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Manston needs much more than a transfusion if it is to succeed - being transplanted to somewhere with a large and well-populated catchment area might just do the trick.

Manston as seen from afar

Manston needs much more than a transfusion if it is to succeed – being transplanted to somewhere with a large and well-populated catchment area might just do the trick.

Infratil brings in new blood at English airport

Listed infrastructure company Infratil has appointed a former London City Airport executive Charles Buchanan to run its Kent International Airport (KIA) at Manston in Britain. Mr Buchanan, a former civil engineer, takes up the top job at Manston following the departure of former chief executive Matt Clarke earlier this year.

Infratil bought the airport out of receivership 2005. Mr Clarke headed KIA when it attempted last year to persuade a big airline, British Airways World Cargo, to switch its long-haul operations to the airport, but the airline stayed put at its hub at Stansted, north of London. The New Zealander said at the time he was disappointed but still upbeat about attracting more airlines. After that, Mr Clarke returned to New Zealand to work on Infratil’s operations here, and Manston was run by an interim chief executive Tom Wilson, who is head of Infratil’s other UK airport at Prestwick in Scotland.

Mr Buchanan is a former director of strategy at London city Airport, where he gained planning permission to increase the permitted aircraft movement numbers from 73,000 to 120,000 a year, and managed the development of the airport through investment programmes totalling over £40 million ($NZ84.41 million).

Infratil has a market capitalisation of $965 million, and has the $696.5 million purchase of Shell assets earlier this year on its balance sheet as a debt, and is also listing on the ASX, in a bid to get more support from larger institutional investors. It has a 66 percent stake in Wellington Airport worth $289 million but sold its stakes in airports at Auckland and Lubeck, Germany, for $87.2 million, while its stakes in Glasgow, Prestwick and Kent airports dropped in value from $222 million in 2009 to $138 million in 2010.

The European airports have been described as a “major drag” for Infratil by a New Zealand broker.

NBR NZ 9th July 2010

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