French investors are snapping up a controlling stake in Gatwick Airport, in a major vote of confidence for the UK ahead of Brexit.
In an article by The Daily Mail, the £2.9 billion deal will see Vinci take 50.01% of the UK’s second busiest airport, leaving a consortium led by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) with the remaining 49.99%.
Bosses at Vinci said they saw potential to expand capacity and sell more products to travellers.
Already the busiest single-runway airport in the world (up to 950 flights per day in 2017), there are better plans to make better use of Gatwick’s standby runway.
Nicolas Notebaert, president of Vinci Airports, dismissed concerns about a no-deal Brexit and said that Gatwick’s prospects are strong.
Notebaert said: ‘We do not think it changes the capacity of London to attract international visitors, who make up half of traffic for Gatwick.
‘There are also so many potential travellers in the Greater London area, so it is very robust and resilient.’
Vinci already owns a number of airports, including five in the US, six in Japan and 12 in France.
It has been buying infrastructure to bolster its income, amid a slowdown in the construction arm.
The Gatwick takeover has been in the works for several months, but its announcement was delayed until 26th December due to chaos at the airport in the run-up to Christmas regarding drone sightings.
Around 1,000 flights were affected, causing misery for more than 140,000 passengers.
Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive, said the airport had learned from what happened and had taken steps to ensure no repeat.
He said: ‘I know this unprecedented criminal activity caused huge inconvenience to thousands of people, many of whom missed important family events.
‘We have appreciated the understanding and tolerance shown at what was a really challenging time for everyone, and we are grateful that passengers recognised that we should never do anything that might jeopardise their safety.’
Other backers aside from Vinci included in the remaining 49.99% stake in Gatwick include Abu Dhabi and Australian sovereign wealth funds and international pension firms.
It is hoped the takeover could see Gatwick expand beyond the 220 destinations it currently operates in.
The airport has been locked in a long battle for the right to build a new runway, but in 2018 lost out to Heathrow.
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