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Ferrovial ends bumpy Heathrow ride on a high



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The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.

LONDON, Nov 29 (Reuters Breakingviews) -Ferrovial FERF.AS may be relieved to be exiting one of the world’s busiest airports. The Spanish infrastructure giant has sold its final stake in Heathrow, left over after its 2006 acquisition of BAA, which owned the hub along with Stansted and Gatwick.

It’s been a turbulent ride since then. Regulators forced BAA to sell airports like Gatwick on competition concerns, and Ferrovial later trimmed its stake to just 25%. In 2020 Covid-19 struck, and Heathrow has since been locked in disputes with airlines like British Airways, who accuse it of overcharging. Earlier this year, the UK aviation regulator forced it to cut landing fees by nearly a fifth, and freeze them for several years.

Ferrovial can be happy with its final exit. The price paid by Ardian and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund values Heathrow including debt, at 25 billion pounds, a 27% premium to its regulated asset base. That’s above the 10% premium assumed by analysts at Jefferies. The new owners may be encouraged by Heathrow’s recent growth – passenger numbers were up by over 34% in the nine months ending September – and hopes for a third runway. Yet their journey may be complicated by a weakening UK economy, a near 16 billion pound debt load, and fraught relations with customers. (By Aimee Donnellan)


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Editing by Lisa Jucca and Streisand Neto

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