By Arno Schuetze and Dasha Afanasieva
FRANKFURT/LONDON Feb 23 Brussels Airport is
being prepared for a potential sale as one of its owners is
planning an exit from Belgium's main hub, according to several
people close to the matter.
Brussels is Europe's 26th largest airport, located in
Zaventum just outside the city which houses the main European
Union and NATO headquarters.
It serves as hub for Brussels Airlines, which is being fully
taken over by Lufthansa.
The airport saw passenger numbers drop 7 percent last year
to 21.8 million as a result of deadly attacks in March, which
forced the closure of the airport for 12 days.
Australian Macquarie's infrastructure fund, which owns a 36
percent stake, is currently in talks with co-owner Ontario
Teachers' Pension Plan), which has 39 percent, on whether the
Canadian investor wants to increase its stake, the sources said.
Macquarie wants to exit as the fund in which it holds part
of its stake has matured. Brussels airport is the last remaining
asset of the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund (MEIF) I,
while the remainder of the stake is held in its MEIF III, which
was closed to new investors in 2010.
If the negotiations fail to come to a successful end, an
auction will be started to find a third party investor, the
sources said, adding that JP Morgan has been tasked with
overseeing the process.
Macquarie and JP Morgan declined to comment. Ontario
Teachers, which manages around $130 billion, and the Belgian
finance ministry, which oversees the state’s 25 percent
shareholding, did not immediately comment.
Brussels Airport was forced to introduce increased safety
measure last year after suicide bombers killed 16 people and
injured over 150 in its departure hall in March, part of a
coordinated assault on the Belgian capital's transport
Macquarie Airports (MAP), a fund managed by
Australian investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd, originally
bought a 70 percent interest in the airport for 735 million
euros ($775 million) in 2004 through a consortium vehicle. It
increased its stake to 75 percent in 2007.
In 2011 it sold a 39 percent stake to Ontario Teachers as
part of an asset swap in which it got the Canadian investor's
stake in Sydney Airport stake.
Elsewhere in Europe, Ontario Teachers is looking to sell
minority stakes in Britain's Bristol and Birmingham airports to
take advantage of strong demand from pension funds and other
long-term investors for the often-attractive returns on offer
from such infrastructure assets, a source told Reuters this
($1 = 0.9486 euros)
(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Maria