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Sydney Airport Investors Set To Clear $17bn Takeover

The Sydney airport takeover, one of Australia’s biggest-ever buyouts, was backed by 96% of proxy votes cast, but 20% of shareholders representing a 4% stake were against it

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Sydney airport
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's latest aviation monitoring report, released on Tuesday, says travellers are getting cheaper airfares thanks to Rex Airlines challenging incumbent airlines Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin on nine major city routes. Photo: Reuters.

 

Sydney Airport shareholders were poised on Thursday to approve a A$23.6 billion ($16.8 billion) cash takeover by infrastructure investors, though many small retail investors voted against delisting Australia’s only listed airport.

The Sydney Airport takeover, one of Australia’s biggest-ever buyouts, was backed by 96% of proxy votes cast, but 20.4% of shareholders representing a 4% stake were against the deal. A final tally is due on Thursday.

Several retail shareholders said at a meeting that they were disappointed there was not a scrip component to the bid because they wanted to remain invested in the company over the long term.

One long-term shareholder said he faced a big tax bill from accepting cash.

Chairman David Gonski said the bidders came to the board with an offer, and it did not include the opportunity for shareholders to roll their interests into the unlisted vehicle.

There was, however, one exception. The consortium’s bid was contingent on the company’s largest investor pension fund UniSuper folding its 15% stake into the unlisted company rather than accepting the cash on offer to others.

 

Major Shareholders

After the deal is complete, UniSuper will join IFM Investors, QSuper, AustralianSuper and US-based Global Infrastructure Partners as major shareholders.

The purchase is a long-term bet on the travel sector, which has been battered by the pandemic. Record-low interest rates have prompted pension funds and their investment managers to chase higher yields.

Australia’s other major airports are unlisted and owned by pension funds and infrastructure investors, though New Zealand’s Auckland International Airport remains listed.

An independent expert said last month the Sydney Airport deal was “fair and reasonable” to shareholders at a time of significant revenue uncertainty due to Covid-19 and the looming end of its monopoly when Western Sydney Airport opens in 2026.

Sydney Airport’s domestic traffic fell by 74% in 2021 compared to 2019’s pre-pandemic levels, while international traffic was down by 95.5%.

 

  • Reuters, with additional editing by Jim Pollard

 

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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.

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