THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Is Adani Group’s taking over the Trivandrum International Airport just a formality? It is, if there are no major last-minute changes, Express has learnt.
With the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) springing a surprise by bidding for the Mangalore Airport, the understanding between the bidders seems to be clearer now. CIAL looks set to settle for Mangalore.
Three entities each have filed separate bids for the two airports. While Adani Group, GMR Group and state-owned TIAL have submitted it for Trivandrum, CIAL, other than Adani and GMR, has bid for Mangalore.
Sources close to the Airport Authority of India said two entities each are in the fray --- Adani and CIAL in Mangaluru and Adani and TIAL in Thiruvananthapuram. The GMR, it is learnt, has interest in neither of the two, although it submitted bids for both as a proxy.
If the state is hell-bent on retaining the Trivandrum Airport in the public sector, then the first thing is not to allow disinvestment. Instead, it chose to take part in competitive bidding by forming a fledgeling company named TIAL, with KSIDC as a major stakeholder in the consortium of companies.
At the same time the government allowed CIAL, the only company from the state having enough expertise in the aviation sector and both technically and financially qualified to take part in the bidding, to go for Mangalore, an airport in which the state has no strategic interest other than business.
If the state was really intended to keep the airport in its custody, it should have allowed CIAL, headed by the CM, to bid for the Trivandrum Airport, in which the state has clear interest. Adani Group has business interest in both Mangaluru and Thiruvananthapuram. However, considering the proportion of investment it is making in Vizhinjam Port, chiefly its transnational connectivity (due to its proximity to the international sea route), the writing on the wall is clear. Further, the volume of traffic at Thiruvananthapuram is much higher compared to Mangaluru. Since the private operator will have to pay a rate based on the head count of each domestic passenger to the AAI and not on the international passenger number to be selected in the bidding , Mangaluru Airport is no longer a major attraction for a company like CIAL, especially at a time when the Trivandrum Airport is up for sale. More than 60 per cent of the 2.5 million passengers in Mangaluru are domestic, with only three major daily flights, to the Middle East.
On the other hand, of the five million passengers handled by Trivandrum, only 40 per cent is domestic and the rest international. So it is not business, but other interests the reason, say sources.And if it was not enough, the LDF has been staging a protest in Thiruvananthapuram after securing 10 per cent of right of first refusal from Centre and bidding for the airport, at the same time allowing CIAL to look for an airport in another state, said sources, saying it is a clear case of understanding.
- Sources say two entities each are in the fray for Mangaluru and Thiruvananthapuram.
- GMR, it is learnt, has interest in neither of the two, although it submitted bids for both as a proxy