All Clear for Takeoff: Evidence from Airports on the Effects of Infrastructure Privatization
Infrastructure assets have undergone substantial privatization around the world in recent decades. How do these assets perform post-privatization? This paper examines global airports. Our central finding is that the type of ownership matters: Volume, efficiency, and quality improve substantially under private equity (PE) ownership—both following privatization and in subsequent transactions—but there is little evidence of improvement under non-PE private ownership. This remains the case for airports sold in auctions in which PE and non-PE firms bid, mitigating concerns about selection. PE owners invest in new physical capacity and appear to negotiate more effectively with airlines, especially in the presence of a state-owned flag carrier. Higher prices and more retail revenue increase net income, with no evidence of cost reductions or layoffs. We find that improvements are concentrated when there is a competing airport nearby, under longer-term leases, and when the local government is less corrupt. One explanation for the failure of non-PE private firms to outperform government ownership is that they tend to target more corrupt locations.
- Privately owned and operated airports are prominent examples of companies running traditionally public infrastructure. As of 2020,...