Abu Dhabi buys Gatwick Airport stake

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, thought to be the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund, purchased the stake from Global Infrastructure Partners.

Abu Dhabi has bought a 15 per cent stake of Gatwick Airport, Britain's second-busiest, a spokesman for the emirate's sovereign wealth fund confirmed yesterday. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), thought to be the world's biggest sovereign wealth fund, purchased the stake from Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP). GIP itself acquired the airport only in October after BAA, Britain's main airport operator, was forced to sell it by the country's competition regulator. GIP will retain a controlling stake.

The ADIA spokesman could not comment on media reports putting the value of its investment at £125 million (Dh728m), which was an estimate based on the £100m price the National Pension Service of South Korea said it was paying for a 12 per cent stake in Gatwick just two days earlier. Representatives of GIP and London Gatwick declined to comment yesterday. The confirmation put to rest weeks of speculation about an ADIA stake in the airport and offered a rare glimpse into the investment activities of the fund, which normally maintains a low profile in its acquisitions of small stakes in companies and assets.

Its most publicised investment in recent years came in late 2007, when it purchased what was then a 4.9 per cent stake in Citigroup for US$7.5bn. Together with its sister fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, which was seeded with capital from ADIA in 2006, Abu Dhabi's funds are estimated to manage roughly $425bn in assets. After cutting its exposure to stocks in anticipation of the crisis in 2008, ADIA piled back into equity markets in 2009 to benefit from the rally in global markets, Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed, ADIA's managing director, said.

GIP, which also operates London City Airport, purchased Gatwick last year for £1.51bn. Shortly after, it opened discussions to sell minority stakes. In other investment news, Isithmar World, a unit of Dubai World, yesterday sold its 13 per cent stake in SpiceJet, an Indian budget airline, an executive for the carrier said. @Email:igale@thenational.ae * With Reuters and additional reporting by Wayne Arnold