QIA buys stake in St Petersburg airport

Germany's Fraport has reduced its holding in Pulkovo Airport to 25%, divesting 10.5% to the Qatari sovereign fund.

German airport owner and operator Fraport has agreed to sell 10.5 percent of its stake in Thalita Trading, parent company of the consortium that in 2009 won a 30-year concession to operate St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport (LED), to the Qatar Investment Authority.

The Frankfurt-based company did not disclose financial details but did say in a statement that it expects the transaction, due to close in the second half of 2016, to generate a profit of €30 million to €40 million for Fraport.

“In selling part of our stake, we are realising value enhancement while maintaining our role in the consortium,” Fraport’s executive board chairman Stefan Schulte said. “Despite the current difficulties in Russia, we continue to regard this as an attractive market.” Fraport will continue to operate the airport.

According to the statement, QIA “will also be able to acquire shares from the other consortial parties for a total stake of 24.99 percent in Thalita”. Asked whether QIA had the option or had already agreed to buy additional shares from Russia’s VTB Capital and Greek developer Copelouzos Group – the two other members of the Northern Capital Gateway consortium – Fraport declined to comment.

“We are not commenting for the other shareholders; we are not commenting at all before the closing,” a Fraport spokesperson told Infrastructure Investor on Tuesday.

However, according to Reuters, Copelouzos Group also sold a number of shares to QIA, bringing the sovereign wealth fund’s total stake in Thalita to 24.9 percent. It is unclear what percentage of the consortium VTB Capital and Copelouzos currently hold.

Neither the two firms, nor QIA, were immediately available for comment.

In addition to operating the airport for a 30-year term, the Northern Capital Gateway consortium was responsible for constructing a new terminal and upgrading existing infrastructure. It completed the project in 2013. Since then, passenger traffic at Pulkovo Airport, the fourth-largest in Russia, has risen from 8.5 million in 2010 to 13.5 million in 2015. “The enlarged consortium will be able to leverage and build upon the milestones already achieved at Pulkovo Airport,” Fraport said.