CHICAGO – Chicago has narrowed the field of potential bidders on a Midway Airport lease to six from 16 responses it received during its request for qualifications process launched earlier this year.
The six were deemed qualified to remain in the running to bid on a lease deal being considered by the city.
“While we continue to evaluate if such a deal is a win for Chicagoans while ensuring that certain conditions and criteria are met, we are encouraged by this strong group of qualified respondents,” the city’s chief financial officer, Lois Scott, said Friday in announcing the list.
The list of six qualified bidders includes AMP Capital Investors Limited, a manager and investor in airports including Melbourne Airport and Newcastle Airport UK; Corporación América Group, an Argentina-based airport operator with 49 airports in seven countries; and Global Infrastructure Partners, a controlling investor and active manager of London City Airport, London Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh Airport.
The others are Great Lakes Airport Alliance, a partnership of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets and Ferrovial, whose airport operations include London’s Heathrow, Brussels Airport and Copenhagen Airport; Incheon International Airport and Hastings Funds Management, the sole owner and operator of Incheon International Airport and global investor with 16 airport related investments; and Industry Funds Management and Manchester Airport Group, a global investor with interests in 13 airports, including Melbourne Airport and Brisbane Airport and operator of Manchester Airport and East Midlands Airport.
The other nine that had responded to the RFQ were Alberta Investment Management Corp., Allstate Investments, Barclays Capital, GS Global Infrastructure Partners, John Hancock Life Insurance Co., Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, Santander, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, and Ullico Infrastructure Fund.
The city’s RFQ with general deal terms was launched in January after the Federal Aviation Administration signed off. Credit Suisse Group is advising the city. A tentative timeline calls for formal bids to be submitted in the third quarter.
A special review panel appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel will review the process and bids and issue a report at least four weeks before any vote by the City Council on a deal. The FAA and the airlines that operate at Midway also must approve the lease terms.
The city continues to stress that the review process will be more open and lengthy than prior city asset lease deals under former Mayor Richard Daley’s administration and is stressing that any terms would benefit taxpayers and travelers.
The city also has underscored that terms will differ significantly from an earlier $2.5 billion Midway deal Daley reached with private investors in 2008 that fell apart in 2009 after credit markets tightened.
The FAA’s Privatization Pilot Program allows for up to 10 airports to be privatized. The city submitted its application in late December ahead of an end-of-year deadline to preserve the single hub slot in the FAA program.
Southwest Airlines, which accounts for the majority of flights at Midway, and other operators there support the privatization process. The city would limit the lease to no more than 40 years and require a revenue sharing provision.
An upfront payment would retire Midway’s $1.4 billion of debt with an ongoing revenue stream from the deal funding infrastructure work. The airport, located on the city’s south side, is the 26th busiest in the nation. Midway generated $157.4 million of operating revenue plus $36.9 million of passenger facility charges in 2011.
Moody’s Investors Service recently affirmed Midway’s single-A level ratings and said it should not see a significant credit impact from the city’s effort to privatize the airfield.