World’s Most-Valuable Airport Firm to Add Krabi to Thai Business

The world’s largest airport operator by market value will add four more airports to its management portfolio by the end of this year.

Airports of Thailand Pcl currently operates six airports, five of which rank as the country’s busiest. Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob said he wants the company to takeover some high-potential facilities now under the Department of Airports, a government agency that oversees 27 civil airports.

“The Department of Airports has many airports in its portfolio but not enough budget, while Airports of Thailand has the capital but not enough airports,” Saksiam said in an interview. The transfer would benefit both organizations and increase the nation’s overall capacity to handle international flights, he said.

The proposed change would include facilities serving three provinces in the northeast -- Udon Thani, Khon Kaen and Buriram -- and another in Krabi, a tourist destination in the south.

Airports of Thailand, which is 70% owned by the Finance Ministry, would be required to improve and operate those facilities, and the Department would be still be paid some revenue on its properties -- which it could use to fund smaller airports, Saksiam said.

“The transfer won’t have immediate significant impact on Airports of Thailand because 90% of international traffic already passes through its six airports,” said Ekasit Kunadirekwong, analyst at Bank of Ayudhya Pcl’s Krungsri Research. Although Krabi International Airport may help relieve congestion at nearby Phuket International Airport, benefits will take at least five years to appear, he said.

Before the pandemic, Thailand was struggling to cope with the growing numbers of flights and passengers at some of its major hubs. Since March, though, its borders have been closed to most foreign visitors while the government keeps adjusting plans to reopen the country’s vital tourism sector.

“At some point, we’ll have vaccines for Covid-19,” Saksiam said. “Once everything returns to normal, we want to make sure that we can handle the traffic.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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