Kerala minister denies Kannur airport stake allotment



Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Tourism and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan Tuesday denied making any allotment of shares in the proposed Kannur international airport.

"The paperwork has begun with regard to the allotment of shares. Initially at the time of talks, a few private sector players wanted 74 percent. When it was said that would not be possible, they asked for 52 percent, which too was negated by the government. At the moment, three private sector groups have asked for 26 percent shares. Anyone desirous of getting shares in the airport can apply and a decision would then be taken to do a pro rata allotment," said Balakrishnan.

The Mumbai-based Leela Hotel group and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS), one of India's leading infrastructure and finance companies, are eyeing a major stake in the airport.

The foundation stone for Kerala's fourth international airport would be laid at Mattanur near Kannur town on December 17.

"Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan would be the chief guests. We expect that the airport would be ready in two years. It would be the biggest airport in the state, spread over 2,000 acres," he said.

A new company Kannur International Airport Limited (KIAL) has already been registered and the Rs 1,000 crore airport would be built under a public-private initiative. Former civil aviation secretary V Thulasidas has been appointed as the managing director of KIAL.

"Twenty-six percent of the shares would be held by the state government for which the value of the land that has been acquired by the government would be taken as its share. Twenty-three percent would be given to state public sector units, two per cent to INKEL (Infrastructures Kerala Limited, a Kerala government company) and the remaining 49 percent would be open for private participation," added Balakrishnan.

The Kannur airport was first proposed when EK Nayanar was chief minister (1996-2001), who wanted an airport for his hometown. Since then, every chief minister has taken up the issue.

The nearest international airport to the proposed one is at Kozhikode, some 80 km away by air.

The proposed airport will come as a boon for the large number of non-resident Keralites in the districts of Kannur and Kasargode who now have to travel to either Kozhikode or Mangalore.

Moreover, tourists headed to Coorg can also use this airport.

According to a study, close to 1.5 million passengers would use this airport and it would handle 86,000 tonnes of cargo a year.

Kerala has three international airports - at Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvanananthapuram.

IANS