Foreign companies line up to bid on Midway airport

Published 11 July 2006

Earlier this year the firestorm over a Dubai-based company’s plans to run operations in several U.S. ports caused many to rethink the question of foreign ownership of U.S. critical infrastructure assets; still, as the city of Chicago is getting set to lease its Midway airport, all the likely bidders are non-U.S. companies

The firestorm earlier this year over the sale of management operations in several U.S. ports to a Dubai-based company caused many in Congress to question the wisdom of allowing non-U.S. companies to own U.S. critical infrastructure assets and facilities. There are various pieces of legislation now circulating in Congress, each with its own set of limitations and qualifications on foreign ownership of U.S. infrastructure. Still, as the City of Chicago is getting ready for next year’s sale of the venerable Midway airport, it appears that most of the bidders will be non-U.S. companies.

The long-term lease of Midway is the latest initiative by Chicago to help close the city’s budget gap. The city has already sold its toll roads for $1.83 billion. The airport project is more complex than the toll road, or parallel plans to sell two parking garages and three waste recycling plants, particularly in the wake of the furor over Dubai-based DP World’s plan to operate five U.S. container ports.

Dana Levenson, Chicago’s chief financial officer, said the city hoped to review initial proposals in September. “We are seeing interest from more than the usual four or five [companies]