Independence of Airports Commission questioned over Howard Davies’ role in Prudential, which recently bought more Heathrow property
Campaigners against a 3rd Heathrow runway have questioned the independence of the Airports Commission and its chairman, Howard Davies. It has been revealed that he is a board member of Prudential, an insurance group which invested in property near Heathrow, just months before the Commission recommended a 3rd runway. He chairs its risk committee, which reviews and approves group investment policies as well as advising the board on risks in the company’s “strategic transactions and business plans”. The Guardian reports that Prudential embarked on a £300m spending spree on properties around Heathrow, just as the commission prepared to deliver its final report, on 1st July. Prudential has an asset management business, M&G. In 2013 it bought the Hilton hotel at Terminal 5 for £21m and an earlier investment with planning permission for a large hotel close to where the proposed 3rd runway would be built. In May and June 2015 M&G bought more property including cargo depots and a business park a short distance from Terminal 4. Howard Davies also, till September 2012, advised the GIC (Singapore), which owns 11.2% of Heathrow. The Teddington Action Group say Davies’ links with Prudential undermines the impartiality and credibility of the Commission’s recommendations.
Independence of Airports Commission questioned over chair’s Prudential role
Howard Davies sat on board of insurer, which spent £300m on properties around Heathrow as commission prepared to deliver report
By Harry Davies (Guardian)
Campaigners against the expansion of Heathrow have questioned the independence of the Airports Commission after it emerged that its chairman is a board member of an insurance group which invested in property nearby months before the commission recommended construction of a third runway.
While chairing the commission, Sir Howard Davies sat on the board of Prudential, which embarked on a £300m spending spree on properties around the airport in west London just as the commission prepared to deliver its long-awaited report in July.
The commission’s final report, which concluded expansion at Heathrow is the “clear and unanimous” choice and urged the government to act quickly, has reignited a fierce battle between rival airports, environmentalists and senior politicians.
FTSE-listed Prudential has a multimillion-pound portfolio of Heathrow investments through its M&G asset management business, which includes its 2013 purchase of the Hilton hotel at Terminal 5 for £21m and an earlier investment with planning permission for a large hotel close to where the proposed third runway would be built.
In the two months before the Davies commission delivered its final report, Prudential’s property business made further investments in £300m of commercial property around the airport, including cargo depots and a business park a short distance from Terminal 4.
Sir Howard Davies says Prudential’s risk committee ‘has no involvement in investment decisions made by M&G funds on behalf of clients’ and denies seeing ‘any details’ of holdings by the funds.
Davies chairs Prudential’s risk committee which reviews and approves group investment policies as well as advising the board on risks in the company’s “strategic transactions and business plans”.
Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond Park and London mayor contender, said Davies should never have been made chairman of the commission. “News that [Davies] has also been earning hundreds of thousands of pounds from a company that has been investing heavily in Heathrow property surely puts an even greater question mark over the validity of the commission’s work,” said Goldsmith.
Teddington Action Group http://www.teddingtonactiongroup.com/ has raised concerns about Davies and potential conflicts of interest. The spokeswoman for the local residents’ campaign group claimed the links between him and Prudential undermined the impartiality and credibility of the commission’s recommendations.
“It is outrageous that somebody who is meant to be independently advising on whether there is a need for increased airport capacity has ties with a company involved in Heathrow,” she said.
A spokesman for the commission defended the review, saying: “The Airports Commission is content that its process has been robust and that it has acted impartially throughout.”
Davies told the Guardian that the committee had “no involvement in investment decisions made by M&G funds on behalf of clients” and denied seeing “any details” of holdings by the funds.
A spokesman for Prudential said its board members have “no role in individual investment decisions”.
Davies – who becomes chairman of 73% taxpayer-owned RBS in September – http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/26/sir-howard-davies-returns-financial-roots-rbs-city – did not declare his financial interests in Prudential in the commission’s register of interests, including shares and more than £370,000 in fees received while chairing the body.
