UK airports might be sold

The Spanish owner of two UK airports and contract holder for a third is likely to offload the properties later this year.

The airports could change hands as Spain-based Abertis, which currently owns the Cardiff and Belfast airports and has the contract to operate Luton Airport, looks to sell off some of the 29 airports that it owns worldwide in order to bring down its debt.

To make inroads into reducing its GBP12.2bn debt, Abertis is expected to begin by selling Cardiff airport to the Welsh government by as early as next month. That deal has been negotiated since late last year, and an offer of around GBP50 million is expected soon. On completion, the government will hope to halt a trend that has seen the airport’s passenger numbers halve to 1 million per annum over the last 5 years.

The decision to sell off the 30-year lease that Abertis has to run Luton airport could be precipitated by last year’s demand by the facility’s owner, Luton Council, that the contract between them could be scrapped unless the Spanish company undertook an expansion programme to double the airport’s capacity to 18 million passengers a year. As a result, a GBP100m upgrade was agreed last August.

Abertis has owned Belfast International airport since 1996, having paid GBP72 million for it. It currently handles 4 million passengers a year.

Abertis’ main business interest is toll roads. Its airports, which are not considered to be core assets, only accounted for 8 percent of its EUR4bn 2012 revenue.

An Abertis spokesman was quoted by the Guardian, saying, ‘We are conducting a review of all our airport businesses to see if a sale is possible. All options are open, including the sale of our UK airports.’

 

Cardiff Airport to Be Acquired By Welsh Goverment

TGI Ltd, the owner of Cardiff Airport, has announced that it is selling the facility to the Welsh government.

The Welsh government has already entered into an agreement to buy the airport from TGI. Confirming the announcement, the airport website has reported, ‘Over the last few months, Cardiff Airport has engaged in positive and constructive discussions with the Welsh Government on how best to position Airport for challenges ahead. In the course of those discussions it emerged that a sale of the airport was one possible option.

To explore that option further, a process has been put in place which will allow the Welsh Government to undertake comprehensive due diligence. Depending upon the outcome of that due diligence and other related activities it is our understanding that the Welsh Government may decide to proceed towards a purchase.’

The Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, has also announced the agreement, saying, ‘Over the past 12 months, I have repeatedly emphasised the importance to Wales of a dynamic international gateway airport in Cardiff.

During the course of the year we have developed a very constructive and positive relationship with TBI. Together we have been discussing how best to develop the airport to position it for the challenges ahead.

I can today announce that the Welsh Government has agreed with TBI to progress towards the purchase of Cardiff Airport. Such an arrangement would enable us to develop a more coherent approach to our national infrastructure planning, and integrate the airport into our wider economic development strategy.’

The airport currently serves around 1.6 million passengers a year.

The Wales business minister, Edwina Hart, said, ‘The message from business leaders and tourism operators across Wales are clear; strong, international transport links are vital to our prosperity, and key to future economic growth.

Subject to satisfactory due diligence, our investment in Cardiff Airport has the potential to create many exciting possibilities for the Welsh economy – boosting opportunities for international trade, and helping to increase visitor numbers to Wales.’

 

First Hotel Indigo to Open in Wales

Wales will witness the opening of a new Hotel Indigo, with the Hotel Indigo Queen Street Cardiff to open in the Welsh Capital city.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), a UK-based owner, manager and franchiser of hotels and resorts, has entered into an agreement to open its first Hotel Indigo brand property in Wales. The property will be managed by Sanguine Hospitality Ltd, which is currently operating four other Hotel Indigo properties, including the Hotel Indigo Birmingham and Hotel Indigo Liverpool.

The chief executive officer of Sanguine Hospitality, Robin Wicks, said, ‘Cardiff is the political and cultural capital of Wales, with a rich heritage and a strong leisure, corporate and sporting background, making it an ideal location for a Hotel Indigo. There are very few boutique hotels in the market and we’re confident Hotel Indigo Queen Street Cardiff will attract domestic and international guests who want to experience the local area.’

Hotel Indigo Queen Street Cardiff will have 92 rooms, and will be located close to Cardiff Castle. The hotel will feature Victorian designs, in a reference to the history of the community, and its amenities include a restaurant and bar, complimentary Wi-Fi access, and a 24-hour fitness centre.

The senior vice president for Development and Design in Europe for IHG, Robert Shepherd, said, ‘Hotel Indigo is one of our youngest brands. It launched in 2004 and has become a great success story, over the past three years, it’s been the fastest growing brand in our portfolio. We brought it to Europe in 2009 and there are now seven in the region, with another 10 in the pipeline which will open in the next three to five years.’

BMI baby to axe flights from Manchester and Cardiff airports

Airline, BMIbaby, has announced it will stop flights from Manchester and Cardiff airports at the end of this summer.
The budget airline has blamed the economic down-turn for the cuts, which will come in late October, saying they needed to concentrate on more established routes.
Four BMIbaby planes will be redeployed to Belfast, East-Midlands and Birmingham airports.
Staff will also be moved to new locations.
The 69 positions as Cardiff will be moving and 64 of the 97 positions at Manchester also being redeployed.
A BMIbaby spokesman said: “In the current economic climate it is essential for BMIbaby to focus on airports where the airline already has a strong market presence and where there are strong growth opportunities for the BMIbaby business.
“Therefore BMIbaby has optimised their current flying programme and as a result of this BMIbaby will cease operations from Cardiff Airport and from Manchester Airport at the end of the summer 2011 flying programme.”
Currently the airline operates 40 flights a week from Manchester and 30 a week to European destinations from Cardiff.
They added that parent company British Midland International (BMI), who has recently been taken over by Germany’s Lufthansa, would retain a ‘significant presence’ at Manchester airport.
Andrew Harrison, managing director of Manchester Airport, said: “We understand BMIbaby’s reasons for the decision and remind our passengers that the destinations will still be served by other carriers in the winter.
“We continue to see strong growth from carriers such as Monarch, Ryan air, Flybe, EasyJet and Jet2.com at Manchester and are confident of a strong summer programme that will still include BMIbaby. We’ll also still see the airline group presence at Manchester with BMI keeping a significant presence and BMIbaby will still be flying from one of our airports at East Midlands.”
BMIbaby plans to introduce seven new routes from Belfast and two from East Midland’s airport.

Sarah Taylor