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Québec asset manager sells interest in UK airports to Qatari SWF

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  • Québec asset manager sells interest in UK airports to Qatari SWF

GLOBAL - Sovereign wealth fund subsidiary Qatar Holding has acquired 20% of Spanish-owned UK airport operator BAA for €1.14bn from shareholders, including Canadian pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

The CAD$159bn (€130bn) Caisse agreed to sell part of its stake in the UK airport infrastructure firm's holding company FGP TopCo for CAD$393.6m, reducing its interest from 21.1% to 15.5%.

In a statement, the Caisse said the cash generated by the deal would enable it to rebalance and better diversify its infrastructure portfolio while maintaining exposure to BAA assets including Heathrow Airport.

In separate deals, GIC - the government-owned asset manager of Singapore's sovereign wealth fund - sold a 3.75% interest to its Qatari counterpart, while Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial agreed to sell a 10.6% stake for €607m.

Data from Real Capital Analytics point to Qatar as the second largest buyer (after Blackstone) of European property over the past year. It spent €3.5bn on prime assets, including the Olympic athletes' village in east London.

Ferrovial - whose shareholders include the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, Fonditel Pensiones and APG - did not before deadline confirm reports that it intends to use the capital raised by the sale to expand operations in Latin America.

The firm currently generates 36% of its cash from projects in the US, 35% from Poland and 17% from the UK.

Senior managers said in a recent investor presentation that the firm would continue to focus on markets where it already had a presence, although it would consider some "selective exposure" to emerging markets. However, the majority of its investments in new projects are in the US (77%) and Spain (12%).

Nor did Ferrovial comment on the prospect that it could sell more of its remaining 39.3% shareholding.

In separate news, potential investors including local government-dominated Manchester Airports Group and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority are expected to bid for the UK's Stansted Airport after an appellate court last month upheld the country's Competition Commission ruling from 2009 requiring BAA to sell the London airport.

BAA announced Monday that it would not appeal against the Supreme Court's decision, although it added: "We still believe that the Competition Commission ruling fails to recognise that Stansted and Heathrow serve different markets."

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