Australia's Victoria state government on Monday invited bids for a 50-year lease of the Port of Melbourne, Australia's largest shipping container terminal, aiming to raise at least A$5.3 billion ($4 billion) before the end of 2016.
The lease plan is part of the Australian government's ambitious privatization program, seeking to raise A$100 billion ($76 billion) to help cut debt and upgrade the country's infrastructure.
The state said in a statement that expressions of interest for the lease would be due on April 18, after which it would shortlist parties to submit final proposals for the port, which handles about 2.6 million containers a year.
Interested parties for the port include Australia's major infrastructure managers - Hastings Funds Management Ltd, Macquarie Group's Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, IFM Investors and QIC - while interest is also likely to come from Canadian and Chinese companies, according to people familiar with the sale process.
"We're moving to market quickly because of the strong bidder interest in the Port of Melbourne," Victoria state treasurer Tim Pallas said in a statement.
"The lease will make our port even better, increasing efficiencies and competitiveness, and will reinforce Victoria's position as the freight and logistics capital of the nation."
Pallas has previously said the lease will likely fetch at least A$5.3 billion while the opposition believes the state could get as much as A$7 billion.
Morgan Stanley and Flagstaff Partners are acting as financial advisers for the transaction.
In November, the state of New South Wales sold an electricity network to a global consortium for A$10.3 billion, and last month it received "strong" indicative bids for another electricity distributor.