SINGAPORE FIRMS MAKING FORAYS INTO INDIA

West Bengal airport partly owned by Changi Airport to open

An artist's impression of the "aerotropolis", a joint venture between Singapore’s Changi Airports International and Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited. -- PHOTO: CHANGI AIRPORTS INTERNATIONAL
An artist's impression of the "aerotropolis", a joint venture between Singapore’s Changi Airports International and Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited. -- PHOTO: CHANGI AIRPORTS INTERNATIONAL

Domestic facility part of much larger project that Changi will also co-own

THE first overseas airport owned partly by Changi Airport will open on Monday, marking a key milestone in its plans to capitalise on the boom in airport developments across Asia.

Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport in West Bengal, India, is more than a third owned by Changi Airports International (CAI) through its 36 per cent stake in Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL).

The domestic airport will be able to handle a million passengers a year, with room for expansion when needed.

While it is not as big as Changi Airport, which handled more than 54 million passengers last year, the West Bengal airport is part of a much larger development.

The project includes industrial, commercial and residential facilities that Changi will also co-own.

Before this, Changi's foreign forays were limited mainly to helping airports plan, develop and operate existing and new facilities.

It has been involved in various such projects, including operating four airports in Russia.

With the demand for air travel in the Asia-Pacific set to grow strongly, fuelled by China and India, many more new airports will be built and existing ones expanded, said Mr Subhranshu Sekhar Das, an aviation analyst at industry consultancy Frost & Sullivan.

This will provide new opportunities for CAI and other players in the field to co-own or help manage the new airports, he added.

Besides Changi Airport, Malaysia Airports, Germany's Fraport, Schiphol in the Netherlands and Turkey's TAV are among the airports keen to spread their wings overseas.

Globally, the value of airport expansion and development projects is expected to hit an estimated US$520 billion (S$695 billion) this year, he said.

Asian airports are in "a mad rush" to boost capacity, said Mr Liew Mun Leong, chairman of Changi Airport Group, at an airport retail conference on Monday.

China and India, which have populations at least four times larger than that of the United States, have only about 400 airports each while the US has more than 5,000.

CAI spokesman See Ngee Muoy noted that domestic air travel in India surged by 14.8 per cent in February compared with the same month last year. "This affirms our belief that the prospects for domestic air travel in India remain promising," she said.

BAPL's managing director, Mr Partha Ghosh, said that the Singapore airport is a valuable partner.

The deputy chief of airport operations at the new airport in Bengal is a CAI staff member who has been "instrumental in providing direction to the local management team in airport operations and management in preparation for the airport opening and certification", he said.

Other staff from the Singapore airport also visit regularly, he added.

"We are tapping their experience across many functional areas such as masterplanning and terminal design, capacity improvement, traffic development, airport operations and management, and commercial development," Mr Ghosh said.

The Straits Times understands that CAI, through BAPL, is looking to invest in other airport projects in India.

karam@sph.com.sg