The Spanish holding company controls the companies Ausol and GCO. Claim the price adjustments already signed for the Pan-American Highway and West Access
While the Government decided to freeze food prices and a series of public service tariffs due to the dire economic conditions that measures to combat the coronavirus are generating, the main highway operator in Argentina came out to demand a increase in toll values.
This is the Spanish group Abertis, which controls in the country the companies Autopistas del Sol (Ausol) and Grupo Concesionario del Oeste (GCO), in turn in charge of the concessions for the Pan-American and Western Access routes, in addition to General Paz Avenue.
Both companies returned to collect tolls for a couple of weeks after receiving the endorsement of the Government that, at the beginning of the mandatory quarantine and the restrictions on movement, had established the obligation to open the barriers and allow circulation free on concessioned highways.
However, they must maintain the same prices established in April last year, when Mauricio Macri’s previous administration froze the pages as part of the measures taken at that time to combat the economic recession.
That freeze was supposed to disappear last January, but the president Alberto Fernández He decided to extend the measure to later, with the start of the fight against Covid-19, directly ban them.
Tolls: request to raise National Roads
Now, both companies demanded that the national authorities apply an increase in current prices through notes sent to the National Roads Directorate (DNV), the state agency in charge of controlling this type of contract.
According to the statements, how much Ausol how GCO They also published on the website of the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange, the two concessionaires “have the right to make an annual Rate Redetermination effective that would apply during the current year.”
In the letter they argue that this right is granted by the provisions of Art. 4.2, subsections (a) and (b), and Art. 4.3 subsection (a) of the Comprehensive Renegotiation Agreement (the “AIR”) signed between the two companies and the national State that was approved by Decree No. 607/2018.
Both Ausol and GCO demand a “Tariff Redetermination”.
“Having fulfilled the conditions set forth in such provisions of the AIR, the Company informed the Control Body, belonging to the National Roads Directorate (DNV), of the new values of the rate tables resulting from the aforementioned Tariff Redetermination 2020, to the effects of making its entry into force possible “, is repeated in both letters drawn up by the main executives of both Ausol and GCO.
But until now there has been no response from the national authorities within the contractually established period for formulating the corresponding calculation observations.
Faced with this situation, on May 22, the two concessionaires made new presentations in which they stated that, “in view of the lack of progress in the procedure foreseen for the effective application of the rate tables resulting from the Tariff Redetermination 2020, This Company -as it happened during the validity of the rate freeze announced on April 17, 2019 and maintained throughout that year-, it is necessary to interpret that, at the discretion of the Control Body and the DNV and without it implies your consent by the Company, a Tariff Freeze Measure persists that prevents applying the rate tables that should be applied according to the AIR, without to date the Control Body or the DNV having been issued either on the last presentation made “.
Is there a judicial fight for tolls?
Although the two companies will not modify the current toll prices unilaterally and will maintain the current rates, They warn that they began to analyze what legal possibilities they have to reverse this situation..
“Given the foregoing, the firm is analyzing the remedies provided in the AIR and the possible steps to be taken in defense of their rights; this without prejudice to continuing to apply the rate table that was officially published on January 5, 2019”, clarify from Ausol and also from GCO.
At the beginning of the year, both Ausol and GCO had calculated that, if the rate brake did not apply, private cars would be paying between $ 90 and more than $ 100, which represents a 50% update in the Panamericana car toll. If the same percentage were applied for the peak hour values, currently at $ 75, it would reach $ 112.5.
Companies are evaluating legal possibilities to achieve the increases.
These are values updated for inflation at that time, so that at present the claim would be for even higher prices, which should also be added to the adjustments that Ausol and GCO require due to the contractual renegotiation agreement that they signed with the previous government. .
At that time, the authorities had agreed to compensate part of the claims of the two companies for the toll freeze during part of the governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández, which reached $ 540 million.
That contract is currently under investigation for alleged irregularities reported by the Ministry of Public Works led by Gabriel Katopodis.
After taking office, The official warned that he would pay attention to all the contracts signed by Macri and opened an audit because he understood that the contracts signed in 2018 by Ausol and GCO accumulate a significant series of irregularities..
That year, Abertis negotiated with the officials of Cambiemos the extension of the operations of Ausol and GCO for another 12 years within the framework of a comprehensive contractual renegotiation agreement, by which the business was extended until December 31, 2030.
The contract includes investments of more than $ 16,500 million, a sum that the group must allocate to improve the routes it is in charge of and which was established by Decree 607. A detail: it was not signed by Macri, but by Vice President Gabriela Michetti on 27 June 2018. The former president excused himself from signing it to avoid a possible conflict of interest, taking into account that his family’s company, Sideco, was a shareholder of Ausol until May 2017, when he sold his holdings. Abertis owns 31.59% of the share capital and the Italian Impregilo another 19.82%. For this reason, the Anti-Corruption Office recommended that the former President not intervene in the negotiation.
However, currently all these works are paralyzed or half-done and most of them are also part of the investigations that were opened against both concession groups.
Find out the latest on digital economy, startups, fintech, corporate innovation and blockchain. CLICK HERE
Corresponsal de Argentina, Encargado de seleccionar las noticias más relevantes de su interés a nuestro sitio web NewsPer.com