Japan's MLIT proposes airport merger at Osaka
Japan’s MLIT Minister, Seiji Maehara, proposed to Osaka Governor, Toru Hashimoto, on 25-Apr-2010 to transform Osaka Airport into a stock company and integrate it with Kansai International Airport under joint management (Kyodo News, 26-Apr-2010). Mr Maehara said the rights to operate the two airports in the Osaka region will be sold to the private sector to help trim Kansai airport’s JPY1.3 trillion debts, according to the plan. Osaka Airport's asset value is estimated at JPY100 billion to JPY200 billion. However, its operating rights are valued at only JPY20 billion to JPY30 billion as it is difficult to increase flights to and from the airport. Maehara said the government will upgrade Kansai Airport into an international hub and Osaka Airport may eventually be scrapped. Hashimoto has also called for Osaka Airport to be closed because demand for its services is expected to plunge when the maglev Shinkansen service links Tokyo and Osaka in around 2045 (Asahi Shimbun, 27-Apr-2010). The merger and privatisation plan indicates the government's willingness to streamline management of the nation's 98 airports.