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Japan's airport privatisation picks up pace - and interest

Privatising Japan’s airports was not a concept that attracted much attention until 2011 when the government said it would set about the task, and even then progress has been slow until the past couple of years.

But the adoption of a foreign partner, France’s Vinci (actually one of few so far), together with the Japanese financier Orix, to take on the ailing Kansai Airport at Osaka appears to have prompted a flurry of interest – at least, from the Japanese themselves, with firms from a multitude of sectors putting in bids for the many ‘national’ level airports that are on offer.

Even as more airports make themselves available to be privatised foreign investors must be sure, though, that the opportunities are realistic, since some of these airports are small. They are not yet well served by what has become the staple in other parts of the world – low cost carriers. Often the need to attract LCCs and to stimulate foreign tourism is part of the contract, and that might not always be easy.

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