Heathrow sells off its airports

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Aberdeen International Airport, Glasgow Airport and Southampton Airport are being sold to Ferrovial Aeropuertos and Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 4 (MEIF4) for what the UK airports’ owner, Heathrow Airport Holdings, refers to as an enterprise value of just over £1 billion ($1.6 billion).

Ferrovial was already an minority investior in Heathrow Airports Holdings. The sale marks a significant change in its relationship with the three regional airports. 

Ferrovial chief executive officer, Iñigo Meirás, says: “As a long standing investor in the UK, we are aware of the importance of these airports for the population in their surrounding areas. The transaction proves how valuable these assets are for Ferrovial.” 

He adds that the company is committed to improving the airports. Ferrovial tells Air Cargo Week that freight operations will continue at the airports and there are no plans to review their status. Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton’s cargo operations are tiny in comparison with Heathrow Airport. While Heathrow handled 1.1 million tonnes between January and September this year, the combined total of the three UK airfields for the same period was 16,406 tonnes. 

Ferrovial and MEIF4 are expected to conclude the tranaction by January next year, subject to regulatory clearances and processes. The airports will continue to operate under the ownership of Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited until the transaction completes. The two companies have a 50/50 partnership. They have already signed an agreement with Heathrow Airport Holdings for the purchase. 

Macquarie infrastructure and real assets, European head and MEIF4 manager, Edward Beckley, says: “We look forward to working with these airports over the long term to support route growth and enhance the passenger experience for the communities they serve.” The airports will be managed under a group structure, the chair of which will be Sir Peter Mason, chairman of Thames Water.

Heathrow Airport Holdings released its September traffic summary on 13 October. That month Heathrow Airport saw an increase on August, with 124,570 tonnes compared to 122,831, respectively. Comparing August this year and 2013 and last month with September last year, the change was a positive 7.5 per cent and 7.8 per cent.

Southampton and Glasgow achieved dramatic double-digit increases. For August, Southampton had a 36.4 per cent increase, compared to the same month last year, to 12 tonnes. For that month and the same comparison, Glasgow jumped 36.3 per cent to 1,301 tonnes. For August the change was greater at 45.6 per cent for Southampton in September. For both months over this year and the last, Aberdeen saw cargo traffic plunge, 20 per cent for August and 8.8 per cent for September.

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