Ferrovial SA (FER) and Macquarie Group Ltd. (MQG) as well as Industry Funds Management of Australia and Manchester Airports Group Plc are the two bidding groups left for the lease of Chicago’s Midway International Airport, according to people familiar with the auction.
The almost 40-year airport concession may be awarded as early as September, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. The contract for the smaller airport in the third-biggest U.S. city could be valued at $2 billion, they said.
The Midway lease, which initially drew six bids including from Gatwick owner Global Infrastructure Partners, is part of a wider U.S. Federal Aviation Administration pilot program to privatize airports and spur infrastructure investment. Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV:US), the biggest low-fare carrier, dominates the volume of flights at Midway.
Spain’s Ferrovial, the largest stakeholder in Europe’s busiest airport, London Heathrow, has teamed with Macquarie’s infrastructure arm in a group called Great Lakes Airport Alliance. Ferrovial operates the Chicago Skyway, a toll road on the south side of the city about six miles from Midway.
Industry Funds Management is leading the rival bid with Manchester Airports, owner of Stansted airport outside London, providing only operational expertise, one of the people said.
The City of Chicago, which will retain ownership of the airport, didn’t respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment. The winning bidders will pay the city a percentage fee that will grow over time, Chicago said previously.
Representatives for Manchester Airports Group, Ferrovial, Macquarie and IFM declined to comment about their Midway bid plans.
Final bids, which were due to be submitted next month, may be delayed until September, one of the people said. The deal will probably be financed by up to 70 percent debt, with loans later refinanced through a bond issuance, and equity comprising the rest, one person said.
Midway traces its history to 1927 and handled about 19.5 million passengers last year, 3.4 percent more than in 2011, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation’s website. In comparison, 66.8 million passengers traveled through O’Hare during the same period.
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