The sellout of Lake Balaton continues: marinas to be leased, waterfront plots privatized
The tender for the long time lease of 11 marinas of the majority state-owned Balaton Shipping Company (Balatoni Hajózási Zrt. – BAHART) ended in October. According to the company, the leasing serves the interests and further development of the company, but according to our local sources, the move can help the plans of entrepreneurs close to Fidesz. Also, several valuable waterfront properties of the state shipping company are put up for sale near these marinas. The shipping company refused to comment, so we set off with a drone and a video camera to find out more about this.
It will soon be clear who can operate BAHART’s marinas on Lake Balaton in 11 municipalities from 1 January 2021. BAHART was previously owned partly and then entirely by local settlements. Last year the majority of the shares (75%) became state-owned. Some settlements still have a few percent of shares in the company.
In BAHART, the state’s ownership rights are exercised by the Hungarian Tourism Agency, managed by Zoltán Guller. The activities of this organisation are supervised by the Office of the Prime Minister. The “nationalisation” of BAHART and the company’s “reorganisation plan” approved this year have received a great deal of criticism from professional organisations, local mayors and NGOs.
The company was doing well when it was municipally owned: in recent years, both annual sales and after-tax profit grew steadily. However, in the tender the management of BAHART justifies the leasing of ports on the grounds that it serves the “long-term strategic interests” of the company and a “more efficient utilisation of the assets concerned”, as well as the implementation of long-overdue developments.
BAHART’s reorganisation plan (PDF), adopted in May claims that the leasing will make it easier to apply for development grants for the marinas. Some of the marinas waiting to be leased are shown in our camera drone video.
The notice on the leasing of BAHART marinas emphasizes that the ownership rights of the ports will remain with the majority state-owned shipping company. According to our sources, however, a 15-year lease may prepare for the subsequent “internal” acquisition of ownership by other companies. We wanted to ask the management of the shipping company our questions about this, but we were told that they did not want to comment on the subject. Thus, we could not get to know the tender conditions either.
Locals fear that renting the marinas will block new parts of the lake shore from locals and holidaymakers, and that services and port prices will become more expensive thus excluding average sailboat owners, instead meeting the needs and budgets of luxury yacht owners.
According to Gyula Horváth, CEO of BAHART from 1996 to 2013, the fact that the state company is asking for a very high price for the lease of these marinas is another sign of this expected prices increase, because the company which will rent the marinas will have to compensate for their expenses in their prices.
The ports to be leased are located in Siófok, Balatonföldvár, Balatonszemes, Balatonlelle, Balatonboglár, Fonyód, Szigliget, Badacsony, Balatonfüred, Tihany, Alsóörs. BAHART also offers waterfront properties for sale in four of these places: in Tihany, Balatonboglár, Siófok and Balatonszemes.
In Balatonboglár, a campsite with a total area of more than 15,000 square meters is to be auctioned at a starting price of one billion forints. There are 5 BAHART properties in Siófok for sale, one of them is the Hotel Móló next to the marina (visible in our drone video). In Balatonszemes, the Hattyú campsite is for sale right next to the marina to be rented, at a starting price of HUF 1 billion.
In Tihany, BAHART is selling the area next to the ferry port for HUF 787,400,000. The shipping company’s properties for sale also include the port of Csopak, which can be bid for until October 21st. The municipality of Csopak has launched a petition against the sale of the port.
Luxury villas and pools in the protected area – illegal construction on the rise at the Tihany Peninsula
Hungary’s first nature reserve was established here in 1952. It is part of the Balaton Uplands National Park, a Natura 2000 nature conservation area, a World Heritage site – yet the Tihany Peninsula is being built in at a rapid pace.
Written and translated by Gabriella Horn, you can read the Hungarian version of this article here.