France's Vinci to buy majority stake in Gatwick airport for $3.7 billion

Jeannie Matthews
December 30, 2018

"As Gatwick's new industrial partner, VINCI Airports will support and encourage growth of traffic, operational efficiency and leverage its global expertise in the development of commercial activities to further improve passenger satisfaction and experience".

Vinci Airports, part of infrastructure group Vinci, will buy a controlling 50.01% of the UK's second-busiest airport, Gatwick.

French group Vinci has bought a majority stake in Gatwick just a week after the drone scare that saw thousands of flights disrupted in the run-up to Christmas.

It's already the world's busiest single-runway hub, the biggest base for discount carrier EasyJet Plc and the focus for long-haul leisure flights at British Airways.

Norwegian tried December 24 to reassure investors on the solidity of its cash position, and has said it will sell aircraft and cut costs as disruptions in the debt-laden carrier's long-haul flights add to difficulties during the slow winter season.

Vinci shares rose 0.2 percent to 70.64 euros in the French capital Thursday.

Gatwick was acquired by a GIP-led consortium in 2009.

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The deal would make Gatwick the largest airport in Vinci's network.

"I would have preferred to see a multiple closer to 17 or 18 times", said Carelli.

Global Infrastructure Partners, the current owners of Gatwick, will hold on to 49.99 percent in the airport. The airport reported earnings of 411.2 million pounds in the fiscal year through March, on revenue of 764.2 million pounds.

After the deal, GIP will halve its stake to 21 percent and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority will be left with 7.9 percent.

Vinci has been expanding into faster growing and more profitable concessions such as airports and motorways, as well as in engineering projects for the energy industry, to counter signs of weakness elsewhere in the construction sector. The company also operates toll roads and a construction business.

Gatwick chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said: "Our chairman and I, along with our senior management team, will all remain at Gatwick and look forward to improving services further for our passengers". Executives at Vinci dismissed questions from analysts on a call Thursday about how it would finance such an investment following its splurge on Gatwick, saying the operator of Paris Charles de Gaulle now isn't for sale.

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