Gatwick sold in Brexit bargain. Edinburgh next?

Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), which owns Edinburgh Airport, said on Thursday that together with its co-shareholders it is selling 50.01% of Gatwick to France’s Vinci Airports for £2.9 billion.

The deal comes just days after drone “sightings” caused 36 hours of chaos for more than 100,000 travellers at Gatwick.

Vinci Airports is a worldwide airport operator with a network of 46 airports in 12 countries, handling more than 228 million passengers.

GIP has explored a possible sale of Edinburgh Airport in the past — with investment bankers saying it could fetch up to £2 billion — but a potential sale was cancelled because Brexit uncertainties were affecting the price tag.

GIP bought Edinburgh Airport for £807 million from BAA more than six years ago.

Vinci admitted on Thursday it is taking advantage of a Brexit discount on UK asset prices to buy the majority stake in Gatwick.

Vinci Airports president Nicolas Notebaert indicated that uncertainty over Brexit had cut the price of buying into Gatwick.

“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.

Adebayo Ogunlesi, GIP chairman and managing partner, said: “We welcome Vinci Airports, one of the world’s most respected airport operators, as a partner in Gatwick airport.

“We look forward to building on the Gatwick success story together.”

Michael McGhee, GIP Partner, said: “This partnership is focused on continuing the transformation at the airport over the last decade.

“We are pleased Vinci Airports shares our vision of Gatwick’s future.

“We expect the transaction to be completed by the middle of next year, with the senior leadership team remaining in place.

“Their focus, along with everyone at Gatwick, obviously remains on doing their very best for customers over the busy holiday period after the challenges of recent days.”

The senior management team at Gatwick will stay in their posts, with chairman David Higgins, CEO Stewart Wingate and CFO Nick Dunn continuing in their roles, along with other key managers.

GIP will continue to manage the remaining 49.99% interest in Gatwick after the transaction closes.

After the deal, GIP’s stake in Gatwick will fall to 21%, while Abu Dhabi Investment Authority will own 7.9%, California Public Employees’ Retirement System will have 6.4%, National Pension Service of Korea will own 6% and Australia’s Future Fund Board of Guardians will control 8.6%.