The transfer of 25% of the airport to Ardian and PIF may be investigated by the British Government itself, UK Competition, the European Commission and the CAA, the English regulator.
The sale of 25% of Heathrow WHAT Ferrovial agreed to the French fund Ardian (15%) and the Saudi heh (10%) for 2,735 million euros is likely to be faced a triple exam in the United Kingdom, to which may be added another in Brussels. Legal sources closely following the operation see it as unlikely that the operation will be complicated, given the background.
The purchase of 25% of a strategic asset such as Heathrow, London – and the main airport in Western Europe– will lead to an investigation by the Competition and Markets Commission (CMA), to analyze whether the buyer can achieve “material influence”, and that comes from the National Security and Investment Act (NS&I).
As the Del Pino family group proposed the operation, 25% sold, but in two parts, so that the aforementioned threshold is avoided. However, Ardian and PIF may present the operation for NS&I analysis to avoid party action, given the importance of Heathrow.
In this case, even if the decision corresponds to the Secretary of State of the Cabinet Office, consultations will be made with other departments of the Executive of Rishi Sunak to express their concerns.
From the point of competition, the fact that no buyer reaches 25% weakens the position of the CMA, although it should be taken into account that, in 2013, this body Ryanair forced to reduce its stake in Aer Lingus to 5% to avoid any form of material influence.
The option that Brussels intervened It is also not ruled out, despite the fact that the operation takes place outside the European Union, depending on the type of agreement made between the new shareholders of the London airport.
Finally, the sources consulted refer to the role of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in relation to the owners of an airport, but no problems are expected from the regulator.
Among the reasons that in legal areas there are no problems in selling at Heathrow, it stands that neither Ardian nor PIF has a significant stake in similar properties (airport or airlines) and, if this is the case, the Qatar Investment Authoriy (QIA), which has 20% of Heathrow, would have raised suspicions at that time, because the group controls Qatar Airways, instead first shareholder of IAG , the parent company of Iberia and British Airways, the main airline at Heathrow.
In the United Kingdom more emphasis is placed on PIF -owner of STC, the Arab telecom company that bought 9.9% of Telefónica, is waiting for the Government’s approval- than Ardian or Ferrovial, but the Government, so far, has not commented.
The CMA announces its investigations once it starts them and refers to regulations not to “speculate” whether it will investigate or not. Downing Street, which welcomes all foreign investment, said it could reserve shares if it considered there were risks.
This is the case, today, to enter an Arab fund The Daily Telegraph where the Government believes that freedom of expression may be at risk.
Another element that could hinder the sale of 25% of Heathrow is the decision made by other shareholders to buy, sell or stay the same.