Minter Ellison has advised government-owned Airservices Australia on its first international commercial joint venture. Announced at the annual Air Traffic Control exhibition in Maastricht, Germany, the company is set to form an alliance with Belgium’s premier telecommunications carrier — Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques (SITA).
Mallesons Stephen Jaques acted for SITA.
Airservices Australia is responsible for providing air traffic control management services as well as data, telecommunications and navigation services to Australia’s aviation industry. The company intends to use its expertise in automatic dependant surveillance broadcasting (ADS-B) to augment SITA’s telecommunications network, giving airlines and other air navigation providers throughout the Asia Pacific access to aviation data transmitted by ADS-B equipped aircraft. It is claimed the joint venture will “deliver improved air traffic safety and enhanced air traffic management services throughout the region” and means Australia will be the first country in the world to implement nationwide ADS-B technology in upper level airspace above 30,000 feet.
Minter Ellison’s commercialisation team was led by special counsel Kathy Minter and supported by senior associate Jane Quek. Tax advice was provided by partners Peter Capodistrias and Karen Payne and senior associate Jeff Jaw.
Minter told Lawyers Weekly that SITA was chosen as the alliance partner “due to its connections and extensive telecommunications network in the Asia Pacific rim”. Her role involved advising Airservices on the “legal structure and framework of the deal and to conduct negotiations with SITA and its advisers”.
The already “fairly legally complex” deal was made more so by the “potential tax and liability implications of contracting in some of Asia Pacific countries”. According to Minter, “there were also some intricate intellectual property issues to address”. Of particular note, the deal represented an alliance between “two constitutionally diverse organisations to commercialise a new concept in aircraft positioning technology”.
Minter added, however, that so far only the legal and commercial elements of the deal have been resolved; still to address are the reams of intricate, and oftentimes burdensome international governmental regulations internationally. “This is only the beginning”, she said.