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MACL management of seaplane terminal most profitable: audit

Mariyam Malsa
11 December 2019, MVT 22:27
A seaplane lands at Velana International Airport (VIA). PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED/ MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
11 December 2019, MVT 22:27

The audit commissioned by the parliament's public finance committee stated that handing over operations of the newly built seaplane terminal to the Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) would be the most profitable course of action.

The findings of the audit report Auditor General Hassan Ziyath sent to the public finance committee are yet to be publicized.

However, local media outlet Mihaaru confirmed that the report outlined four possible methods to operate the new terminal. These include tasking only MACL with operations or continuing to run the terminal by leasing it out to Manta Air, Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), Island Aviation Services (IAS) and Villa Air.

In addition to declaring that handing operations to MACL as the most profitable course of action, the report also detailed projected revenue figures for the government.

The committee is currently investigating allegations that operations of the new seaplane terminal being developed at Velana International Airport would be leased out solely to local seaplane operator, TMA.

MACL had previously denied plans to award terminal operations to a single party, assuring that the terminal was designed and intended to be used as a common facility for multiple operators.

TMA is the largest seaplane operator in the world. The majority share of the company was acquired in late December 2017 by US equity giant Bain Capital, in partnership with Chinese tourism conglomerate Tempus Group. According to foreign media, Bain Capital and Tempus Group proposed to buy 80 percent of TMA’s shares for USD 550 million (MVR 8.4 billion), thus marking the largest business acquisition to date in Maldives. TMA's majority share was previously held by Blackstone of US, one of the leading investment firms in the world, while local tycoon Champa Hussain Afeef’s Kasa Holdings Pvt Ltd holds the minority share.

At present, the seaplane terminal is managed privately by seaplane operators with plots leased out separately to each. MACL charges USD 9 (MVR 138) per square feet. The new terminal was also developed by the operators.

Industry veterans have expressed that an efficient government policy as well as lack of a monopoly are required to ensure healthy competition in the market, asserting that the control of the new terminal must remain under MACL, some experts also assert.

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