AT LEAST SEVEN consortia, mostly backed by foreign interests, are planning to bid in the first tranche of Australia's postponed airport-privatisation programme, worth around A$4 billion ($3.2 billion).

Sydney Airport will not be offered in the initial round, however, pending a decision on the location and opening date of the city's planned second major airport. Adelaide Airport is also excluded because of lack of progress with plans for its upgrade

Under guidelines to be published by the country's new Government later this month, it is expected that cross-ownership limits proposed by the previous administration, to limit control of multiple airport gateways, will be reinstated.

Groups which plan to bid for Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth airports include Airports Australia (AAL), which includes National Express Group, owner of East Midlands Airport in the UK; Australian Pacific Airports, backed by UK airports operator BAA; Commonwealth Bank of Australia/Amsterdam Schiphol airport; Lend Lease/Brambles; and Westfield Holdings (Lockheed International and Sun Alliance).

Casino operator Hudson Conway plans to bid only for Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport, while the Hellman Friedman consortium wants only Perth. At least two bidders - AAL and Hudson Conway - say that they will undergo a public flotation if their bids are successful.

Source: Flight International