(Matt Dunham/Associated Press
LONDON - London’s Gatwick airport is poised for an extensive revamp after BAA Ltd. agreed yesterday to sell the hub to a US-based private investment fund, beginning the long-awaited breakup of BAA’s monopoly in Britain’s airports.
The $2.5 billion sale of Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners, which already owns London City Airport, was welcomed by airlines and transport groups who believe that BAA has failed to properly invest in the country’s second largest airport, favoring Heathrow instead.
But local community and climate change groups were wary of New York-based GIP’s plans to expand the airport, fearing a noisy, polluting second runway.
GIP, an infrastructure fund backed by Credit Suisse and
“We will upgrade and modernize Gatwick Airport to transform the experience for both business and leisure passengers,’’ said Michael McGhee, the GIP partner who led the acquisition. GIP has a 75 percent stake in London City, with Highstar Capital holding the remaining 25 percent. In a bid to appease the Competition Commission over that existing airport investment, $16.6 million of the sale price is conditional on future traffic performance and $74.75 million on GIP’s future capital structure.
The sale, which is subject to regulatory approval from the European Union, is expected to be completed by December.
Paul Charles, director of communications at Virgin Atlantic Airways, the largest long-haul airline using Gatwick, said the carrier looked forward to working with GIP.
“For years, the airport has suffered from a lack of investment and the new owner now needs to work closely with the airline users to turn Gatwick into a world-class facility,’’ Charles said.
Stephen Joseph, director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said the group was hopeful that the new owners would provide “better service for passengers at Gatwick than that provided by BAA.’’
The sale ends BAA’s monopoly over London’s three main airports, rounded out by Stansted, and follows a Competition Commission inquiry.