By Rohit Vaid
While the Adani Group may go slow with regard to expansion plans in some of their projects post the Hindenburg crisis, airports is not one of them. The group will go ahead with the pace of expansion as planned and will even bid for more if the government puts up fresh airports for privatisation.
Adani Airports CEO Arun Bansal on Wednesday said at the CAPA summit that there is no rethinking in terms of pace of expansion or investments for airports business in the context of the challenges faced by the Group. “We have committed, submitted our plans to the government. Whatever plans we have submitted, we are following our investments,” he said.
On future business plans, Bansal said, will selectively look at opportunities where it makes financial sense. He said that not only would the company like to operate more airports, but it would eventually look at becoming a leading airport operator in the world.
Adani Airports is a part of the group’s flagship Adani Enterprises.
In the last round of airport privatisation in 2019, Adani Group had won bids to operate six airports — Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Guwahati, Jaipur and Thiruvananthapuram. It acquired the Mumbai airport from the GVK Group in 2019 and is developing the Navi Mumbai airport. Thus, currently it operates seven airports.
These seven airports together have seen an increase of 92% in domestic and 133% in international travellers, post 2019, the pre-pandemic year. They account for 25% of passenger traffic and 33% of air cargo traffic in the country. According to Bansal, 1 billion of air passenger traffic is expected by 2040, with traffic growing at a CAGR of 8.5% over the next 20 years.
The government plans to privatise more airports like Varanasi, Calicut, Patna, Amritsar, Bhubaneswar, Ranchi, Coimbatore, Trichy, Indore and Raipur. At some point of time it was speculated that the government may put a cap on the number of airports one operator can bid for, but it is unlikely that such restrictions will be put. This leaves the field clear for Adani Group to bid for more airports as and when the government invites tenders for the same.
Bansal said post the commissioning of Navi Mumbai International Airport’s Terminal 1, under the first phase in December 2024, it will cater to 20 million passengers annually 800,000 tonne of cargo.However, he said that the cost of operating airports has to come down by 30-50%. On other plans in the aviation sector, he said that the group is working on setting up an aviation institute.