The GMR Group, the Adani Group, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Fairfax India Holdings have participated in the tender issued by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to privatise six non-metro airports, according to people briefed on the bids.

Australia’s AMP Group and PNC Infratech Ltd are also understood to have submitted their qualification documents to the AAI when the deadline ended on Thursday. BusinessLine could not independently verify the participation of AMP and PNC Infratech.

The AAI could not be reached immediately for comment.

The short timeframe for submitting the initial bids and unfavourable qualification terms have depressed bidders’ interest in the projects, according to a consultant briefed on the plan.

Operation and management

The AAI has sought bids for the operation and management of existing airports in Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Jaipur, Lucknow, Mangaluru and Thiruvananthapuram as well as their upgradation and development under a single stage bidding process. The request for proposal (RFP) was issued on December 14, 2018. The AAI aims to award the projects by February 28, to help the NDA government reach the budgeted disinvestment target of ₹80,000 crore for FY19.

“The timeline for the entire bidding process is extremely short though the projects require detailed due diligence and analysis of techno-commercial, legal, contractual and regulatory complexities,” a top official at an Indian firm looking to participate in the auction told BusinessLine , asking not to be named. The firm eventually stayed away from bidding.

“As a result, the bidding and the award may happen in such a manner that there is no scope for analysis both on the part of the bidders and the AAI, which may even result in project failures,” he said.

Fraught with ‘anomalies’

Industry sources also pointed out the “anomalies” in the eligibility terms and conditions set by the AAI for bidders. For instance, the minimum technical and financial capacity for qualifying bidders is “surprisingly identical” in all the RFPs, requiring the bidders to have experience in projects worth ₹3,500 crore with a minimum net worth of ₹1,000 crore.

“As per established norms, technical capacity is experience in projects worth double the estimated project cost. The eligibility criteria should, therefore, have been linked to the project cost and should have been different for each airport project. However, the RFP documents require the same experience for all the six airport projects irrespective of the size of the airport project/cost,” a consultant advising a potential bidder said.