South Korea’s National Pension Service, the world’s fifth-largest pension fund, is close to concluding the purchase of a 12 percent stake in London’s Gatwick Airport, a source close to process has confirmed.
London's Gatwick airport
GIP followed a similar strategy after it acquired London's City airport, selling a 25 percent stake in the airport to New-York's Highstar Capital.
Jun Kwang-woo, the Korean pension’s chairman, told the Financial Times in an interview that the investment would cost it a little under £100 million (€114 million; $159 million). A spokesman for the pension subsequently confirmed the purchase to Reuters and said an agreement would be signed next week. A spokesman for GIP did not comment on the news.
If you look at the property market around the world, according to our analysis, Great Britain has already undergone quite a substantial correction, more substantial than many other places around the globe.
Jun Kwang-woo, National Pension Service of Korea chairman
Kwang-woo said that 45 percent of the transaction price will be financed with bank debt. He said the Gatwick stake was part of the pension’s effort to quadruple its international exposure. The pension aims to expand its overall portfolio from $240 billion to $400 billion by 2014 with the UK property market being a prime target.
“We consider that investments in the UK represent a good buying opportunity despite a relatively slow recovery from the global crisis,” Kwang-woo said. “If you look at the property market around the world, according to our analysis, Great Britain has already undergone quite a substantial correction, more substantial than many other places around the globe,” he added.
The South Korean pension also plans to increase investments in infrastructure, real estate and private equity funds to 6.4 percent this year from 4.5 percent at the end of last November. The pension first came to the attention of the UK’s financial community last year, when it bought HSBC’s Canary Wharf headquarters for £773 million.