The local Chamber of Commerce has strongly questioned both the process behind and reasons for Queenstown Airport Corporation selling a 24.99 per cent shareholding to Auckland International Airport Ltd.
Like other critics of the deal, announced on July 8, the 300-member business lobby group slates the QAC’s lack of consultation.
Only AIA was approached as a preferred investor to maintain confidentiality, the Chamber was told by QAC.
“The ‘confidentiality’ reason for not pursuing a more competitive tender process is questionable,” the Chamber states.
“QAC advised the Chamber board that a further reason for confidentiality was that AIA was not interested in investing in QAC if the community was going to be consulted.”
The lobby group is also unhappy that, bearing in mind Queenstown Lakes District Council was the QAC’s only shareholder, most councillors only learnt of the deal at a short-notice meeting the night before.
It also notes that QLDC in recent months had stopped attending QAC board meetings – usually the mayor and/or CEO used to attend.
The deal also sidelines major airline Air New Zealand in favour of AIA, the Chamber believes.
“Information provided by QAC indicates that landing fees have the potential to be increased as a result of the share issue,” it states, with passengers forced to pay more to fly and/or airlines reconsidering flying into the resort.
The Chamber had also found no evidence the QAC had to raise capital or pay dividends to QAC.
It also casts doubt on why QAC couldn’t have achieved a strategic alliance with AIA without the need for a shareholding.
The Chamber notes QAC’s latest statement of intent makes no mention of a share sell-off.
It wants QLDC to investigate “whether there has been a breach of the QAC’s responsibilities under the QAC current statement of intent”.
It also recommends QLDC and QAC take no further action to increase AIA’s shareholding – under the deal,
AIA’s stake may go up to 35 per cent by next year.