French airport operator Vinci is set to place final bids to acquire a 50.1% stake in Australia’s Hobart International Airport (HIA) in Tasmania.

The stake is being sold by Australian investment bank Macquarie Group.

The move comes after VINCI was shortlisted last month to participate in the auction’s second and final stages. Earlier in July, the French firm submitted an indicative bid for HIA.

This deal will mark the French company’s foray into the Australian airport industry. VINCI already manages 46 airports in 12 countries across the globe, including 12 in France and ten in Portugal.

VINCI development director Benoit Trochu said that the $98bn group has previously increased passenger traffic at other airports and is looking to achieve the same result at Hobart by launching international flights.

Trochu explained: “We have already seen that Hobart is at a turning point in terms of tourism trends and that’s really the type of situation that we like. The mix of natural beauty and culture and food and wine, that is really creating something special.”

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He added that direct flights from Asia and Europe to Tasmania would bring more and more holidaymakers to the destination.

According to an estimate, Hobart Airport witnessed a 6.6% increase in passenger numbers to 2.68 million in 2018, making it one of the fastest-growing airports in Australia.

Last year, HIA expanded its runway by 500m to allow bigger, long-haul aircraft such as Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s to operate from the airport.

The deadline to submit bids is 27 September. For the 50.1% stake, Macquarie’s infrastructure fund has sought around $500m.

Queensland Investment Corporation and UniSuper are also said to be competing. Meanwhile, a joint offer is expected to be made by CBUS and HESTA.

Following the completion of the transaction, Tasplan Superannuation Fund will continue to hold the remaining 49.9% stake in Hobart Airport.

In May, VINCI Airports acquired 50.01% of shares in London Gatwick Airport from Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) for $3.68bn.

VINCI Airports, the airport division of construction and concession company VINCI, assumed the management of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport in Serbia in February.