Dnata and Servisair pick up Go-Ahead's UK handling arms

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Emirates Group's ground-handling arm Dnata is entering the UK market after transport firm Go-Ahead Group opted to dispose of most of its aviation handling to the Middle Eastern company and Servisair UK.

Dnata is wholly acquiring Go-Ahead's Plane Handling division, which operates at London Heathrow and Manchester, for £15 million ($25 million) in cash. It will also acquire handler Aviance's operation at two Heathrow terminals.

Servisair will pick up ground-handling operations at 11 other airports in the UK: London Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Luton, Southampton, Cardiff, Belfast International and Belfast City.

Go-Ahead says Servisair will pay a "nominal upfront cash consideration" for the operations, which also include Aviance's passenger lounges at London Gatwick, Birmingham and Luton, and Stansted's cargo services.

Completion of both the Dnata and Servisair sales is expected on 30 January 2010.

Go-Ahead is disposing of its airport handling to concentrate on bus and rail operations.

"We will be spending the next two months working closely with Dnata, Servisair and our customers and employees to maintain a high quality of service and ensure a smooth transition," says Go-Ahead group chief Keith Ludeman.

The company will retain a "small number" of activities at Heathrow, mainly to support certain handling contracts into 2011, although it expects these to incur losses.

Go-Ahead says these losses as well as residual liabilities will mean the sales to Dnata and Servisair will be "broadly cash-neutral".

Acquisition of the UK handling arms are a "perfect fit" to Dnata's portfolio, says the company, taking it to 19 airports across eight countries.

"Dnata is committed to further developing the strengths of Plane Handling and ensuring that its airline customers continue to enjoy the highest possible levels of customer service," says Dnata president Gary Chapman. Plane Handling managing director Robert Williams will take responsibility for both businesses acquired by Dnata.

Servisair's acquisition of the regional operations will take its UK network to 24 airports. Chief executive Abderaman El-Aoufir says: "We are confident that this opportunity will give Servisair the ability to develop further economies of scale and offer airlines safe, competitively-priced, high quality ground handling services throughout the UK."