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2014年8月25日 (月)

関空運営権 利便向上へ民間の力生かそう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
2 Kansai airports’ privatization must lead to improved convenience
関空運営権 利便向上へ民間の力生かそう

Can having the private sector take charge of managing airports improve their convenience?

New Kansai International Airport Co., wholly funded by the central government, has launched procedures to sell the rights to operate two airports it owns: Kansai Airport and Osaka Airport, also known as Itami Airport.

The concession sale plan is designed to enable private companies to acquire the management rights of the two airports for 45 years without transferring the government ownership of such facilities as passenger terminals and runways.

Bidding will begin in October this year, with the completion of a sales contract with the successful bidders scheduled for autumn next year at the earliest.

The planned sale of the management rights is a new approach to improving the operations of the airports through introduction of private-sector funds and managerial know-how. The goal of the concession sale plan—boosting the quality of public infrastructure, or social overhead capital, through avoiding fiscal burdens—is reasonable.

The government has announced plans to sell operating concessions of airports as part of the nation’s growth strategy, pursuing the goal of selling the management rights of six airports by the end of fiscal 2016.

Sendai Airport has already announced guidelines for applications concerning the sale of its management rights, while Fukuoka Airport and Hiroshima Airport are also preparing for their privatization.

Success or failure of the envisioned sale of Kansai and Osaka airports will serve as a test of the prospects for the sale of airports’ operation concessions.

About 150 companies and other organizations, including financial institutions and trading houses at home and from abroad, took part in a briefing session that New Kansai International Airport Co. held earlier this month, indicating a high level of interest in the concession sale plan.

¥2.2 trillion too expensive

Firms managing airports overseas are also reported to be interested in buying the management rights of the two Kansai airports, citing such reasons as the wealth of tourism resources in the Kansai region and rising civil aviation demand in Asia. It is likely that multiple Japanese companies and foreign firms will formulate consortiums to take part in the bidding.

One concern is the colossal price sought for Kansai Airport: ¥2.2 trillion over a period of 45 years if no advance payment is made.

The airport company says this will be easy enough to pay if the concession holder secures the company’s current level of profits.

Analysts from such industries as the real estate business, however, have pointed out that the price sought by the airport company is excessive compared to prices of airports in foreign countries, which they say are priced mostly at levels equivalent to several hundreds of billions of yen.

In addition, the division of roles to be played by the three airports of Kansai, Osaka and Kobe remains ambiguous, making it unclear whether a concession holder could obtain stable earnings over a long term.

The government, the sole shareholder of New Kansai International Airport Co., should fulfill its responsibility to present a convincing account of where its airport policy is headed.

In numerous cases, airport operations by private-sector companies have proved successful, leading to large increases in the number of airport users attracted by such steps as expansion of the airports’ commercial facilities.

But there have also been failures. In Argentina, for example, airport operations have gone into the red after their management was privatized, resulting in increases in financial burdens on their users and declines in the quality of services.

Selling the management rights to the private sector in a way that is detrimental to airport users would be the completely wrong approach. In selecting winning bids, the government must be very careful in scrutinizing the managerial capabilities and the feasibility of business plans of potential concession holders.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2014)


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