RDIF, Abu Dhabi SWF seal St Petersburg airport deal

Teaming up with other Asian investors and a Russian private equity fund, the consortium is believed to have paid €250m for the 25% stake.

A consortium including the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Development Company and Russian private equity firm Baring Vostok have bought a 25 percent stake in the operator of St Petersburg’s Pulkovo Aiport.

Investing alongside other unnamed Middle Eastern and Asian institutions, the share was purchased from VTB Capital, the investment banking arm of Russia’s VTB Group. RDIF chief executive Kirill Dmitriev said the transaction was part of its strategy to enable “leading foreign investors to access major infrastructure assets across Russia”.

While the size of the deal was undisclosed, sources told Infrastructure Investor the consortium paid VTB €250 million for the stake. VTB declined to comment on deal size. RDIF and Baring Vostock could not be reached before press time.

Germany’s Fraport remains the lead operator of Pulkovo Airport, with a 25 percent share, while the Qatar Investment Authority has a 24.99 percent stake. VTB Capital’s ownership in the consortium, which is held alongside Russian private investment group AEON, has been diluted to 25.01 percent and could be reduced further.

“Pulkovo is an investment project for VTB Group and our long-term strategy always assumed divestment from the project after a certain period of time,” a VTB spokeswoman told Infrastructure Investor. “Since Pulkovo is an attractive asset for strategic and financial investors, there is continuous demonstrated interest from investors, and we maintain a dialogue with them.”

The airport undertook a €1.2 billion modernisation programme in 2014, in what remains one of Russia’s largest PPPs. The project was the first in Russia that did not necessitate a government guarantee when it sealed a €1.1 billion financial close in 2010 and also the first to involve both commercial and development bank financing.

The site has however experienced a dip in passenger numbers after a 5.6 percent fall in 2015 to 13.5 million, a figure which reduced to 13.3 million in 2016.