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Heathrow owner Ferrovial studies options for stake in Britain’s biggest airport: Sources

LONDON: Spain’s Ferrovial is looking at options for its 25 percent stake in London’s Heathrow, two sources told Reuters, and has held preliminary talks with external advisers on the future of its holding in Britain’s biggest airport.

The early stage discussions come amid interest in Ferrovial’s stake from private equity firm Ardian, which has held talks with its own advisers on a possible joint proposal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, these sources and another person familiar with the matter said.

Ferrovial has yet to take a final decision and the discussions may not result in a sale, all the sources said.

HIGHLIGHTS

Heathrow is worth about €24.3 billion ($25 billion), including debt.

Qatar Investment Authority, which has a 20 percent stake in Heathrow, is the second biggest investor in the busy British airport.

Shares in the Madrid-listed firm rose as much as 4.2 percent on the Reuters report. At market close they were up 3.7 percent, scoring their second best day in five months and making them the third best performing stock across the pan-European STOXX 600 index.

Ferrovial and Ardian both declined to comment while PIF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Heathrow is worth about €24.3 billion ($25 billion), including debt, JPMorgan analysts calculated in May. By JPMorgan’s estimates, Ferrovial’s Heathrow holding has an equity value of €611 million.

But Insight Investment Research analyst Robert Crimes had a less conservative approach and told Reuters the equity value of Ferrovial’s 25 percent stake in Heathrow could be close to €2 billion, well above analysts’ consensus. He said Ferrovial’s stock has yet to reflect the post-pandemic recovery in traffic volumes and inflation-linked returns.

Heathrow, which Aviation data firm OAG said was the world’s fifth busiest airport in July, was hard hit by coronavirus lockdowns, but raised its 2022 traffic forecast to 54.4 million passengers in June after a travel rebound.

Last month Heathrow, like some other airports in Europe, asked airlines to stop selling tickets for summer departures and capped passenger numbers to limit queues, baggage delays and cancellations as it struggled with pent-up demand.

Madrid-based Ferrovial, which controls Spanish transport infrastructure developer Cintra and has stakes in motorways in the US and Canada, has been invested in Heathrow airport for 16 years and ranks as its single largest investor.

Qatar Investment Authority, which has a 20 percent stake in Heathrow, is the second biggest investor in the busy British airport, while Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Singapore’s wealth fund GIC and China Investment Corp. also have sizeable holdings.

QIA declined to comment while CDPQ, GIC and China Investment Corp. were not immediately available.