Spanish group Aena to take over control of Luton airport from Spanish group Abertis

The Sunday Times reports that Luton airport operating concession, which is controlled by the Spanish infrastructure company, Abertis, is to be sold. The buyer is another Spanish company, Aena which owns other airports across the world.  The airport is owned by Luton Borough Council. The airport’s operating company is London Luton Airport Operations Ltd, which is in turn a wholly-owned subsidiary of an alliance between two Spanish-based companies: Abertis, being the majority shareholder, and AENA (Spain’s equivalent of NATS) the minority. Aena has now exercised its right – as it has first refusal – to become the new owner of Luton under an agreement with Abertis. By passenger numbers, Luton is the UK’s 5th largest airport, with some 9.6 million passengers in 2012 (around 9.5 million in 2011) and around 72,000 air transport movements, by low cost airlines. Abertis owned Cardiff and still owns Belfast International airport. This explains why there has been no news on the airport’s planning application for some time.



Spanish giant to buy Luton airport

by Ben Marlow (Sunday Times)
 2 June 2013

Full Sunday Times article  ££ at


…. we await an official announcement from either the airport’s owners or its operators……….



Luton airport operations “up for sale”

Posted on 

Spanish infrastructure company Abertis is studying the possible sale of its airports division as part of its diversification strategy, Chief Executive Francisco Reynes said on Tuesday according to Reuters. London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL), the company which operates Luton Airport, is 90% owned by Abertis Infrastructuras S.A.

Abertis has asked Citigroup and AZ Capital to study options for its airports business, and is reportedly ”open to any option”, which could mean that part or all of the portfolio is sold. Abertis owns Cardiff [now sold] and Belfast International airports, though its interest in Luton is only in the operating concession, since the airport itself is owned by Luton Borough Council.

Andrew Lambourne of HALE said “In terms of Luton Airport expansion the timing of this news couldn’t be worse, since it clearly threatens the investment on which their hugely expensive plans are based. LLAOL has not yet secured its planning permission – and given the significant grounds for objection which range from apparent contravention of the local planning permissions and noise restrictions to huge concerns over public health and safety, plus the unmodelled impacts on local road and rail infrastructure, this is not going to be an easy ride. And of course there is still uncertainty over whether the application is going to be called in, as it should be, for proper consideration as a national infrastructure project.”

“In a climate where many business are consolidating rather than taking risks, particularly in an airport business so dependent on the future price of oil and on decisions by airlines who will be shopping around for the cheapest landing fees, a postponement of the planning application may well be in the best interests of Luton. The last thing Luton Borough Council would want is for the airport operators to overstretch and then go bust.” he continued.

Last year the Council initially announced that it would be terminating the operating concession and looking for a new operator prepared to invest in growth. The signs are that the hesitancy of LLAOL/Abertis to invest was based on the uncertainty over whether Abertis would continue to see value in its airport portfolio.


Luton Borough Council has wanted Abertis and Aena to back plans to increase capacity at Luton to 30m passengers a year.  So the owner wanted more expansion than the operator.  There was a strange situation with different proposals from the owner and the operator. The parties agreed a compromise expansion to 18m a year by 2030  – and there is a current planning application for that.

Aena already has stakes in 69 airports and Aena already claims to be the world’s largest airport operator by passengers.



Aena bids for control of UK’s Luton airport

By Henry Mance (Financial Times)


…… Aena, which owns 10% of the airport concession holder, is seeking to exercise a right of first refusal over the remaining 90% stake held by its Spanish partner Abertis.

It has yet to meet Abertis’s €400m asking price – which would imply a price/earnings ratio of about 10.5 – said Spanish business newspaper Hispanidad.

….. The Spanish government intends to sell a 49% stake in the company by the end of 2013.

 Full FT article at





Update from Luton …. no sign of progress on planning application

After the flurry of competing expansion plans from Luton’s owner (Luton Borough Council) and Luton’s operator (London Luton Airport Operations Ltd *), which resulted in the rival plans being combined “to incorporate the best features of both” – “best”, of course, from an aviation industry standpoint, with the higher of the two allegedly maximum passenger throughputs and aircraft movement numbers (the preference of the airport owner), things have gone surprisingly quiet.

For what must have been political reasons the operator became the fall-guy to be the applicant and lodged a planning application (12/0140/FUL) with Luton Borough Council on
3rd December 2012. As at end-May 2013 its status remains “pending consideration”. Local people have been told that there are questions to be resolved between Luton Borough
Council and the applicant, but though they have been asked, the Council will not disclose the nature of those questions.

They may be to do with planning issues, or the role of the Council as airport owner, or both. No date has yet been set for the Council’s Planning Committee to consider the application – at which time they may well agree with all those respondents who have declared the plans for the larger airport to a thinly disguised Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and refer it to the Planning Inspectorate…….

