Vinci Airports has completed the purchase of its controlling 50.01% stake in London Gatwick Airport, the French company announced May 14.

US-based Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) will continue to manage the remaining 49.99% interest in Gatwick, the world’s busiest single-runway airport. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), as part of the 49.99% interest managed by GIP, will retain a 9.99% stake in the airport.

Vinci said that completion of the purchase means it had become the world’s second-largest airport operator, handling more than 240 million passengers a year in 12 countries. Gatwick will process an estimated 46 million travelers this year, up from 32 million a decade ago.

Traditionally seen as a short-haul, leisure-based airport, Gatwick has in recent years substantially increased its long-haul services, with 60 such destinations now appearing on the airport’s departures boards.

With the airport, located 30 miles south of the UK capital, now part of a network of 46 airports, its managers would now have access to broader opportunities, particularly in international career development and in-house training, said Vinci. Gatwick’s status as the world’s busiest single-runway facility would also allow it to share best practice with the group’s other sites.

The current top team of chairman David Higgins, CEO Stewart Wingate and CFO Nick Dunn will remain in place and be joined by Vinci Airports’ Cédric Laurier as chief technical officer.

The airport, which has seen £2 billion ($2.6 billion) of investment over the past decade, is planning a further £1.1 billion capital investment program to deliver passenger improvements by 2023. 

“Applying our joint skills will add significant value to both Vinci Airports and London Gatwick Airport and benefit all our stakeholders, notably airlines and passengers,” Vinci Airports’ president Nicolas Notebaert said.  

“Today is the start of a new chapter for Gatwick, with new owners and further investment enabling the airport to continue on its successful journey,” CEO Wingate added.

The airport recently consulted on its Draft Master Plan for the next 15 years, looking at how it can make best use of its existing infrastructure and, notably, its existing standby runway, which normally functions as a taxiway. The final master plan is scheduled to be published later in 2019.

Alan Dron