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Eking out a living. Investment banks earn a crust helping aviation trade sales

2-Oct-2008

The current flurry of airline and airport sales has provided some relief for the investment arms of some of the leading financial institutions. called in as advisers to the various transactions.

The latest, today, is the reported role of HSBC Holdings and Royal Bank of Scotland as advisers on the pre-emptive sale of London Gatwick Airport. That is a relatively big one, expected to be dealing in the region of GBP2-3 billion.

And, as the government owners of several of Europe’s airlines look around for buyers, the field is quickly becoming crowded. Each vendor needs its advisers and, with sometimes half a dozen prospective buyers, each with independent advice, it is feeding time for many of the specialist firms.

AIG, part owner of London City Airport, was last week forced to put its share on the market as the now-partially nationalised insurance company rushes to provide some cash back for the American taxpayer. That one may be an inside job, as several investment groups are involved as owners and buyers.

The others are going to have to work to earn their usually-significant remuneration though. The Czech government for example is thinking of delaying the USD5 billion privatisation of Prague Airport, despite literally dozens of interested buyers. There was an almost as lengthy a list of offers to help advise in the sale, including some ex-banks: Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan/Erste, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Rothschild and UBS.

JP Morgan has been retained by Lufthansa to manage its bid for a share of Austrian Airlines , while competing bidder, Air France, is advised by Lazard and Austria's Raiffeisen Investment. The Austrian government’s OeIAG and Finance Ministry, once they reappraise their position after last week’s surprise election result, will have Merrill Lynch on the seller’s team, advising on the sale. Meanwhile, the more politically risky bidder, Russia’s S7, is using a charm offensive for the time being, apparently uncluttered by financial advisers.

And, with the Greek government finally bringing Olympic Airlines to market at probably the worst time for financial transactions in the history of aviation, it has selected an impressive team of Lazard, NBG International, Alpha Bank and Emporiki Bank to lead its campaign. With the credit squeeze making bidders’ funds short and the airline’s unions (inevitably including its pilots’ union) staunchly opposed and promising to demonstrate to block the sale, the advisers will have their hands full.

The pickings in aviation tend to be smaller than in the major financial transactions of large, profitable companies, but in the current market, the flurry of airline and airport activity is attracting plenty of interest.

On the airport side, after some years of drought, many opportunities are coming to market too.

Airport/country

Status

(Known) Interested parties

Three Macedonian airports

Concession contract signed

TAV only serious bidder

Stepenavan/Armenia

Privatisation ‘imminent’

-

Charleroi/Belgium

Candidates short-listed for 27.65% minority stake of the airport.

HNA Group, Belgian Sky Shops, SAVE Spa/Holding Communal

Copenhagen /Denmark

Private construction of low cost terminal

Rejected by Copenhagen Airports A/s

Schwerin-Parchim/Germany

Ownership of land transferred

Linkglobal/Goodman

Ciudad Real/Spain

Airport expected to open 25-Oct-08

Consortium of local and national interests from public and private sectors

AENA Airports/Spain

30% of the 47 airports to be offered for sale

Little public reaction to date

London Gatwick/UK

Offered for sale in advance of any formal pronouncement by the Competition Commission

Manchester Airports Group, Peel Airports, Virgin Atlantic, Fraport, Hochtief, Schiphol International, Changi Airports International,
Global Infrastructure Partners, Terra Firma.

Southend/UK

For sale GBP50 million

Seven companies were short listed as of including London City Airport, Macquarie, Balfour Beatty, Abertis and Hochtief.

St Petersburg/Russia

30-year lease deal. 100% investment. Short list concluded

Short listed: GMR Infrastructure, TAV Airports, Vienna Airport/Gazprombank/Gazfond, CAI/Basic Element, Macquarie/Renaissance, Hochtief/Renova, Fraport/VTB

Nantes/France

BOT project in tandem with management contract. Indicative bids sought

-

Reggio Emilia/Italy

Private equity partners sought. EoIs finished Aug-08

-

ANA/Portugal

Privatisation of some or all of the airports in tandem with construction of a new Lisbon airport

Abertis, Asterion consortium, AdP

Greek regional airports

Possible forthcoming sale of larger regional airports and/or IPO on Athens Airport

AdP

Romanian regional airports

Details n/a

AdP

French regional airports

Possible forthcoming sale or lease

 

And, without doubt, there will be plenty more to follow. If only there were some debt to be bought….

But one group will be kept well employed, that’s for sure. With several bankruptcies and plenty more promised, the insolvency firms will be kept fully occupied for many months to come. It’s an ill wind.


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