Half of Newcastle Airport may be sold

A sale process may begin next year for the NSW airport although a buyer will be limited to a 50 per cent stake.

Next year, superannuation funds and infrastructure investors such as IFM Investors Ltd may be invited to bid to buy as much as a 50 per cent stake in Newcastle Airport Authority Ltd from Newcastle City Council and Port Stephens City Council.

Expressions of interest in acquiring as much as half the airport, which wants to turn itself into an international and regional airport for parts of rural New South Wales, may begin around November 2014 in a sale process that could be run by accountants Ernst & Young.

The Department of Defense uses the airport and does not want a non-government entity having a controlling stake in the asset, limiting any investor to no more than a 50 per cent stake.

In the 12 months to June 30, 2012, Newcastle Airport had revenue of $22.3 million, 49 per cent from aeronautical services with the rest from car parking, commercial and property leases and administration.

The airport had a $5.5 million profit in the same period when 1.19 million passengers used the airport.

“We have had valuations but I’m not prepared to share them with you,” Newcastle Airport chief executive Paul Hughes told DataRoom. “The sale process is entirely up to the councils.”

The NSW government has pledged to invest $11.1 million to expand the airport’s terminal as the airport seeks to get more flights, including potentially from China.

“The airport is now well placed to be a major transport hub for business and residents in the Hunter and Central Coast regions,” says Peter Paradise, a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, which advised on the restructuring of the airport along with Ernst & Young.

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