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Vienna Airport: Search for clues with a mysterious investor & More Breaking News

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It is neither known who the actual owners of the airport shares are nor where the money for them comes from. The Ministry of Economic Affairs in Vienna is therefore currently examining a delicate offer: the Luxembourg Airport Group Europe, which currently holds just over 40 percent in the listed Vienna Airport, wants to increase its stake to just under 50 percent.

The city of Vienna and the state of Lower Austria each hold 20 percent, the employee foundation ten percent, and the rest is in free float. Since the airport is critical infrastructure, the Ministry of Economics can still stop the deal.

Boulevard de la Foire Numbers 1-3, Luxembourg

The shares in Vienna Airport are held by the Luxembourg special purpose vehicle Airports Group Europe, which in turn is owned by the Luxembourg holding company Global InfraCo. The ORF visited the office building at Boulevard de la Foire numbers 1-3. In the entrance area there is a handful of mailboxes, all of which are labeled with lists that have been stuck on.

Football Highlights

Mailboxes in a letterbox company building in Luxembourg

Benedikt Feichtner, ORF


Letter boxes Boulevard de la Foire numbers 1-3

200 companies are based here, probably not all of them have offices or staff. The name of the airport shareholder Airports Group Europe Sarl is on a mailbox that it shares with 16 companies. The company told the ORF reporter in Luxembourg that it currently employs 22 people.

A worthwhile investment

The fact that the shares in the airport are held in Luxembourg was already a concern of Austrian finance in 2016. The accusation: The special purpose vehicle in Luxembourg employs “no staff” and was “intermediate only for tax avoidance” in order not to have to pay taxes on dividends – therefore there is “abuse”. The supreme court ruled in favor of Luxembourgers, who are exempt from capital gains tax in Austria on the basis of an EU directive. The annual financial statements of the Airports Group have shown that the airport has paid out dividends totaling at least 97 million euros since 2015.

Building of a mailbox company in Luxembourg

Benedikt Feichtner, ORF


The office building in Luxembourg

600 investors

The two companies in Luxembourg have a parent company in the Cayman Islands – a trust company called Conyers Trust Company. This was set up by a law firm in Bermuda that has specialized in offshore transactions for decades. It is not known who owns the trust company in the Caymans, which actually holds the airport shares. In their letter of offer to the airport shareholders, the investors only wrote: “Conyers Trust has several indirect shareholders, none of whom holds more than five percent of the shares or a controlling interest.”

The graphic shows the organization chart of the shareholding structure at Schwechat Airport

Graphic: ORF.at


Conyers Dill & Pearman, a law firm specializing in offshore services and headquartered in Bermuda, has established Conyers Trust (formerly Codan Trust) in the Caymans Islands. It remains unclear to whom this company can be attributed economically. The internal conditions are not disclosed. According to Conyers Trust, it acts as an “independent trustee with ultimate decision-making authority” for the IFM Global Infrastructure Fund, which is also set up in the Cayman Islands and serves as a kind of money collection agency. At the same time, Conyers Trust formally controls the two Luxembourg companies Global InfraCo. and Airports Group Europe, the latter of which has held a stake in Flughafen Wien AG since 2014.

Vienna Airport is groping in the dark

The trust holds capital in trust for the Luxembourgers, which is also collected in a fund (IFM Global Infrastructure Fund) in the Caymans – from investors from Australia, Canada, the USA, Great Britain and Europe. It is also not known who the investors are. Even Vienna Airport is groping in the dark as to who exactly owns 40 percent of its shares: “We do not know who the owners of Conyers Trust Company (Cayman) are, and it is also not clear from the offer document.”

IFM speaks of “more than 600 institutional investors” whose funds are managed. This trust company in the Caymans is in turn advised by a Melbourne company called IFM Investors. This in turn is backed by two companies, before in the end there are also Australian pension funds. So the Australians are advisors to the trust that is involved with the airport.

Australian Union Funds

At the request of ORF and “profil”, IFM states: “IFM Investors was founded more than 25 years ago by non-profit Australian pension funds in partnership with the Australian trade union movement with the aim of protecting and expanding the long-term pension benefits of workers.” “Retirees of 120 million workers around the world, including nurses, teachers, construction workers and hospitality workers.”

That cannot be checked. The company answers why it relies on a complex structure of global letterbox companies: “The use of funds based in jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands is common for global investment funds that raise and deploy international capital.”

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