Toll Giant Macquarie Now Wants Austin-Bergstrom International Airport!

by David Nason, The Australian News

The Macquarie Group's airport ambitions in the US have spread to Texas, where its infrastructure division is in talks to lease all or part of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in the Texas capital, Austin.

A Macquarie spokesman confirmed yesterday that discussions with Austin officials were under way but stressed they were at a "very preliminary stage", with no formal proposal for an ABIA takeover on the table.

According to some projections, leasing ABIA to a private operator could earn the city of Austin $US500 million ($526 million) annually.

The airport play comes as Macquarie and its Spanish toll roads partner Centra await a decision on a proposed 75-year lease for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, one of the US's busiest highways.

At least three consortiums have submitted bids with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who is expected to select his preferred operator sometime in the next week.

Mr Rendell wants to channel the lease payments -- possibly as much as $US18 billion over the life of the lease -- into Pennsylvania's ageing highways, bridges and mass transit systems. But he is facing opposition from legislators, voters and his own Turnpike Commission.

Opposition to airport privatisation in the US is also expected to be strong, especially if foreign companies are involved.

Under a Federal Aviation Administration pilot program introduced in 1966, US airports can be exempted from federal administration, but until now only Chicago's Midway Airport has actively pursued privatisation.

The program allows for up to five US airports to be leased to private operators, but the hurdles are many, including approval from the FAA and from 65 per cent of airlines using the airport.

Macquarie, which already operates airports in Sydney, Tokyo, Brussels, Copenhagen and Bristol in England, is one of six companies to have lodged a proposal with Chicago officials.

It now sees a second opportunity in Austin, where the push for privatisation is driven by federal laws that compel the city to spend airport revenues at the airport while other city-operated businesses such as Austin Energy and the Austin Convention Centre return their profits to the city.

Austin city councillor Brewster McCracken told the Austin Business Journal he was opposed to privatising public assets but regarded the airport as a separate issue because it provided no revenue to the city's general fund.

ABIA's total operating revenue for the 2007 fiscal year was $US81.9 million with $US17 million of that going back into the airport's capital fund.

Austin-Bergstrom is a former US Air Force Base 8km outside Austin that was only opened to civilian traffic in 1999, to replace a smaller airport. Last year, it serviced almost 8.9 million passengers, a record.

Globally, the Macquarie Group has some $US200 billion invested in infrastructure and it has targeted the US as its major infrastructure growth area.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


Sal Costello Sal@TexasTollParty.com said...

The special interests won't be happy until they own and double tax us for everything.

More middlemen means more profits, which means we'll pay more for everything related to the airport.

AND Sen Kirk Watson voted to divert our tax dollars to make all the expressways to and from the airport a toll tax!

Anonymous said...

I work at City Hall. I'll tell you that Macquarie Group representatives have already been sweet talking the council members behind closed doors - to hand over this cash cow. In the meantime, taxpayers are alseep.

Anonymous said...

Since government by its own admission is failing and can no longer keep up with our roads, facilities and other infrastructure as it was able to do in the past, we need to do away with government and let private enterprise handle the jobs.

Sal Costello Sal@TexasTollParty.com said...

The problem is - you can't "do away with" government.

Privatization schemes allow
Politicos to give away our public assets on the cheap.

Future representatives have their hands tied. We pay more so special interests, as the middle men, make major profits. And politicos get contributions, cash and other favors.

As years pass, and folks get mad at how much the cost of every tax, fee, permit etc. has shot up, the politicos have moved on. Then it's too late.

Unaccountable taxation people.

Anonymous said...

No, anon#3, we need to reform government. Recall elections are necessary. Macquarie could make it so expensive to take off and land, park, etc, that the US business or leisure trips that would have happened if it were state-owned won't. Then there's the security issue. What's to prevent Macquarie from allowing terrorists to launch a 9-11? If they own the airport, they can do whatever they want. A more probable scenario- they can lobby for more lax security in the name of profit because they own the politicians.

Macquarie is already screwing the citizens on tolls and the TTC. What's to say they won't continue to do so with the Airports? I know because I have a friend who works for Giuliani's law firm. The government is giving away the farm.

Anonymous said...

Brewster OnCrackin' is really just a moron. Let's make sure his quote about selling ABIA is in full public view when he runs for mayor.

Sal Costello Sal@TexasTollParty.com said...

And, ya'll know Brewter McCracken is one of the crooks (Sen. Kirk Watosn, Commish Gerald Daugherty etc) that voted to shift our freeways to tollways right?

Anonymous said...

Sal and Anon 5,

I was being sarcastic about doing away with government involvement, kind of. Just pointing out that in the real world, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Anon5, truthfully I don't know what there is to reform. We have all the laws we need on the books now, and a form of government that has proven itself and can work.

The problem is shutting down a bunch of scofflaws and crooks before they sell off and pocket every asset the public has.

Anonymous said...