Vinci shortlisted for Japan’s biggest airport privatisation

French firm Vinci is among five consortiums to have made the shortlist to take over Fukuoka Airport, the main air terminal in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu and the fourth busiest in the country with an annual passenger throughput of 21 million.

About 100 companies indicated an interest when the privatisation was announced in April by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT). The five selected are Itochu, Nishi-Nippon Railroad, Orix and Sumitomo from Japan and Vinci from France.

  • Itochu is a soga shosha: an international conglomerate with businesses stretching from textiles and mining to food, energy and property.
  • Nishi-Nippon is a transport and logistics operator based in Fukuoka with operations around the world. It recently moved into property development in Vietnam.
  • Orix, a group best known for aircraft financing, has now expanded into infrastructure. In April last year it took over the other two Japanese airports to be privatised so far, Kansai and the nearby Osaka International. It also want to acquire the rights to Kobe, a local airport also in the Osaka region. The company has a 44-year concession for those facilities.
  • Sumitomo is one of Japan’s keiretsu, a confederation of independent companies organised around the Sumitomo bank and linked by cross shareholdings.
  • The French contender, Vinci, has made airport operation a central element in its business strategy. It was Orix’s partner in the Kansai airport deal, and it recently took over two Iranian airports, one in the northeastern city of Mashhad and the other in the tourist centre of Isfahan.

MLIT, which owns the airport, launched the tender in June and is looking to nominate a preferred bidder by May next year with a view to handing over control in April 2019. The minimum bid price for the airport is $1.45bn.

Japan plans to use funds from the transaction to develop a second runway. This will be 2.5km long, located to the west of the current 2.8km runway.

In 2011, MLIT announced plans to privatise all Japan’s national airports by 2020. It said privatisation would include the right to manage runways, airport terminal buildings and car parking but not air traffic control.

Image: The main international terminal at Fukuoka Airport (Chihaya Sta/Creative Commons)

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