Auckland International Airport Ltd has announced it is buying a 24.55 per cent stake in North Queensland Airports, operators of Cairns and Mackay Airports, from Westpac Bank for A$132.8m (NZ$166m).
“Since indicating in March 2009 that we would pursue opportunistic but carefully selected step-outs, we’ve looked at a range of opportunities to drive synergies and volume for our core business at Auckland,” said Auckland Airport CEO Simon Moutter in a January 11 statement. “New Zealand has underperformed against Australia in gaining a share of Asian tourism, so we have decided to take a position in the Australian market in an effort to get better connected and lift our market share. While our primary focus remains direct Asian connections with Auckland, an important stepping-stone is to strengthen connections with other strategically located airports.”
Moutter continued, “Cairns Airport fits the bill in terms of its location, scale, focus on Asian tourism, and market diversification opportunities. Mackay offers additional diversified exposure to the booming Australian resources sector.”
The planned purchase settled on January 13, and was funded from Auckland Airport’s existing debt facilities. Auckland Airport will be the only airport investor in North Queensland Airports, alongside Infrastructure Investment Fund, advised by JP Morgan Asset Management; and The Infrastructure Fund, managed by Hastings Funds Management.
Cairns and Mackay airports were privatised by the Queensland state government in 2008, with the $530 million sale of Cairns Airport, Australia’s seventh busiest, finalised on December 23 that year.