Japan kicks off privatisation of seven airports

The government has invited the private sector to submit proposals for the operation of the national and regional hubs it is aiming to privatise by 2020.

Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has issued application guidelines, inviting bids from private sector players for the operation and management of seven airports under a 30- to 35-year concession.

The airports, which are all located in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, include the major international gateway to the island, Sapporo Chitose Airport, as well as the regional airports Obihiro, Asahikawa, Hakodate, Wakkanai, Kushiro and Memanbetsu.

The ministry is hoping to promote tourism in the Hokkaido region by transferring the airports to a concessionaire that would take over operation of the airports, including the terminal buildings and car parking facilities, and improve the airports’ performance by applying private-sector know-how.

The selection process will be conducted in two stages. Interested parties have until 16 August to submit “first screening” documents. In September, the government will announce a shortlist of bidders to participate in phase two of the process, which is expected to take place between May and July 2019.

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According to the implementation policy MLIT released in March, the chosen concessionaire will make a lump-sum payment for the right to operate the seven hubs and a fixed amount of 2.4 billion yen ($21.9 million; €18.2 million) per year, or 72 billion yen in total, to the government during the 30-year concession period.

The preferred bidder will be selected in July 2019, with the transfer of operation rights to occur in several phases beginning on 15 January 2020 and ending on 1 March 2021.

According to MLIT, last summer, more than 110 companies expressed an interest in participating in the process.

In addition to the seven airports in Hokkaido, the Japanese government is also looking to privatise Fukuoka Airport and Kumamoto Airport on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s main islands; as well as Hiroshima Airport, which is located on Honshu, the central main island.