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French group snaps up majority stake in Gatwick Airport a week after drone chaos

Vinci agreed the before Christmas but the announcement was delayed by the drone scare
Gatwick is Europe's eighth busiest airport

French group Vinci has bought a majority stake in Gatwick just a week after the drone scare that saw thousands of flights disrupted in the run-up to Christmas.

Nicolas Notebaert, the head of Vinci’s airports arm, said he had "every confidence" in the teams currently in place and it will work to make Gatwick “as resilient as it can be in the face of these new risks"

Gatwick’s chairman Sir David Higgins will stay on along with senior management.

The deal was a “vote of confidence in Gatwick and it’s future potential,” he said.

Vinci has been growing its airport interests substantially over recent years.

The French group acquired Airports International in April, a deal that included Belfast International and boosted its portfolio to 45 airports in places including Sweden, Costa Rica, the US and Liberia. The group already runs three airports in each of France and Portugal.

Vinci is paying £2.9bn for 50.01% in Gatwick, which values the airport at £5.8bn.

The existing owner, a consortium led by GIP, will hold the reminder of the shares.

The GIP consortium bought Gatwick from BAA in 2009 for £1.5bn and has since spent £1.9bn on upgrades and modernisation.

Notebaert played down concerns that Brexit might affect passenger numbers, adding that the uncertainty had helped Vinci achieve a 'reasonable price'.

The airport handled 42mln passengers last year, but this number is expected to grow to 60mln as the airport allows more and larger planes to use its runway.

Vinci agreed the before Christmas but the announcement was delayed by the drone scare that saw Gatwick closes its runway, disrupting flights for 140,000 passengers.

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