First Bulacan, now NAIA: San Miguel-led group will operate Philippines’ main airport

Lance Spencer Yu

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First Bulacan, now NAIA: San Miguel-led group will operate Philippines’ main airport

NAIA. The facade of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.


(1st UPDATE) Ramon Ang first reached for the skies in 2020 when he snapped up the franchise for an international airport in Bulacan. Now, San Miguel and its partners have bagged an even bigger prize in NAIA.

MANILA, Philippines – The consortium led by San Miguel has officially won the lucrative contract to rehabilitate the country’s main international gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

First Bulacan, now NAIA: San Miguel-led group will operate Philippines’ main airport

The government named SMC-SAP and Company Consortium as the bid winner on Friday, February 16, just days after it emerged as the clear frontrunner with the biggest bid.

Under the terms of the deal, San Miguel’s group will now serve as the operator of NAIA for the next 15 years, with a possible 10-year extension. The consortium is required to “rehabilitate, operate, optimize, and maintain” the airport, which covers improvements to its runways, four terminals, and other facilities.

The consortium will also be sharing 82.16% of its gross revenue to the government, on top of an upfront payment of P30 billion and a fixed annual payment of P2 billion.

This isn’t the first time Ramon Ang’s conglomerate has reached for the skies. In late 2020, San Miguel bagged the franchise for the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan. As early as September 2023, Rappler questioned whether San Miguel would also make a strong push for NAIA.

At that time, ownership limits complicated Ang’s path to NAIA, especially if he wanted to be the sole operator of the airport. Aviation officials said that the limits were put in place precisely to prevent those who already have airports in the Greater Capital Region from gobbling up competition. But the government has since loosened those limits, paving the way for San Miguel to find partners and bid for NAIA.

Friday’s announcement serves as the culmination of months of hectic planning by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and bidders – a timeline much shorter than that seen during other attempts to privatize NAIA. As recently as December 2023, the Asian Development Bank even advised the government to consider extending the deadline, given the requests of some bidders and the “upcoming holiday season.”

The DOTr has largely stuck to its schedule, although delays have hampered the official announcement of a winner. Originally, the government was supposed to announce the result of the financial evaluation by February 14, with the notice of award to be issued on February 15. But on the afternoon of February 14, a transportation representative informed the media that the announcement would be pushed to February 16, with no reason being given for the delay.

How San Miguel’s group won

Three consortiums – made up of some of the Philippine’s biggest businesses and best international airport operators – battled it out in the last stage of the bidding process.

Here were the members of each consortium, along with the respective gross revenue share that they offered:

  1. SMC-SAP and Company Consortium (82.16%) – San Miguel Holdings, RMM Asian Logistics, RLW Aviation Development, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport Corporation
  2. GMR Airports Consortium (33.30%) – India’s GMR Airports International, Cavitex Holdings, House of Investments
  3. Manila International Airport Consortium (25.91%) – Aboitiz InfraCapital, AC Infrastructure, Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corporation, Alliance Global-InfraCorp Development, Filinvest Development Corporation, JG Summit Infrastructure Holdings Corporation, and United State’s Global Infrastructure Partners

San Miguel has made daring bids in the past. For instance, in 2013, Ramon Ang also bid big for the NAIA Expressway project, beating out rival Manny Pangilinan’s Manila North Tollways Corporation. San Miguel offered P11 billion in cash upfront – a whopping 36 times more than Manila North Tollways’ P305-million bid.

In this case, the consortium that San Miguel leads also offered by far the biggest bid, which was more than triple that of the Manila International Airport Consortium – the group that made an earlier unsolicited bid for NAIA, which did not prosper.

The margin between San Miguel and GMR’s group was also wide. GMR is no stranger to the airport scene either. The Indian-based operator previously partnered with Megawide to develop the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, and it was also part of an unsuccessful offer to rehabilitate NAIA back in 2020.

The fourth bidder, the Asian Airport Consortium, did not make it past the technical evaluation stage of the bidding. The group was made up of Lucio Co’s Cosco Capital, Asian Infraustructure and Management, Philippine Skylanders International, and Indonesia’s PT Angkasa Pura.

But despite the win, some questions remain. For one, will San Miguel be able to operate NAIA alongside its Bulacan airport profitably, especially with the generous revenue-sharing terms that it offered?

Rappler also previously questioned the credentials of the members of San Miguel’s conglomerate. It’s unclear how two of its partners – RMM Asian Logistics and RLW Aviation Development – will contribute to the rehabilitation project, given that both companies were incorporated mere days before the bid submission deadline and have a meager paid-up capital of a few million.

A document leaked to Rappler floated the idea that the companies were being used as “merely nominees to circumvent the [Greater Capital Region] airport limitation in the [instructions to bidders] which is capped at 33%.”

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Lance Spencer Yu

Lance Spencer Yu is a multimedia reporter who covers the transportation, tourism, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, and corporate sectors, as well as macroeconomic issues.