Heavyweights clash over Perth Airport

Melbourne investment heavyweights AustralianSuper and the Future Fund are locking horns over Perth Airport, in which they both hold significant stakes.

Melbourne investment heavyweights AustralianSuper and the Future Fund are locking horns over Perth Airport, in which they both hold significant stakes.

The dispute centres on the price the Future Fund paid for the airport during its recent purchase of stakes in Australian and overseas airports.

AustralianSuper, the country's biggest super fund, claims the Future Fund priced it out of bidding for Perth Airport by ascribing a premium of up to 43 per cent to it.

It claims the Future Fund underpaid for other assets and argues that by allegedly paying more for Perth, the Future Fund was able to make it too expensive for it to match the offer.

The $65 billion fund has sought pre-trial discovery of documents relating to how the Future Fund reached its valuation on Perth. It said the action was "in the best interests" of its 2 million members.

But the $85 billion Future Fund, established to help pay for public-sector superannuation liabilities, has denied wrongdoing and vowed to fight.

It denies it has "any liability to AustralianSuper" and intends to "vigorously defend any claim for relief should AustralianSuper decide to pursue a claim".

The fund added that the transaction "unlocked value for ... investors in the assets, which included a range of airport assets across Australia and internationally".

The Future Fund struck a deal last year to buy the assets of the sharemarket-listed Australian Infrastructure Fund (AIX) for $2 billion. These were minority stakes in Perth Airport, Australian Pacific Airports Corporation (primarily Melbourne Airport), Queensland Airports, Hochtief Airport Capital Group, Airport Development Group (primarily Darwin Airport) and Statewide Roads.

But with other investors taking up their pre-emptive rights for the Queensland and Northern Territory assets, the Future Fund ended up spending about $1 billion for the airport stakes.

No court date has been set.

AIX was contacted to comment.

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