Sale of Belfast International airport 'opens way for further investment'
The sale of Belfast International Airport as part of a multi-billion pound deal should be a catalyst for more investment in the asset, it's been claimed.
Former owners infrastructure investment manager OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) yesterday announced it had sold its interests in Airports Worldwide, which included Belfast International Airport.
As part of the deal, Vinci has bought Belfast International outright and now has a 90% stake in Skavsta Airport near Stockholm, Sweden.
Vinci Airports has 36 facilities across the world, in countries such as Portugal, Cambodia, Japan and France.
Belfast International Airport said: "After being our shareholders for almost five years, Omers, as part of their investment strategy, have decided to accept an offer for their holding in Airports Worldwide, including BFS from Vinci Airports.
"Vinci are one of the leading airport operators in the world with a global portfolio. The transaction will close later in the year."
Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken said the deal was a positive move for the airport: "The sale of Belfast International Airport to a major worldwide airport operator, Vinci, is to be welcomed as it opens the way for further investment in the facility.
"Belfast International has enjoyed impressive passenger growth over the past three years. This year, it is expected to exceed 6 million passengers for the first time ever. Hundreds of new jobs and significant investment in on-site facilities have taken place, and my hope is that that level of activity will be maintained."
He said the sale should give momentum to the drive to cut air passenger duty, which is levied on short-haul flights outside Belfast. The duty has already been abolished in the Republic.
Mr Aiken said: "Vinci is buying into a winner. It is now time to abolish Air Passenger Duty (APD) and build a dual carriageway to the airport and help ensure that under its focused and committed senior management team, the airport continues to break new ground and expand."
And he said the airport management was working on attracting new routes.
"The team is currently attending Routes Europe 2018 in Bilbao, seeking to convince airlines, offering new international destinations, to consider Belfast International Airport as a base.
"Belfast International Airport is of vital importance to the Northern Ireland economy and I am confident that it will continue to play a full and active role in developing our international links and inbound tourism offering in the years to come."
Law firm Pinsent Masons, which has offices in Belfast, said it had led advice to Vinci Airports in Northern Ireland.
Last year Belfast City Airport was sold to international investment fund 3i as part of a £700m deal.
Former owners Eiser Global Infrastructure Fund, based in London, bought the airport for £132.5m in 2008.
Speaking last year, airport chief executive Brian Ambrose said: "3i's arrival is another important landmark in what has been an exciting period of expansion."