11 Jan 2010

Auckland Airport buys stake in Queensland airports

9:23 pm on 11 January 2010

New Zealand's biggest airport is buying a stake in two airports in the Australian state of Queensland.

Auckland International Airport Ltd will pay $A132 million ($NZ166 million) for 24.55% of North Queensland Airports, the operator of Cairns and Mackay airports.

AIA hopes the investment will boost the numbers of Asian tourists visiting New Zealand.

Out of almost 1 million international arrivals to Cairns, only 10,000 travel on to New Zealand.

AIA chief executive Simon Moutter says Asian passengers are a key growth area for Cairns and hopes the airport can encourage those travellers to fly to Auckland.

Mr Moutter says driving more travel demand out of Asia will be crucial to the future growth of AIA and the New Zealand tourism sector.

Cairns is the seventh busiest airport in Australia and the gateway to north Queensland, with a total of 3.7 million passengers in the year to 30 June 2009.

Mackay is a regional airport with almost 1 million passengers a year. It is close to the Whitsunday resort islands.

AIA says the investment will make up about 5% of its total assets. The purchase will be settled on Wednesday.