Chi­nese in­vestors are wait­ing in the wings

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

CHI­NESE bil­lion­aire Ray­mond Wang has never made any se­cret of his de­sire to see the Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port be­come an in­ter­na­tional hub.

In 2014 Mr Wang’s Whit­sun­day branch of the China Australia En­trepreneurs As­so­ci­a­tion Inc missed out on a bid for one of Queens­land’s few re­gional casino li­cences, awarded to ar­eas with in­ter­na­tional ac­cess in­stead.

Since then Mr Wang has been pa­tiently wait­ing in the wings, with his sec­ond chance at in­vest­ing in in­ter­na­tional air ac­cess be­tween Asia and the Whit­sun­days now po­ten­tially just a whis­per away. But he is not alone. Full­share, the Chi­ne­se­owned com­pany be­hind Whis­per Bay and La­guna Quays has also ex­pressed an in­ter­est in any fu­ture part­ner­ships and there are other Aus­tralian-based in­vestors keen for a look-in.

Last week Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil an­nounced its in­ten­tion to seek sup­port from the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment for the growth and devel­op­ment of its long-planned Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port In­ter­na­tional Ex­port Hub.

Mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney said the next step would be an Ex­pres­sion of In­ter­est process for a ma­jor­ity coun­cilowned joint ven­ture, or “public/pri­vate part­ner­ship”, to de­velop the In­ter­na­tional Ex­port Hub and the coun­cil’s avi­a­tion as­sets through­out the re­gion.

“The in­tent of the EOI process is to for­malise cur­rent ap­proaches from air­port cor­po­ra­tions, in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors, in­ter­na­tion­ally based in­vestors (and) lo­cally based in­vestors,” she said.

Recog­nis­ing the im­por­tance of the air­port as a com­mu­nity as­set, Cr Whit­ney promised com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion would oc­cur be­fore any de­ci­sions were made on the mat­ter.

“(And) the most im­por­tant mes­sage I can give to the com­mu­nity is that Coun­cil will re­tain the ma­jor­ity own­er­ship of all as­sets; that will not change,” she said.

Whit­sun­days Mar­ket­ing and Devel­op­ment Limited chair­man Jim El­der con­firmed both the CAEAI and Full­share had ap­proached WMDL to ex­press their in­ter­est in the ven­ture.

Coun­cil’s CEO Scott Wa­ters said the “mar­ket sound­ing process” would con­sider all op­tions.

“We need to get the best part­ner on board and then our re­gion will go ahead in a way we prob­a­bly haven’t seen be­fore,” he said.

HOT TOPIC: Ex­pres­sions of In­ter­est could soon be called for to de­velop the Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port In­ter­na­tional Ex­port Hub. INSET: CAEAI pres­i­dent Ray­mond Wang has al­ways been in­ter­ested in es­tab­lish­ing in­ter­na­tional air ac­cess.

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