3 Nov 2009

Infratil to retain other airports after Luebeck sale

8:18 am on 3 November 2009

Infratil has no plans to sell its other European airports after ridding itself of its Luebeck operation, despite passenger numbers dropping markedly in the economic downturn.

The Wellington-based utilities investor exercised its right to make the north German city buy back Infratil's 90% stake in the airport for $64 million, because passenger numbers failed to meet targets that were agreed in 2005.

Infratil paid $23 million for its stake in the loss-making airport in 2005, with the city of Luebeck holding the remaining 10% stake.

Only about 750,000 thousand passengers travelled through the airport in 2008, below the 1.2 million threshold that triggered a put option.

The company, which owns Wellington Airport, has sold assets in the last year including Fullers Ferries and bus depots.

It also owns airports in Kent and Glasgow, but Infratil executive Paul Ridley-Smith says the company doesn't intend to sell them, despite it being a tough year in the UK.

He expects passenger numbers to rise as the British economy comes out of recession.

But Mr Ridley-Smith says other assets, wuch as those in energy development, could be sold to reduce debt further.

He says the $64m from the sale of its stake in Luebeck Airport will be used to pay down existing debt.