Deal-hungry Manchester Airports seeks private investors

Manchester Airports Group is seeking to lure equity investment from private sources in order to add a fifth UK airport to its portfolio. The firm, which is thought to be targeting Stansted, is working with its local authority owners to see how any private investors could be accommodated.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – owner of the UK’s Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside airports – is aiming to add another airport to its portfolio and bring in new investment from private sources as part of any deal that transpires.

In a joint statement released with its owners – the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) – MAG said that acquiring a new airport and bringing in new equity investment were “inter-dependent and one will not happen without the other”.

The statement said that MAG “will begin to invite detailed proposals from private investors”. To make the investment possible, it said that new governance arrangements would need to be reached with the 10 Greater Manchester authorities that own MAG. Manchester city council has a 55 percent stake in MAG and nine other councils have 5 percent each.

AGMA said it had “agreed an in-principle framework for a new structure which will be considered by the individual local authorities over the coming weeks”. The statement added that no final decisions will be taken until an investment partner has been identified and “detailed arrangements progressed” – and that it would probably take “a few months” to get to that point.

Media reports indicate that Stansted Airport is top of MAG’s priority list. Ferrovial-owned airports operator BAA was first ordered by the UK’s Competition Commission (CC) to sell Stansted three years ago, but BAA has been appealing against the decision since then. Earlier this month, the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal confirmed the CC ruling. However, even this may not be the end of the story – BAA said it was “disappointed” by the appeal’s outcome and would be considering its position.

On its website, MAG describes itself as “the country’s largest UK-owned airport operator” and says that its four airports serve 23.9 million passengers per year.