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Mon 20 Aug 2007 01:39 PM

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NZ council contenders oppose airport sale

Candidates vying to become mayor of city council with a stake Auckland airport are against sale to Dubai.

Three leading contenders for mayor of one the local authorities with a stake in New Zealand’s Auckland airport have said they are opposed to Dubai’s bid to acquire a majority stake in the airport.

Local elections for Manukau City Council will be held it October and the authority, which owns around 10% of Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL), has postponed making a final decision on the bid until then.

As a result, many of the candidates vying to become the city’s next mayor are making opposition to the deal a key pillar of their campaigns, attempting to capitalise on widespread opposition to the deal in the community.

The election of a mayor who will almost certainly be opposed to the sale is yet another obstacle in the way of the attempt by state-owned Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) to take control of New Zealand’s busiest airport.

Manukau and Auckland city councils together control 22.8% of the airport and elected officials from both have raised concerns over foreign control of the airport.

Combined with the 6.2% now controlled by State-owned New Superannuation Fund and Wellington-based utilities Infratil, New Zealand organisations own enough of Auckland airport to prevent DAE getting the 75% shareholder approval needed to okay the deal, if the relevant parties choose to reject the offer when they vote on it in November.

Infratil, which holds a 2.1% stake, has said there is a strong case for New Zealand investments in the airport.

Last month DAE offered to pay up to NZ$2.6 billion ($2.08 billion) for a controlling stake in the airport, which was backed by the airport's board.

Under the offer, which values the whole of Auckland Airport at NZ$5.6 billion ($4.5 billion), a new company will be created, in which DAE will have a stake of 51 to 60%.

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