Violent criticism has flared up against the IFM fund, Vienna Airport’s major shareholder. Representatives of IFM presented themselves as investors in Australian pension funds. As has now become known, the ownership at the airport can only be traced back to a trust company (Conyers Trust) in the Cayman Islands through two Luxembourg funds. It is unclear who the beneficial owner is and where he gets his money from.
According to the “profil” and “ZiB2” report, the IFM Investors Fund, which operates as an investor in Austria and is owned by Australian pension funds, is only an adviser to the Conyers Trust, which owns the airport shares in Luxembourg through two intermediate stations. For this there is an “IFM Global Infrastructure Fund”, which, according to “profil”, collects money for the trust company. It is unclear how this compares to IFM Investors.
The IFM representative also declined to respond to the APA request on Friday. One statement only reads: “Those funds that IFM Investors manage or advise invest for the very long term (…). The use of funds located in jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands is common for global mutual funds (…)” But according to “profil”, the “IFM Global Infrastructure Fund” is not a legal entity that could exercise property rights, but merely a means of raising money for the Conyers Trust.
Airport board advises against IFM offer
IFM acquired a stake of just under 30 percent in Vienna Airport at the end of 2014 and increased it to just under 40 percent as of 2016. In June of this year, IFM crossed the 40 percent threshold, triggering a mandatory bid and trying to now increasing to almost 50 percent. The remaining 50 percent is shared between Vienna and Lower Austria (20 percent each) and the employees (10 percent). The airport management advised against accepting the offer for economic reasons – on the one hand because the price offered was too low, on the other hand because the loss of free float threatened the company’s listing on the Vienna Stock Exchange.
Ministry of Economic Affairs is investigating
But with the increase, the balance of power at the airport would also change. IFM would be a larger shareholder than Vienna and Lower Austria combined. The fund would probably no longer be satisfied with only two out of ten capital representatives. So far, IFM hasn’t gotten overly involved in the business, but that could change. In any case, the increase in IFM shares is already being investigated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs in accordance with the Investment Supervision Act (InvKG). Including in-depth research, this can take up to four months. As a result of Brexit, the Cayman Islands, which belong to Great Britain, are no longer part of the EU.
Airport made “a Caribbean game”.
Harsh criticism of IFM and its involvement with the airport came from the Lower Austrian Greens Helga Krismer and the lawyer Susanne Heger, who has already actively opposed the construction of the third runway at Vienna airport. In a joint press conference they formulated the suspicion of money laundering against IFM. However, the only indication of this is the fact that the trust company to which the airport shares can be allocated is based in the Cayman Islands and they are on the EU’s blacklist of tax havens.
The two accuse the airport management, but also the major owners Vienna and Lower Austria, of knowingly and deliberately turning the airport into “a Caribbean game”. Krismer therefore called for the resignation of board members Günther Ofner and Julian Jäger.