Business

Belfast City Airport is sold as part of £500 million investment deal

Belfast City Airport has been sold as part of a multi-million pound investment deal
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE George Best Belfast City Airport has been sold as part of a deal believed to be worth more than £500 million

The London-based Eiser Global Infrastructure Fund has sold the airport - which it bought from Spanish construction firm Ferrovial for £132.5m in 2008 - and two other UK assets to a consortium led by 3i Infrastructure.

As well as the City Airport, 3i has bagged UK gas business East Surrey Pipelines Utilities, Italian waste treatment and disposal company HERAmbiente, as well as certain of its Spanish assets, including four transportation concession companies that Eister co-owns with Sacyr, being two operating shadow toll roads and two operating Madrid bus terminal interchanges.

Last night the City Airport - which upped its operating profit last year to £3.3 million - refused to comment on the deal.

New owner 3i is a leading international investment manager focused on mid-market private equity and infrastructure. Its core investment markets are northern Europe and North America.

It started with £15m capital in 1945 but has grown to have £13.5 billion of assets under its management, focusing on private equity, infrastructure and debt management.

It is expected that the new owners will pump significant capital into the City Airport to improve facilities such as car parking and infrastructure.

Belfast City is believed to have spent more than £20 million on improvements under Eiser's ownership.

The airport is also awaiting a planning decision on whether a seats-for-sale restriction can be removed (under its current planning agreement, the number of departure seats it can sell in a year is capped at two million).

Passenger figures for the 2016 whole-year at the City Airport won't be confirmed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for a number of weeks yet.

But it's likely they'll eclipse the 2.6 million people who used Belfast City Airport in 2015 - which was an increase of 5.4 per cent on the previous year.

The airport's chief executive Brian Ambrose has previously been quoted as saying the facility would hit the four million passenger milestone by 2020.

As part of the agreed portfolio transaction and subject to minimum and maximum take up, Eiser’s existing investors will be offered the opportunity to choose to remain invested in the assets through a right to reinvest into a new fund specifically set up by 3i to manage these assets.

Eiser added that it will work with 3i towards an expected financial completion of the transaction in the first quarter of 2017, as the transaction is subject to certain conditions including approval under EU merger regulations.

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