File picture of the airport in Mumbai... Adani picking up a majority stake in the airport management company will give billionaire access to one of the most high-profile travel hubs in Asia. Image Credit: Getty Images

Mumbai: Adani Enterprises is seeking to buy a controlling stake in Mumbai's international airport as billionaire Gautam Adani continues his aggressive push into what was until recently the world's fastest growing aviation market.

Adani Airport Holdings will acquire the debt of GVK Airport Developers Ltd., the holding company of GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd., it said in a stock exchange filing. Adani will first buy the 23.5 per cent stake held in Mumbai airport by Airports Co. South Africa and Bidvest Group Ltd. and then will work to acquire control.

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The Adani Group operates some of the most prominent port terminals in the country. It is now extending that reach into airports as well, having bagged the rights to manage the Thiruvananthapuram airport in the south Indian state of Kerala.

All out move

According to Bloomberg, the move on Mumbai airport is a high-stakes bet on an industry that's been brought to its knees by the pandemic. And while budget carriers mushroomed across the South Asian nation as people took to the skies for the first time, poorer economies with rickety infrastructure and a reliance on natural resources have been hit much harder by COVID-19, casting doubt on the ability of consumer-led sectors to quickly bounce back.

Still, Adani has been eyeing a slice of Mumbai airport for a long time, even getting involved in lawsuits in its attempts to buy out minority shareholders. Its latest move will catapult the coal-to-ports conglomerate into the major league, pitting it against GMR Infrastructure Ltd., which controls the international airport in New Delhi, India's busiest.

Government push

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been seeking private funds to repair and grow the nation's creaking infrastructure, including its airports. Adani recently won other bids to operate six smaller airline hubs in the country. GVK holds a 50.5 per cent interest in Mumbai international airport.

GMR is also selling a 49 per cent stake in its airports business to a consortium led by India's Tata Group, a unit of Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC and SSG Capital Management.