The commission required Davies to declare financial interests in companies “dealt with” by the commission. In a document published in June, he declared smaller shareholdings in British Airways parent company IAG and aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce, which he had sold off in 2013.
Davies said his position at Prudential was in the public domain and published on the Airport Commission’s website along with roles he held at Morgan Stanley and a New York-based hedge fund.
In August 2015, CoStar News revealed that M&G Real Estate had completed its deal to buy Bedfont Lakes Office Park from Aberdeen Asset Management for £167m, representing a net initial yield of 5.44%.
The transaction was made on behalf of the M&G Property Portfolio.
The 374,661 sq ft office scheme is located less than one mile from Heathrow Airport and 15 miles west of central London.
London, 5th July 2016
M&G Investments (M&G) announces a temporary suspension of trading in the shares of the M&G Property Portfolio and its feeder fund. Investor redemptions in the Fund have risen markedly because of the high levels of uncertainty in the UK commercial property market since the outcome of the European Union referendum. Redemptions have now reached a point where M&G believes it can best protect the interests of the funds’ shareholders by seeking a temporary suspension in trading.
…. and it continues
M&G Investments is a direct subsidiary of Prudential plc, a company incorporated in the United Kingdom. Prudential plc and its affiliated companies constitute one of the world’s leading financial services groups.
All details on the Teddington Action Group website at
with letter from the Treasury solicitor, replying to the TAG claims here
and the letter from TAG to the Secretary of State at DfT here
Wikipedia on Conflict of interest:
More on Howard Davies’ possible conflicts of interest
Patrick McLoughlin was appointed to be Sec of State for Transport on 4th September 2012. link That was the same day that Justine left.
This Guardian article implies the Airports Commission was set up by George Osborne. 2nd Sept 2012 Link
The Airports Commission’s formation was announced by Patrick McLoughlin on 7th September when he said: “The government has asked Sir Howard Davies to chair an independent Commission ….” Link
So the planning for that must have happened at least two months earlier – ie. by early July. At that time Justine Greening would have been at the DfT. So it seems the appointment of Howard Davies was done by Osborne, and not the DfT?
Link with Singapore’s GIC
Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) own 11.2% of Heathrow Airport Holdings. Link and HAL link
“In 2009 [1.2.2009] Davies was appointed as advisor to the Investment Strategy Committee of the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore (GIC). Two years later he joined its International Advisory Board. Davies resigned from both positions in September 2012, on appointment to the chair of the Airports Commission.” Link
GIC said: “We welcomed our new advisers, Sir Howard Davies on 1 February 2009, and Dr Martin Leibowitz on 1 April 2009, to provide insights on global investment policy matters to our Board Investment Committee. ” Link
The sale of Gatwick airport was agreed in October 2009 and completed in December 2009. Link
Howard Davies joined the GIC ( Investment Strategy Committee of the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore ) in 2009 (month not specified but it must have been by December).
Airports Commission website
At the start of the Airports Commission, they introduced the members etc on 2nd November 2012. Link
That gives a short list of the activities of the other commissioners. Not Howard Davies himself.
There are no other documents from the Airports Commission, on its website, other than its (operating protocol – nothing on Howard Davies in that) at its start. See Link for links to its earliest documents.
The only document showing any shares or interests of Howard Davies,in relation to the Airports Commission was dated 29.6.2015. This was disclosing the IAG shares and the Rolls Royce shares, in response to the challenge by the Teddington Action Group. Link
It is possible there are documents held by the DfT etc, on earlier conflicts of interest – on the setting up of the Airports Commission. That would appear unlikely, as they did not pick up on the much publicised conflict of interest that emerged about Geoff Muirhead. Link
Links between Davies and companies that will benefit from an expanded Heathrow
Today we are publishing information which uncovers previously undisclosed relationships between the Airports Commission chair Sir Howard Davies, and companies that stand to gain from an expanded Heathrow:GIC Private Ltd and Prudential Assurance.
