GLASGOW and Aberdeen airports are expected to be sold to Ferrovial, their owner’s largest shareholder, bringing an improvement to customer service, experts told The Scotsman today.
The Spanish firm is tipped to take over Scotland’s second and third busiest airports after owner Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAH) said yesterday the sale process had started.
The news confirms a Scotland on Sunday story last November that HAH was considering selling the Scottish airports and Southampton Airport to Ferrovial to focus on Heathrow, which is the world’s busiest airport for international flights.
Aviation experts told The Scotsman today that Ferrovial was the front runner.
They said it was keen to solely run more airports to demonstrate its pedigree when seeking further airport acquisitions in Europe and Central and South America.
They also said HAH was likely to be in advanced discussions with a potential buyer since it expected to complete the sale by the end of the year.
The five-month target to sell the three airports is one month shorter than the time HAH, then known as BAA, took to sell Edinburgh Airport in 2012-13.
One airport source said: “It would be impossible to sell three airports by the end of the year unless a buyer has been lined up.”
The Edinburgh sale was forced by the Competition Commission, which ordered it to offload either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports over monopoly concerns.
BAA also sold Gatwick and Stansted airports as part of the commission’s investigation, leaving HAH with Heathrow and the three far smaller airports.
Global Infrastructure Partners bought Gatwick in 2009 for £1.5 billion and Edinburgh in 2012 for £807 million, while last year Stansted was sold for £1.5 billion to the Manchester Airport Group.
It is understood HAH’s other shareholders are keen to focus on the UK’s sole hub airport. They include investors from Qatar, Quebec, Singapore and China.
Experts believe customer service would improve when the Scottish airports are sold because they would be given more attention as part of a smaller company, with fewer layers of management.
One said: “This will be good news for passengers. It will take the airports out of the hands of a company which does not really care about them, and lead to a much greater focus on performance and competitiveness.”
Those in charge of Ferrovial are also known to have a “forensic” attention to detail over airport operations.
A HAH spokeswoman said: “Over recent months Heathrow Airport Holdings group shareholders and management have been considering their strategic position in relation to our three airports, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton.
“As a result, the group is now formally entering a sale process.
“Whilst there is currently no certainty that a sale will be concluded, the group intends to work towards completing a transaction by the end of the year.”