Heavyweights eye Midway Airport

In what reads like a veritable who’s who, the infrastructure industry responded in force to a February request for qualifications for a private sector partner to operate the Chicago Midway International Airport (Midway Airport).


The list of shortlisted respondents seems to have attracted just about every heavyweight player with an airports portfolio under its belt. It includes the likes of AMP Capital; Corporacion America Group; Global Infrastructure Partners; Hastings Fund Management; Industry Funds Management/ Manchester Airports Group; and a Ferrovial/ Macquarie Group consortium.


Leasing Midway Airport to a private operator would boost the US’ nascent airport public-private partnership (PPP or P3) market. Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, located in Puerto Rico, a US territory, is the lone privately run air field in the US.


Bidding on a long-term lease of Midway Airport began in January with a request for qualifications (RFQ) due Friday, February 22.


Alberta Investment Management Corporation, Allstate Investments, Barclays Capital, GS Infrastructure Partners, John Hancock Life Insurance, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, TIAA-CREF and Ullico Infrastructure Fund all expressed interest in financing the Midway Airport P3. Private equity firm ACO Investment Group, formed in 2010, was eliminated as a bidder.   


Chicago published the RFQ after receiving US Federal Aviation Administration approval. The lease offered a “less than” 40-year term, the RFQ said. 


The RFQ officially re-opened a previously unsuccessful attempt to privatize the air field: a prior deal to lease Midway Airport to Citi Infrastructure Investors (CII), John Hancock Financial and Vancouver Airport Services was reached in 2008. 


But the consortium was unable to finance the deal. By 2009, as the global financial crisis peaked, the P3 was cancelled.