Mexico's Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste, or ASUR, and Spain's Ferrovial are finalizing their bids for a concession to operate the airport serving the Puerto Rican capital.

Of the 12 consortiums initially in the running for the Caribbean's leading airport, the two finalists are the Aerostar Airport Holdings consortium, made up of ASUR and partner Highstar Capital; and Grupo Aeropuertos Avance, consisting of Ferrovial and Australian financial group Macquarie.

David Alvarez, the head of the agency that organized the bidding process, the Public-Private Partnerships Authority, told Efe Friday the two finalists are drafting their final proposals for submission to Puerto Rican authorities.

The winner will be charged with renovating the parking lot, runways, main building, terminals and access roads to the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, an investment the government of Puerto Rico - mired in a deep economic slump for the past six years - is not in a position to make.

Alvarez said there is no concrete deadline for ASUR and Ferrovial to submit their final proposals, but he added that it is imminent and the local press has put the date at July 10.

The PPPA has not specified the amount of investment required nor the duration of the contract, but the press has reported that $60 million must be spent in the first five years to modernize an airport that was built in 1955 and handled nearly 8 million passengers last year.

Media reports also indicate the winning bidder will operate the airport for between 40 and 50 years.

The U.S. commonwealth's Committee for Public Private Partnerships will choose the winner but its decision must be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

ASUR is the operator of nine airports in southeast Mexico, including Cancun, while Ferrovial controls BAA Limited, the company that operates several airports in Britain, including London's Heathrow.

ASUR Chairman Fernando Chico Pardo said recently that, if the Mexico group is selected, the San Juan airport will become the best in all of Latin America.

He also said the group would restore a direct link between the Caribbean island and Mexico. Passengers traveling between Puerto Rico and destinations in Mexico currently must make stopovers in Miami or Panama City. EFE