Macquarie has agreed to sell its 36% stake in Brussels Airport to a consortium of APG, QIC and Swiss Life, almost 15 years after the Australian investor first bought into the business.
The manager, which announced the deal in a press statement on Friday (15 March), did not disclose the sale price, although sources previously said they expect it to fetch an all-equity value of EUR 1.5bn to EUR 1.9bn.
The airport, which has 80 airline customers, has an enterprise value of around EUR 6.1bn, equivalent to around 20 times the airport’s 2017 EBITDA. Its principal customer is Brussels Airlines, which accounts for around 37% of its traffic.
The business has grown dramatically since now defunct listed entity, Macquarie Airports, as well as Macquarie Bank and several unlisted Macquarie-managed funds acquired a 70% stake for EUR 735m in 2004.
Since this time, some EUR 1bn has been invested in the airport, according to a statement on Friday by infrastructure asset manager Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA). The sellers in the latest deal are MIRA-managed funds European Infrastructure Fund 1 and Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 3.
OTPP retains a 39% stake it acquired in the airport from Macquarie in 2011, while remaining shares are owned by the Belgian state.
One upside of the latest deal is that the acquirors will be able to inject sizeable amounts of additional debt into the asset, given the airport is currently leveraged at a relatively low level of around four times EBITDA.
The new debt could be used to buy shares as well as fund a dividend recapitalisation, in which loans are used to fund a special equity dividend to shareholders.
The winning consortium is being advised by Nomura, which is acting as its financial advisor, and also DC Advisory, its debt advisor for the transaction.
Swiss Life is understood to have entered the consortium in recent days. This follows a decision by MEAG to drop out of the team earlier this month, around the time its investment committee was due to decide whether to allow the reinsurer’s asset management arm to invest in Brussels Airport.
Leigh Harrison, head of MIRA EMEA, said: “During our 15-year investment, Brussels Airport has become one of the largest and best-connected airports in Europe.
“Alongside the management team we helped unlock the potential of this vital piece of infrastructure – enabling more passengers and freight to fly with greater choice than ever before, whilst significantly reducing the airport’s environmental impact transforming it into a carbon-neutral transport and logistics hub.”
MIRA’s financial advisor is JP Morgan, while Shearman & Sterling is its legal advisor.