LONDON – Sydney Airport shareholders have approved a A$23.6 billion (US$16.85 billion) cash takeover by infrastructure investors, though small retail investors voted against delisting Australia’s only listed airport.
The purchase is a long-term bet on the travel sector after it has been battered by the pandemic. Record-low interest rates are spurring pension funds and their investment managers to chase higher yields.
The deal was made it a 96% voter cast agreement, while the remaining 4%, which is being represented by a stake of 20.7% shareholders, were disappointed in the deal.
They said that they were investing in the airport over the long term, and now that’s not possible anymore. One shareholder said that he was faced with a big tax bill for accepting cash.
Chairman David Gonski said the bidders came to the board with an offer that did not include the opportunity for shareholders to roll their interests into the unlisted vehicle.
There was, however, one exception.
The consortium’s bid was contingent on the company’s largest investor pension fund, UniSuper, folding its 15% stake into the unlisted company rather than accepting the cash on offer to others.
With this deal, every airport in Australia is unlisted and owned by pension funds and investment companies.
In New Zealand, Auckland International Airport is the only listed airport in the region.
Last month, an independent expert said the Sydney Airport deal was “fair and reasonable” to shareholders at a time of significant revenue uncertainty due to COVID-19 and the looming end of its monopoly when Western Sydney Airport opens in 2026.
Sydney Airport’s domestic traffic fell 74% in 2021 from the 2019 levels before the pandemic, while international traffic was down by 95.5%.