DAA Sells Stake in Hamburg Airport for 30m

The Dublin Airport Authority has sold its stake in Hamburg airport, the fourth largest in Germany, for more than 30 million to a German building company. Emmet Oliver reports.

As airport valuations achieve new highs, the DAA's international arm, Aer Rianta International, decided to sell the stake, believed to be approximately 3 per cent, to German construction group Hochtief. The purchase price was not disclosed and the legal elements of the transaction will not be completed until early in the new year.

Hochtief has embarked in recent years on a strategy of buying airports and is already a substantial shareholder in Hamburg.

It is also a shareholder, with the DAA, in D'sseldorf airport as well as holding stakes in airports in Tirana, Budapest and the Middle East.

The DAA declined to comment last night on the sale, but sources maintained that the transaction would not trigger a disposal of its other holdings. It owns a range of duty-free shops and retail outlets and has a 20 per cent stake in D'sseldorf and a 24 per cent stake in Birmingham.

Ryanair, Europe's largest low-cost airline, has called on the DAA to sell all its international holdings and use the proceeds to fund new infrastructure like the second terminal and Pier D.

However, DAA chairman Gary McGann has rejected this idea and said the company would not engage in what he has described as a "fire sale".

It is understood the Hamburg transaction was triggered after Hochtief exercised a long-standing option to buy out the Aer Rianta International stake. Throughout Europe, airports have been managing to achieve unprecedented valuations based on rising traffic figures and the growth of low-cost airlines. Dermot Desmond, who owns London City Airport, is set to net 1.1 billion from its sale.

Grupo Ferrovial, the Spanish construction firm, bought the major UK airport operator BAA back in August for $19 billion (14.3 billion). BAA operates major global hubs such as Heathrow. Ferrovial has since been selling other airport stakes it owns to pay down debt.

2005 was a successful financial year for Hamburg airport. The number of passengers grew at an above average rate, turnover performed well and earnings remained stable. Passenger volume grew by 7.9 per cent to approximately 10.7 million.

The last time Hamburg airport reported growth at this level was 15 years ago. Turnover grew by 2.4 per cent to 203.4 million.

Meanwhile, Ryanair has indicated to the European Commission it would be prepared to give up some slots at eight airports - Heathrow, Stansted, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Rome, Bratislava and Barcelona - as part of the terms of any acquisition of Aer Lingus.

Copyright: The The Irish Times - 12/8/06

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