French firm buys Gatwick stake in €3.2bn swoop

Vinci takes ad­van­tage of Brexit un­cer­tainty to pur­chase 50.01% ma­jor­ity share

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS NEWS -

France’s Vinci is tak­ing ad­van­tage of a Brexit hit to UK as­set prices to buy a ma­jor­ity stake in Bri­tain’s sec­ond-busiest air­port, Lon­don’s Gatwick, for £2.9 bil­lion (€3.2 bil­lion), the con­struc­tion com­pany an­nounced yes­ter­day.

The deal to buy a 50.01 per cent stake gives Vinci, which al­ready runs 45 air­ports in 12 coun­tries, ac­cess to the world’s largest metropoli­tan avi­a­tion mar­ket and is part of the com­pany’s drive to ex­pand its most promis­ing busi­nesses.

Vinci Air­ports pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Note­baert sig­nalled Brexit un­cer­tainty had cut the price of buy­ing into Gatwick, and fore­cast any hit to UK eco­nomic growth af­ter Brexit was likely to be off­set by a rise in tourism due to a weaker pound.

“Just a few months ago we would not even have dreamed of be­ing able to ac­quire an un­lim­ited li­cence in the Lon­don air­ports sys­tem for less than 20 times core earn­ings,” he said on a con­fer­ence call, re­fer­ring to the price of the deal.

The ac­qui­si­tion is ex­pected to close by June 2019. It comes just days af­ter drone sight­ings caused 36 hours of chaos for more than 100,000 trav­ellers at Gatwick.

Ef­fi­cient

Gatwick serves 228 des­ti­na­tions in 74 coun­tries and is a ma­jor base for air­lines in­clud­ing Easy­Jet and Bri­tish Air­ways. It han­dles more than 46 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year, more than a quar­ter of the 170 mil­lion pas­sen­ger jour­neys the Lon­don air­ports sys­tem – led by Heathrow – han­dled in 2017.

Vinci says Gatwick is the most ef­fi­cient air­port in the world and op­er­ates the busiest single run­way, which in 2017 achieved a record 950 flights in one day.

Gatwick plans to serve grow­ing de­mand by op­ti­mis­ing its ex­ist­ing run­way and boost­ing use of its standby one.

Vinci is buy­ing Gatwick shares from ex­ist­ing share­hold­ers.

In­vest­ment group Global In­fra­struc­ture Part­ners will halve its stake to 21 per cent, while Abu Dhabi In­vest­ment Au­thor­ity will own 7.9 per cent, Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees’ Re­tire­ment Sys­tem 6.4 per cent, Na­tional Pen­sion Ser­vice of Korea 6 per cent and Aus­tralia’s Fu­ture Fund Board of Guardians 8.6 per cent. – Reuters

PHO­TO­GRAPH: ADRIAN DEN­NIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Gatwick serves 228 des­ti­na­tions in 74 coun­tries and han­dles more than 46 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year.

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