Singapore Inc sets itself up for another blocked deal

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore''s hopes to acquire a stake of Sydney Airport are likely to be dashed owing to its government ownership.

The state-owned Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has expressed an interest in acquiring a stake in Sydney Airports Corp (SAC), which is earmarked for sale after the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in September. Analysts say that SAC is valued at around A$4 billion ($2.3 billion).

It is, however, hard to see the Australian government allowing CAAS to get involved in the privatization of SAC, given that the Singapore government also owns Singapore Airlines (SIA) - a major rival of Qantas, Australia's national carrier. SIA also owns 25% of Air New Zealand and Ansett Australia and 49% of Virgin Atlantic Airways, a sister company of which, Virgin Blue Airlines, is set to start offering low-cost domestic flights in Australia by September.

SIA's purchases of stakes in Air New Zealand and Virgin are among the few successful bid attempts by Singapore's state-owned corporations since the start of this year. Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) is widely thought to have failed in its attempts to buy Cable & Wireless HKT in Hong Kong and Time dotCom in Malaysia as a result of its state ownership.

So far the Australian government has sold 17 airports, including Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane via trade sales to consortiums. The Australian government has not yet ruled out an initial public offering of SAC. In November 1999, CAAS paid NZ$87 million ($40 million) for a 7% stake in Auckland International Airport.