French operator Vinci Airports is taking a majority shareholding in London Gatwick airport, under a new pact with Global Infrastructure Partners.
Vinci will hold a 50.01% stake in the London hub, with GIP managing the balance.
The agreement is set to complete in the first half of 2019.
Vinci says it will pay around £2.9 billion ($3.7 billion) for the shareholding, subject to closing adjustments.
“The transaction represents a rare opportunity to acquire an airport of such size and quality and fits extremely well with Vinci Concessions’ long-term investment horizon,” it adds.
“Gatwick airport is an outstanding asset with further growth potential.”
It highlights the draft master plan laid out to expand the airport’s capacity, including its intention to use its standby runway, and says there are opportunities to expand the commercial offering to passengers.
Vinci Airports president Nicolas Notebaert says: “Creating synergies and sharing best practices being at the core of our values, the whole Vinci Airports network will benefit from Gatwick airport’s world-class management and operational excellence, which has allowed it to deliver strong and steady growth in a very constrained environment.”
Vinci manages 46 airports in France, Portugal, the UK and other parts of Europe, as well as facilities in the USA, Latin America and Asia.
Gatwick’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, says there will be “no changes” to the “immediate running” of the airport.
He acknowledges the recent serious disruption attributed to drone activity – an incident still under investigation – but says the airport’s services are “fully back to normal”.
“Gatwick itself has taken a number of important steps in recent days which will make a significant difference to the airport’s resilience,” he adds.