By Jamie Freed and Scott Murdoch
SYDNEY (Reuters) -Sydney Airport Holdings Pty Ltd said on Monday a consortium of infrastructure investors had proposed a A$22.26 billion ($16.7 billion) cash buyout of the operator of Australia’s biggest airport, sending its shares up as much as 38%.
If successful, it would be the biggest such deal in Australia this year, eclipsing the $8.1 billion spin-off of Endeavour Group Ltd and Star Entertainment Group Ltd’s $7.3 billion bid for Crown Resorts Ltd.
A consortium comprised of IFM Investors, pension fund QSuper and Global Infrastructure Management has offered A$8.25 a share, a 42% premium to Sydney Airport’s closing price on Friday, the airport operator said. Its shares were changing hands at as much as A$8.04 each in early Monday trade.
Sydney Airport noted that the offer is below its pre-pandemic share price and said it was reviewing the proposal, which is contingent on it allowing access to due diligence and recommending it to shareholders in the absence of a superior offer.
The airport operator’s share price hit a record high of A$8.86 in January last year, before the pandemic led to a collapse in travel demand.
The company is Australia’s only listed airport operator, with the remainder of the country’s major airports owned by consortia of infrastructure investors.
In May, Sydney Airport’s international traffic was down more than 93% from levels in the same month of 2019 due to Australia’s largely closed border, while domestic traffic was down 39.2%.
The airport has long held a monopoly on traffic to and from Australia’s most populous city, but that is due to end in 2026 with the opening of Western Sydney Airport.
IFM, QSuper and Global Infrastructure did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
IFM holds stakes in major Australian airports in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. QSuper owns a stake in London’s Heathrow Airport and Global Infrastructure is invested in London’s Gatwick and London City Airports.
Their offer is contingent on UniSuper, which holds a 15% stake, agreeing to reinvest its equity interest for an equivalent equity holding in the consortium’s vehicle, Sydney Airport said.
UniSuper, which also holds stakes in Adelaide and Brisbane airports, did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Sydney Airport said it had hired Barrenjoey and UBS as financial advisers.
Shares in New Zealand’s Auckland International Airport Ltd, the only other listed airport operator in Australasia, were trading nearly 6% higher on Monday morning.
($1 = 1.3294 Australian dollars)
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