same period last year. In the period January to June 5,069 bankruptcies were registered. Some 29.1% were businesses related to construction and 18.4% were in the energy or other industrial sectors. The number of bankrupted family businesses has fallen.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk