Sydney Airport could be back on the
auction block possibly before April as the Australian finance minister is now
looking at resuming the privatisation that was halted last September.
“The minister is actively
considering a resumption of the sale and a decision is expected in the next few
weeks,” says a spokeswoman for finance minister Nick Minchin.
For the Government to have any
chance of selling the airport by its self-imposed 30 June deadline, a decision
needs to be made soon. Australian media reports say the finance
minister is keen to get on with the sale and top up the treasury’s coffers with
There appear to be few obstacles to
complicate the sale now that failed second national carrier Ansett has entered
effective liquidation. Uncertainty hung over the airport’s outlook while Tesna,
the bidder for Ansett, negotiated to use the former Ansett terminal. Tesna
withdrew its bid for Ansett, sealing the airline’s fate, on 27 February.
Australian media reports saying runway
modifications to handle Airbus A380s will cost A$2 billion ($1 billion) were dismissed
as completely erroneous by an airport source. Rules for the A380
are still being hammered out by regulatory authorities worldwide, airlines,
airports and Airbus.
Apart from modifying some gates to
accommodate passengers boarding two decks simultaneously, only minor
adjustments are likely to be needed, such as those necessary to maintain wing
clearances between taxiways and runways at the airport, says the source.
The Government scrapped the airport’s
sale last September, blaming the terrorist attacks on the USA earlier that
month for killing prospects of privatising the airport at a good price. With an
election looming at the time, the Government could not afford to risk selling
at a poor price.
Even so, doubts among bidders may
have been building before the attacks. Of the three
consortia bidding then, the Connect Group that included ABN Amro, French group
CDC and Australian banks, confirmed its airport partners Fraport and Schiphol
Group had withdrawn.
The two other consortia were known
as Sydney Gateway and Southern Cross. The former included AMP Henderson and
Deutsche Bank, while the latter comprised Australian banks as well as German
construction group Hochtief.
It is not clear if these consortia
will re-bid or retain the same members.