Gatwick Airport has been sold to France’s Vinci for £2.9 billion, just days after after reports of drone sightings closed its runway and caused chaos for thousands of passengers.
Under the terms of the deal, a consortium led by US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) – owner of Edinburgh Airport – will sell a 50.01 per cent stake to Vinci Airports.
Vinci operates more than 40 airports globally across Europe, Asia and the Americas and with the Gatwick takeover it will add the UK’s second-biggest airport to its portfolio.
The airport, the eighth-busiest in Europe by passenger numbers, was heavily disrupted in the run up to Christmas after reports of drone sightings closed its runway.
Some 1,000 Gatwick flights were cancelled or diverted across three days last week after drones were spotted inside the airport perimeter.
The crisis ruined the pre-Christmas travel plans of tens of thousands of people.
However, there were subsequent suggestions that there may never have been any drones at Gatwick, although police later played them down, saying they were down to “poor communications”.
Michael McGhee, GIP partner, said: “We expect the transaction to be completed by the middle of next year, with the senior leadership team remaining in place.
“Their focus, along with everyone at Gatwick, obviously remains on doing their very best for customers over the busy holiday period after the challenges of recent days.”
The GIP consortium acquired Gatwick in 2009 for £1.5bn.
The senior management team at Gatwick will stay in post following the deal, with chairman Sir David Higgins, chief exec Stewart Wingate and finance chief Nick Dunn continuing in their roles.
GIP will continue to manage the remaining 49.99 per cent interest in Gatwick after the transaction closes in the second quarter.