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Asia-Pacific Airports turns the spotlight on the GMR Group and its airport assets in India and across the planet.

These are exciting times for India’s GMR group, which continues to develop and expand its airport network both at home and abroad and will shortly welcome a key new investment partner.

On home turf in India, GMR Airports Ltd (GAL) operates the gateways of Hyderabad–Rajiv Gandhi and Delhi-Indira Gandhi, courtesy of 63% and 64% shareholdings respectively in operators GMR Hyderabad International Airport (GHIAL) and Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL).

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) is the busiest airport in India handling in excess of 70 million passengers annually, while Hyderabad-Rajiv Gandhi (HYD) welcomed 21.4 million in its FY2019.

In the global arena, in partnership with local company, Megawide Construction Corporation, GMR has a 25-year operating concession for Mactan-Cebu International Airport in the Philippines.

And construction work has started on Crete’s new €850 million Kastelli Airport, which is being financed and built by the Ariadne Airport Group – a joint venture between GAL and Greek firm GEK-Terna – in exchange for a 35 year operating contract. Slated to open in 2024/25, it will replace Heraklion’s Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport.

Back in India, wholly-owned subsidiary, GMR Goa International Airport Limited (GGIAL), has signed a 40-year concession agreement to build and operate Goa’s new Mopa International Airport, the first phase of which is expected to open in 2022.

And its list of domestic airports in India is about to get even bigger after GHIAL signed a concession agreement with the Indian government to develop commercial operations at Bidar Airport.

GHIAL has agreed to “commission, operationalise and maintain the civilian enclave at the Bidar Airport” in North Karnataka, which up until now has served purely as a military airfield.

The deal, which falls under the government’s Regional Connectivity – UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) Scheme, is expected to lead to the launch of a daily flight between Bidar and Bengaluru.

GHIAL CEO and executive director – south for GMR Airports, SGK Kishore, says: “The operationalisation of Bidar Airport is a testimony to our commitment to support the Government of India’s flagship Regional Connectivity Scheme.

“We are very pleased to partner with the Government of Karnataka to support efforts for the all-round development of Bidar and its nearby regions, and we are confident that the start of commercial operations at Bidar will provide a boost to the local economy through better connectivity for the people of Bidar and the large number of tourists who visit the area.”

Located in the north-eastern part of Karnataka state, Bidar city is the headquarters of the Bidar District and is home to some important religious shrines and historic monuments.

And there’s more to come as the GMR Group has received a Letter of Intent to develop and operate Nagpur Airport on a PPP basis and has emerged as the highest bidder for the development and operation of a greenfield airport at Bhogapuram in Andhra Pradesh. 


New shareholder

GMR’s global airport ambitions and growth path trajectory will almost certainly be boosted by GMR Infrastructure’s decision to agree to sell a 49% stake in GAL to Groupe ADP for €1.36 billion.

Groupe ADP is one of the world’s biggest airport operators managing a portfolio of 24 airports across the globe, including Paris CDG in France, Queen Alia in Jordan, and Santiago’s Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in Chile.

The deal will be completed in two phases, with a 24.9% interest in GAL expected to be completed in Q1 followed by a second transaction for another 24.01% stake at a later date, subject to certain regulatory conditions.

According to both, the new partnership will be built on a two-way exchange of expertise, personnel, knowledge and market access.

GAL states that the deal will “combine unmatched strengths in airport development and operations, offering the highest levels of passenger experience”.

It adds that the agreement will also open up new opportunities for route development and enhanced expertise in operations, retail, IT, innovation, engineering and other areas that will “immensely benefit” passengers and other stakeholders and set new “industry-defining benchmarks”.

Between them, GMR Airports Limited and Groupe ADP’s airports handled 336.5 million passengers in 2019.
 GMR Group chairman, GM Rao, noted: “The partnership with Groupe ADP is in line with GMR’s business direction to become a global airport developer and operator.

”We have been on a journey of defining airports of the future with a key focus on the passenger experience by leveraging enhanced technology and offering superior amenities. With Groupe ADP, GMR will have smoother access to global markets, opening up new avenues of business growth.”

Once the deal is done, GAL will be jointly owned by GMR Infrastructure (51%) and Groupe ADP (49%).

A thing of beauty

One of GMR’s international assets, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, recently won a prestigious award at the World Architecture Festival when its new Terminal 2 triumphed in the ‘Completed Buildings-Transport’ category.

To put this in perspective, it beat off competition from Singapore Changi, Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Station and several other structures to win the accolade.

Srinivas Bommidala, chairman of energy and international airports at the GMR Group and chairman of Mactan-Cebu operator, GMCAC, said: “The World Architecture award to resort-themed Terminal 2 is testimony to GMR Group’s credentials as a leading global airport developer and operator.

“Due to its intelligent and aesthetically beautiful design with use of local materials, the terminal not just provides a memorable travel experience but has also touched the chords of local people making it an immensely popular tourist spot.”

Described by judges as “simple and elegant”, arguably the terminal’s most striking feature is its arched wooden roof. 
It was designed by Hong Kong-based Integrated Design Associates along with local designers Budji Layug, Royal Pinda, and Cebu’s Kenneth Cobonpue.


Customer service champions
In addition to being one of India’s biggest gateways, Delhi-Indira Gandhi International is also among the most successful, in recent years, in ACI’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) customer excellence awards.

Indeed, in the 2019 ASQ Departures Awards, DEL jointly won Asia-Pacific’s Best Airport By Size and Region in the Over 40mppa category for the third year running while HYD triumphed in the 15-25mppa category for Asia-Pacific – sharing the honour with Bali-Ngurah Rai and Sanya Fenghua – and winning its first ever global ‘Best Environment & Ambience’ award for airports handling 15-25mppa.

GHIAL’s Kishore said: “We feel honoured that our passengers have chosen us as 
the Best Airport in the annual ASQ survey 2019 conducted by ACI. This milestone echoes the rigour and teamwork of our stakeholders that include the Directorate General of Civil Aviation; Immigration; Customs; the airlines; our employees and all business partners/vendors, who all 
work towards the common goal of serving our customers.

“We are also thankful to the Ministry 
of Civil Aviation for their support. This award is testimony of our tireless efforts 
to make our passenger experience the 
best and our pursuit towards excellence.”

Sustainable development
DEL and HYD are also among the super six airports in the Asia-Pacific region to boast carbon neutral status in ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.

Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport achieved actually carbon neutral status in 2017 and has since gone on to win the ‘Gold’ award in 2018’s ACI Asia-Pacific Green Airports Recognition initiative for airports handling less than 15 million passengers per annum.

Kishore states that his gateway’s significant green achievements are the result of GHIAL’s “sustained efforts towards the environment”.

“These efforts include proactive energy conservation measures, generation of renewable energy (solar), carbon sinking through extensive greenbelt and various other environment protection measures, with the active support of the airport’s stakeholders,” he enthuses.

DEL, which has utilised solar power since 2017 and whose recycling efforts have saved more than three billion litres of water over the last decade – recently announced that single-use plastic items such as water bottles, straws and coffee stirrers are no longer available at the airport.

The Confederation of Indian Industry-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development (CII-ITC CESD), known for supporting business communities toward achieving sustainability, has certified DIAL for its voluntary and successful implementation of single-use plastic-free airport measures within DEL’s operations.


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