Australia’s Future Fund is part of a group that has bought a 50-year lease on the Port of Melbourne, Australia’s largest container port, for around AUD$9.7bn (€6.6bn).

Known as the Lonsdale Consortium, the winning bid was led by QIC.

Co-investors in the asset, sold by the Victorian state government, include Global Infrastructure Partners and Canada’s OMERS.

The purchase price includes pre-payment of an AUD80m-a-year license fee for the first 15 years.

Industry sources in Australia said the Future Fund, which first surfaced as a potential buyer in July, will hold around a 20% stake.

Peter Costello, chair of the Future Fund’s board of guardians, said: “The Port of Melbourne is a high-quality asset and an important link between Australia and its trading partners.

“We’re delighted to invest in it and add it to our portfolio of Australian and global infrastructure assets. It will be an important contributor to our long-term investment objectives as Australia’s sovereign wealth fund.”

Lonsdale Consortium said in a statement that it looked forward to working with the government and industry to support future freight demand at Port of Melbourne over the next 50 years.

As part of its successful bid, the Consortium will invest substantial capital to expand existing port capacity.

QIC global infrastructure head Ross Israel said: “The Port of Melbourne is core infrastructure – it is a critical and strategic piece of the Victorian and Australian logistics supply chains.  

“Our consortium has developed a long-term vision and business plan. Leveraging our global port and regulated asset experience, QIC is focused on delivering long-term stewardship and improvements to the port and its users.”

Israel said QIC believed the investment brought significant diversification benefits for its clients as a landlord port with a well-defined regulatory regime in a globally scarce infrastructure subsector.

Russell Smith, a partner with group member GIP Australia, said his company would bring specialist knowledge to the operation of the port and support of its future growth. 

“GIP looks forward to bringing to bear its strong port and rail industry expertise to drive forward the efficiency and capacity of the Port of Melbourne,” he said.

Smith spoke of GIP’s intended focus on necessary transformational change in the road/rail mix servicing freight moving through the port to the benefit of all stakeholders.

Ralph Berg, executive vice-president and global head of infrastructure at OMERS Private Markets, said OMERS would bring global expertise in managing similar assets to its newest investment in Melbourne. 

The Port of Melbourne, Australia’s biggest container and multi cargo port facility, clears more than 3,000 ships each year.

It moves more than 1,000 new cars each day and generates total trade value of around AUD92bn a year.

The asset comes with more than 600 hectares of port land and 36 commercial berths.

Over the past decade, more than AUD2bn has been invested to upgrade its infrastructure.

Additional port capacity in what is known as Webb Dock is due to be completed soon.