The city council in Coffs Harbour – about 500km from Sydney – will call for expressions of interest to privatise the local airport in the next three months, a official spokesperson confirmed in an email to Inframation.
Clarification: This article was amended on 7 August to clarify details of previous airport leases in the last paragraph
While the person did not reveal further details, three sources familiar with the matter said mid-size infrastructure funds such as Infrastructure Capital Group, AMP Capital and Palisade Investment Partners are watching the process and will likely lodge expressions of interest.
The council appointed KPMG in March as an adviser for the long-term lease of the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, following a tender. Mott Macdonald, The Airport Group and Redwater Consulting Group also bid.
This came after the council said in December that it is exploring the potential of a long-term lease to a private investor and airport operator. It said the main attractions were “gaining access to the necessary expertise, the ability to transfer the capital expenditure for upgrades and expansion to the lessee, to remove the operational and regulatory risks of running an airport from the council and the lease revenue council will receive”.
According to the council’s 2017-18 financial report, the airport had 413,333 passenger movements that financial year.
Direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane land there and the council has said it is considering allowing international flights. The estimated cost of airport expansion to accommodate this would be between AUD 35m (USD 24m) and AUD40m.
Around 24 airports around Australia are on long-term leases held by private investors.
In February 2017, another regional airport – Sunshine Coast Airport in Queensland – was leased by a local council to Palisade Investment Partners for AUD 82m. The deal included a project to expand the airport under a 99-year lease, as reported. In 2015, a consortium of AMP Capital and ICG paid AUD 205m to win a 99-year lease for Port Hedland airport in Western Australia, edging out a consortium of IFM and Palisade.