In addition, the operator Abertis* is “re-evaluating its airports strategy worldwide” – they’ve
already disposed of their interest in Cardiff Airport – so it’s possible that on reflection they’re a bit less enthused about having been forced into adopting the owner’s plan and the cash-flow profile it entails – big spending early with revenues trickling along somewhat later. With the end-date for the operator’s concession fixed in time, each month’s delay is in effect costing money, albeit in the form of possible future incomes not received, so the lack of progress is surprising. (From Luton campaigners)

* The legal owner of Luton is London Luton Airport Limited, which is 99.99% owned by Luton Borough Council; only 6 shares are not Council-owned and it had to be set up that way when the law was changed to enable local authorities to own airports. The operating company is London Luton Airport Operations Limited, which is in turn a wholly-owned subsidiary of an alliance between two Spanish-based companies: Abertis, a global infrastructure company being the majority shareholder, and AENA (Spain’s equivalent of NATS) the minority. Mildly confusing….

Also on Luton: Campaigners estimate that it is the 4th-busiest bizjet airport in Europe, after
Paris/Le Bourget, Geneva-Cointrin and Nice. They have been asking for actual passenger figures for bizjet flights – so they can see how few passengers are conveyed at the cost of airspace, runway slots and noise disturbance.




Calls to delay Luton’s expansion plans after news of airport sale by Abertis

February 27, 2013     Calls to delay planning permission for Luton airport’s expansion have come following news that the airport may be sold off by its Spanish owner, the infrastructure group, Abertis. Protesters against the expansion of Luton argue any plans should be put on hold in the wake of a potential sale. Andrew Lambourne of HALE – Hertfordshire Against Luton Expansion – said: “In terms of Luton airport expansion the timing of this news couldn’t be worse, since it clearly threatens the investment on which their hugely expensive expansion plans are based. “The airport has not yet secured its planning permission – and given the significant grounds for objection, this is not going to be an easy ride. ” HALE said that a postponement of the planning application may well be in the best interests of Luton. “The last thing Luton Borough Council would want is for them to overstretch and then go bust.”     Click here to view full story…


Abertis considers sale of UK airports – Luton, Cardiff and Belfast International

February 25, 2013     Abertis, the Spanish owner of Luton, Cardiff and Belfast International airports, may sell them. According to The Sunday Times, Abertis has decided to sell the 3 airports as part of a review of its €1 billion transport division, and Citi and AZ Capital have been appointed to review the division. Luton airport has been surrounded by controversy over its development plans with the local council opposing Abertis’ plans for its development. The Welsh government is reported to be on the verge of buying Cardiff airport, which has had a large drop in traffic during the past few years. Albertis’ airport assets in Bolivia were nationalised by President Evo Morales last week, and it has lost money in Spain in recent years. Campaigners at Luton said the timing of the sale was unfortunate, with the airport’s current planning application – for which planning permission has not been secured. The sale threatens the investment on which the airport’s hugely expensive expansion plans are based.    Click here to view full story…


Luton airport planning application would increase night flights (11pm to 7am) by 50%

January 29, 2013    Local campaign group HALE (Hertfordshire Against Luton Expansion) says that Luton Airport’s expansion plans are based on projections to increase flights at night by 50%. This is based on information in the airport’s planning application which shows that the number of take-offs and landings between 11pm and 7am is projected to rise to 52 by 2028, compared to 34 in 2011. HALE points out that this is just the average figure – during the summer peak there could be as many as 80 flights each night. There is a public consultation on the application until 18th February. HALE is urging people to respond to this planning application by demanding that Luton Borough Council forces its Airport to reduce, not increase, night flights; to monitor and fine night arrivals as well as night departures; and to install a noise monitor on the approach to runway 08 for the purpose.    Click here to view full story…


Luton airport planning application submitted – to demands that it should be called in

January 9, 2013      Luton airport has submitted its planning application for expansion up to 18 million passengers, to its local authority, Luton Borough Council. However, Luton Borough Council is also the owner of the airport, and so local people are asking that the application should be called in. The application does not include a runway extension, but does include changes to taxiways, access roads, parking aprons, car parks and changes and extensions to terminal buildings. The work proposed is focused primarily on removing the bottlenecks which affect throughput of passengers and planes at peak times. By dualling the access roads and increasing the security check lanes, passengers can arrive and be processed more quickly. By extending the taxiways and adding more piers, planes can be filled up can get into position for takeoff more quickly. And by adding more customs and baggage reclaim facilities, arriving passengers can be moved more rapidly through the terminal. There are 250 documents in the application, making it difficult for local people to assess. The consultation period ends on 18th February. There is local concern about the amount of extra aircraft noise there will be, if Luton is allowed such significant expansion. There are also serious concerns about road congestion – currently about 80% of the airport’s passengers travel to it by road.     Click here to view full story…



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