Keeping financialisation under the radar: Brussels Airport, Macquarie Bank and the Belgian politics of privatised infrastructure

Laura Deruytter, Ben Derudder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article explores the financialisation of Brussels Airport following the acquisition in 2004 of a majority stake by the Australian Macquarie Bank. Adopting a variegated capitalism perspective, we argue for a greater sensitivity to the mutually constitutive relation between durable institutional governance structures and financialised practices injected by global investors. The case of Brussels Airport presents an informative case to examine this relation, as Macquarie has had to continuously interact with the Belgian federal state in its different guises of contractor, co-owner and regulator to implement financialisation. While Macquarie indeed brought in risks that are structurally associated with profit making through financial means, the governance of these practices is shaped by the Belgian state’s distinctive and pragmatic approach to infrastructure privatisation: the state enables these practices, but also contests them in case of a direct clash with its interests. Meanwhile, the regulatory environment marks the contradictory meeting point of two varieties of capitalism: while the light-handed regulatory framework is inspired by the UK’s airport industry, the Belgian regulator does not possess similar abilities as a UK regulator, and resultantly, informal negotiations between the stakeholders are more influential in the airport’s governance. The case of Brussels Airport shows that the state plays an active role in constituting global capitalism, yet also shapes how financialisation works out on the ground. To understand the tensions that mark the governance of financialised infrastructure, it is therefore imperative to be sensitive to the local, historical and political trajectories that underwrite the variegated outcomes of financialisation.
Translated title of the contributionFinancialisering onder de radar houden: Brussels Airport, Macquarie Bank en de Belgische politiek van geprivatiseerde infrastructuur
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1347-1367
Number of pages21
JournalUrban Studies
Volume56
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2019

Keywords

  • finance/financialisation
  • globalisation
  • governance
  • infrastructure
  • politics
  • state restructuring
  • variegated capitalism

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