France's Vinci takes €3bn majority stake in Gatwick Airport
Vinci has agreed to acquire control of Gatwick Airport for £2.9bn (€3.2bn) as the French construction company jumped on the chance to add a major London hub to its aviation portfolio.
The purchase of the 50.01pc stake in London's second-busiest airport from a group of investors, including sovereign wealth funds from Abu Dhabi and Australia, will be completed in the first half of 2019, Vinci said yesterday. Existing shareholder Global Infrastructure Partners will manage the remaining holding.
With 45.7 million passengers in 2018, Gatwick will become the largest single airport in Vinci's global network. Gatwick has been under pressure due to intensifying competition from London's other airports and lost out to Heathrow, Europe's busiest hub, in a contest to win government backing for the construction of a new runway.
Its operations descended into chaos just before Christmas when there was a prolonged shutdown after drone sightings.
The 120-year-old engineering company is shrugging off risks surrounding Britain's looming exit from the EU, as rival airports warn demand for air-travel could be dented.
Manchester Airports Group, operator of rival London hub Stansted, sees the current Brexit plan trimming passenger numbers over the next five years but doesn't expect it to halt growth entirely. Like Stansted, Gatwick is targeting more long-haul flights.
"Airports are attractive investments, especially in a world of high volatility, because airport returns can be quite predictable and manageable even if passenger numbers are volatile," said Bernstein analyst Daniel Roeska. "In any Brexit scenario, people will still go on holiday. In the long-term it won't be impacted that much on the leisure side."
Vinci shares gained 0.5pc in Paris as of 10.53am. They have fallen 17pc this year for a market value of €42.1bn.