Bidders prepare for Port of Darwin auction in June

Port of Darwin's would-be suitors have plenty to think about as Northern Territory's government goes about finalising legislation for the port's 99-year lease. 

RBS Morgans broker-turned-politician Nathan Barrett released his 76-page report on Tuesday - complete with 18 recommendations about how the lease should work. 

The bottom line is that Northern Territory does not want to sell to your typical port owner. It is not after the highest price and does not want an auction where the fund or funds with the lowest cost of capital will own the port for the next 99 years. 

Barrett's committee reckons the territory would be better off finding an experienced port operator that could drum up economic activity. And someone willing to think beyond iron ore and oil and gas. 

That could mean tapping into Asia and being a regional hub for big container ships struggling to get berths in major cities such as Singapore. The big European ships could unload at Darwin and the containers packed on to smaller vessels and sent to Asia. 

Bidders also noted the government wants the port to remain in control of an Australian entity, given its strategic position and association with the Department of Defence. 

One thing the report did not address was timing. 

If the government wanted to rush the sale, it could have legislation passed this week and the port up for grabs next week. Alternatively, it could put the brakes on the process and ensure it does not see the light of day until next year. 

It's understood Flagstaff Partners, which is advising NT on the sale, has told bidders to prepare for expressions of interest in late May, after the next parliamentary sitting. It means an auction could kick off in June and be wrapped up before the end of the year.

Related items of interest:

Port of Darwin Lease Model

Budget 2015 backs booming Darwin Waterfront



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