Blackstone is reportedly stepping up its interest in acquiring Australian data center operator AirTrunk.

The US-based asset manager has been meeting with investment banks to lay the groundwork for a deal, according to Australian Financial Review.

AirTrunk's SYD2 data center in Australia – AirTrunk

AirTrunk’s backers, which include Macquarie Asset Management and PSP Investments, are said to be mulling a sale of the business for a price of up to AU$12 billion (US$7.9bn).

New owners for AirTrunk?

Founded in 2015, AirTrunk operates data centers across the Asia Pacific region, with hyperscale facilities in countries including Australia, Japan, and Singapore.

It has plans to open a 320MW site in Sydney as part of an expansion that will see it launch at least five new data centers.

News of a potential sale of the company arose last month, with its current owners having apparently shelved a previous scheme that would’ve seen AirTrunk taken public via an IPO.

Though it is thought that AirTrunk’s backers have yet to decide whether to part with all or part of the business, this has not stopped Blackstone making preparations for a potential acquisition, according to the Financial Review report.

It says Blackstone is still gathering information about the company, and has yet to make a formal offer for AirTrunk. If it does put in a bid, it is expected to retain the services of law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which has advised Blackstone on previous data center deals.

Blackstone builds its data center empire

Any move for AirTrunk would be the latest addition to Blackstone’s sizeable data center portfolio. It spent $10 billion on US data center operator QTS in 2021, and last year said it would invest up to $8 billion building out the company’s infrastructure to cater to demand for AI workloads.

In December, Blackstone launched a $7 billion joint venture with Digital Realty to develop four hyperscale data center campuses in Frankfurt, Germany; Paris, France; and Northern Virginia, North America.

Other investments include a series of JVs with Corporate Office Properties Trust. The newest of these, announced in January 2023, saw it stump up $250 million to join two JVs which have a 90 percent interest in five single-tenant data center shell properties totaling approximately 1.1 million square feet (102,200 sqm). These data centers are located in Northern Virginia, US.