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Adani group eyes new venture as it joins race for six AAI airports
Posted on 23rd February 2019
The Adani group, which straddles the businesses of power, ports, real estate, agriculture and defence, among others, is moving into airports.

A few days ago, the group made an aggressive entry by bidding for all the six airports put up for privatisation by the Airports Authority of India, locking horns with big boys in the airport infrastructure business (the GMR group has thrown its hat into the ring for all the airports).

The airports are Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Thiruvanthapuram and Mangaluru.

In its airport venture, it is looking at both options — bidding for airports being offered under privatisation within the country and acquiring stakes in existing joint-venture airport companies.

The Adanis’ tryst with airports began some years ago when they set up Mundra airport, which has now become an important commercial city in Gujarat.

It has cobbled up a plan to invest Rs 1,500 crore to upgrade the airport strip and convert it into a full-fledged commercial airport with integrated cargo and aerospace operations to cater to the growing demand from the expats of Gujarat.

It is reported to be in the race to pick 23.5 per cent in GVK-controlled Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) by acquiring the equity of Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) and Bidvest, which want to pull out. GVK has the first right of refusal to buy the stake, but the group, which is facing a cash shortage, could find it difficult to get the cash. A spokesperson for Adani, however, responding to the possible deal, said it was “speculation”.

Airport players say they are expecting the Adanis to make aggressive bids for the six airports, especially for Ahmedabad and Jaipur. “We won’t be surprised if they win two to three of these airports, though we will know only at the end of this month, when the bids are opened. Unlike us, who are bidding based on the economic viability of the airports, they are bidding for strategic entry into a new area of infrastructure. So the strategy would be different,” says a top executive of one of the key bidders for the airports.

The bids are based on the highest monthly fee per passenger and not revenue share.

The six airports could be an attractive way to enter the airport infrastructure space. They together carried about 20.6 million domestic passengers and 5.1 million international flyers in April-December 2018.

In the domestic and international arenas, they account for around 10 per cent of all passengers flying domestic or abroad. But Ahmedabad and Jaipur constitute half (over 10 million) of these domestic passengers and they are growing rapidly. Domestic traffic in Ahmedabad, for instance, in the same period grew by more than 23 per cent over the previous year and Jaipur by 17.8 per cent, making them some among the fastest-growing airports in the country.

Even Lucknow has seen huge growth in passenger traffic both in the domestic as well as the international spaces. Experts say the Adanis, who have their headquarters in Ahmedabad, would surely make a determined bid to win the project.

However, for both Ahmedabad and Jaipur there are seven bidders in the fray.

The Adanis would get into a different league in the airport infrastructure space if they are able to buy a stake in Mumbai airport, the largest airport in the country after Delhi. While with a more than 50 per cent stake it won’t change the ownership, which will be with GVK, it would give them an entry into having a say in a large operating airport business.
Related Companies: GMR Group   

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