GMR Infra, headquartered in New Delhi, India has tied up with low-fare carrier Thai AirAsia as part of a consortium to bid for the $2 billion expansion of the U-Tapao airport in Thailand. The conglomerate has also shown inclination to an expansion project for the Batam Airport in Indonesia. GMR, who already has a reputable airport business in India, has been keen on expanding in the International territories as well.
For the U-Tapao airport, GMR happens to be a part of a consortium which also includes likes of Property Perfect Plc, A Thai property and hotel development group. Thai AirAsia, on the other hand, is 55% owned by local holding company Asia Aviation and the remaining by AirAsia Investment, a 100% subsidiary of AirAsia Berhad. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes had said last year that the company would invest $150 million in an aircraft maintenance and overhaul facility at the U-Tapao airport. It is well to be noted that AirAsia for long has aimed to build its own low-cost airports. Development of U-Tapao airport which serves Pattaya and Rayong is one of the five major projects that the Thai Government is undertaking as a part of its Eastern Economic Corridor plan to brand the area as a prime economic zone for the ASEAN region. Also part of the scheme is to turn Thailand into an aviation hub. The project also includes high-speed rail links -Tapao airport and the two main airports of Bangkok—Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi—and between U-Tapao airport and the main centre of Bangkok city. Among other things, building a new passenger terminal also falls under the project’s purview as plans are to increase the passenger handling capacity from 3 million to 15 million. Apart from the consortium that has GMR in it, three others also have submitted their respective technical proposals for the airport.
The Thai Government is expecting to rope-in $43 billion investment into the Eastern Economic Corridor plan over the next five years. The funding for the same is expected from the Government, public-private partnerships such as the one that has GMR in it and also through foreign direct investment.
As per local Indonesian media reports, GMR has also formed a consortium with Waskita Karya and PT Cardig in an Indonesian project that includes expansion of the existing airport terminal and also building a new one. The credibility of GMR group knows no bounds as it runs India’s busiest airport in Delhi and fourth busiest in Hyderabad. Moreover, it is currently building a new airport in Goa and has also won the contract to manage the Nagpur airport. GMR also operates the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the Philippines, is currently in the process of building a new airport in Crete islands, Greece and has an engineering and procurement contract or Clark International Airport at the Philippines. It will be another feather in the cap for GMR Infra if it gets awarded the much talked about Thai contract.