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Morrison looking at Port of Brisbane lease

Monday 26th July 2010

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Morrison & Co, the manager of listed investor Infratil, is among bidding groups for the 99-year lease over Port of Brisbane, a facility that has outpaced volume growth at either Sydney or Melbourne’s ports.

The Queensland government has imposed strict conditions on the sale, which doesn’t include any freehold land and caps ownership by port users and their associates at 20%. The lease could be worth $2 billion, according to reports.

Other first-round bidders include Global Infrastructure Partners, Queensland Investment Corp. and a Macquarie-led consortium including Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners and Unisuper, the Australian Financial Review reported.

Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser said the sale of the lease is “the logical next step in order to see the business grow into the future.” He expects to conclude the transaction by the end of the year, subject to market conditions.

The Port, located at the mouth of the Brisbane River, 24 kilometres from the city’s CBD, is five days closer to Asian markets by sea than its southern rivals, according to the port’s website. Brisbane percentage growth in mass tonnes between 2004 and 2009 was 4.9%, compared to Sydney at 2.1% and Melbourne on 1.7%, according to a statement from Fraser.

Growth in container volumes rose 7% in that period, matching Sydney 7.0% and outpacing Melbourne’s 4.6%.

Volumes at Brisbane are being helped by increasing demand for the state’s resources. For example, in the last five years coal seam gas exploration in Queensland  has taken off, supplying more than half of the domestic gas market and laying the foundation for a multi-billion dollar liquid natural gas (LNG) export industry.

The AFR report didn’t identify other members of the consortium led by Morrison & Co. other than to say it included former employee of the port, though the Wellington-based group has a mandate to pursue infrastructure investments on behalf of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

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