Belfast Telegraph

Owners hope to land £2bn from London City airport sale

By Roger Baird

London City airport, which has had a flight from Belfast City for nearly a year, has been put up for sale with its owners reportedly hoping to attract a price tag of up to £2bn on the fast-growing airport.

It is majority-owned by US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), which has appointed advisers to work on a deal for the airport, according to the Financial Times.

London City has seen passenger numbers more than double from 2 million in 2005 to an expected 4.1 million this year.

Last year regional airline Flybe launched a route from George Best Belfast City to London City - and in response to demand, added another daily flight after three months.

Michael McGhee, GIP director for transport, told the FT market conditions were favourable for a sale. He said: "The market demand for quality airports is very high."

GIP also holds stakes in Gatwick and Edinburgh airports, but the investment firm added it has no plans to sell its stakes in these firms.

It bought the airport from Irish businessman Dermot Desmond in 2006 for £750m.

London City is based in the Royal Docks in Newham, and is heavily used by corporate executives who have their offices a few miles away in the City and Canary Wharf.

It also has a private jet centre, where passengers can pass through the building in just a few minutes.

A spokeswoman for Flybe said the link to Belfast City had been a successful one for the regional airline from Belfast.

"The route has been very successful for Flybe. Having launched it with three daily services, that was increased to four, and the route continues to perform well," she said.

"Businesspeople in particular like it because 20 minutes from London City brings them into the heart of the city."

The airport is battling for planning permission for a £200m expansion that would add seven new aircraft stands and help boost its passenger numbers to 6 million by 2023.

It would also help open up the airport to new destinations, such as the Gulf, the Middle East, Russia, north Africa and the US east coast.

These plans were passed by Newham Council in February, but blocked by London mayor Boris Johnson the following month due to noise concerns.

The airport appealed against the mayor's veto last month and expects a decision towards the end of next year.

It was granted permission to increase its flight movements from 70,000 a year to 120,000 annually in 2009.

GIP owns 75% of London City, with US buyout firm Oaktree Capital owning the rest, but both have reportedly agreed to the sale.

Belfast Telegraph