* Govt aims to increase private investment in infrastructure
* Will also sell operating rights at New Kansai Int'l
* Increasing private investment part of Abe's growth
By Junko Fujita
TOKYO, July 1 Japan has opened the bidding for
rights to operate facilities at Sendai Airport, the nation's
10th busiest, the first step of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's
drive to increase private investment in public infrastructure as
he tackles bloated government debt.
Both foreign and domestic bidders will be eligible to vie
for rights to operate the airport's runways and hangar
facilities for up to 65 years, Japan's Ministry of Land,
Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said in a website posting
dated June 27.
The government is also preparing to sell rights to operate
facilities at the New Kansai International Airport, a regional
hub and the country's fifth-largest airport, built on reclaimed
land in Osaka bay.
Abe's growth strategy, unveiled last month, reiterated the
government's aim to promote public-private partnerships
operating infrastructure, including the Sendai and New Kansai
Last year Abe set a target of tripling private-sector
investment in Japan's infrastructure to 12 trillion yen ($118
billion) over the next decade.
The Japanese government revised its laws on private
financing initiatives in 2011 to allow private investor control
of airports and other public facilities and Abe stepped up the
drive for private sector involvement after he took office in
He has said he wants the Japanese economy to be more open to
foreign investment, as he seeks to jolt it from a
decade-and-a-half of deflationary doldrums.
The municipal government of Osaka, however, late last year
blocked a bid by U.S.-based distressed-asset investment fund
Lone Star Fund to buy an Osaka-based train and warehouse
operator, with some local assembly members voicing concerns
about selling a public-oriented operation to funds with a
short-term investment horizon.
Osaka Prefectural Urban Development Co was later sold to
local railway operator Nankai Electric Railway Co for a
price below Lone Star's bid, raising questions about the
openness of Japan's infrastructure sector to foreign investors.
The Sendai Airport, damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and
tsunami, serves the northeastern coastal region that was hit
hard by that disaster and is now the centre of a rebuilding
The ministry will hold a briefing for potential applicants
on Friday and the first deadline for applications will be Dec.
5. The ministry plans to sign a final agreement with the winner
in November of next year, a ministry official said.
($1 = 101.5100 Japanese yen)
(Editing by Edmund Klamann and Susan Fenton)