The sale of the rights to run Kansai International Airport to a consortium led by Orix Corp. and France’s infrastructure operator Vinci SA should serve as a test case in Japan to see whether private-sector funds and know-how can turn around the operations of public infrastructure such as airports and expressways. It should be closely monitored to see if efficiency and profitability improves at the main international airport serving the Kansai region, which is currently run by a wholly state-owned operator.

New Kansai International Airport Co. announced earlier this month that it would sell the rights to run Kansai International and Osaka International Airport, which is popularly known as Itami airport and mainly serves domestic flights, to the consortium of 32 companies, which also includes major Kansai-based firms such as Panasonic and Osaka Gas, for ¥2.2 trillion over the 44-year concession period. A formal contract will be concluded next month and the new operator plans to start running the two airports in April.

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