The Singapore based company GIC Private Ltd (formerly known as Government of Singapore Investment Corporation) first acquired joint control of BAA plc, owner of Heathrow, in April 2006 by buying a 10% stake. It was reported in 2014 that GIC owned 11.2% of the shares in Heathrow Airport Holdings.
In letters to TAG, a Treasury solicitor has acknowledged that Sir Howard was an advisor to GIC, (Davies’ role included advising them on “new growth opportunities”) but claimed he relinquished this role when taking up the appointment of chairman of the Airports Commission in 2012.
The Commission’s lawyers confirmed to TAG that Sir Howard has been a non-executive director of Prudential Assurance since 2010. It has been reported that Prudential, through its investment subsidiary M&G Real Estates, acquired hotels around Heathrow (Hilton and Shiva Hotels) in 2013.
M&G are reported to have applied for, and been granted, planning consent for the re-development of the Heathrow Summit Centre. In June 2015, it was reported to have restructured its interests to take full ownership of Heathrow Corporate Park.
Sir Howard is waiting to take up the chairmanship of the Royal Bank of Scotland. RBS is the lead banker for companies that own Gatwick and Heathrow. The Airports Commission’s first task was to discern whether the south-east needed more airport capacity.
Lawyers for the Commission denied grounds for presumed or apparent bias but admitted Sir Howard’s interest in RBS had not appeared as a Declared Interest on the Airports Commission’s website. Sir Howard also failed to declare his links to GIC Private Ltd and Prudential Assurance.
A spokesperson for TAG said: “The Commission’s work has been held up by the Government as a truly independent review of the country’s future aviation strategy. For communities living in the shadow of Heathrow who face even more noise and toxic pollution if Heathrow expands, the revelations that the Chair of the Commission has links to a number of companies who stand to gain from an expanded Heathrow is astonishing. £20million of taxpayer’s money has been spent on the Commission and we now demand answers: what information did Sir Howard declare prior to his appointment and how much did the Government know when they appointed him?”
12 June 2015 – TAG give notice of their intention to seek a Judicial Review of the Commission’s work in respect of the following:
1. that potential conflicts of interest had arisen due to Sir Howard’s accepting the Chairmanship of the Royal Bank of Scotland (the banker for companies which own Gatwick and Heathrow airports).
2. that the Commission’s May 2015 consultation on air quality was rushed and insufficiently publicised, so they had not had a fair chance to respond.
22 June 2015 – RBS announces a delay to Sir Howard taking up his new post as Chair of the Bank until after he had completed his work with the Airports Commission.
1 July 2015 – The Airports Commission publishes its final report recommending a new third runway be built at Heathrow Airport.
2 July 2015 – The Airports Commission’s solicitor responds to TAG’s pre-action letter of claim:
• Denying that Sir Howard had a legal interest in RBS while Chair of the Commission stating “No resolutions have yet been passed to put him on the board of RBS or make him chairman. He therefore has no formal employment or other contractual relationship with RBS during his tenure as Chair of the Commission“.
• In responding to TAG’s assertion that Sir Howard’s interest in RBS had not appeared as a Declared Interest on the Airports Commission’s website, the Commission’s lawyers admitted that this was an oversight which had been rectified. Then, in seeming contradiction to its suggestions that Sir Howard had no legal interest in RBS, states “The fact of his future role was widely reported in the press at the time and has thus been in the public domain since then“.
• Furthermore, in seeking to demonstrate that a conflict of interest was not possible, the Airports Commission’s solicitor writes: “A protocol was put in place to ensure that RBS did not share any information relating to its aviation work with Sir Howard at any time during his tenure as Chairman of the Commission“.
10 July 2015 – TAG writes further letter to Airports Commission stating that Sir Howard’s involvement with GIC Limited and Prudential Assurance gives rise to allegations of apparent bias as a fair-minded observer would conclude that there was a real possibility that Sir Howard has been biased. TAG’s letter also highlights that Sir Howard’s Declared Interests makes no mention of his involvement with the two companies – despite this being revised by the Commission in March and then again in June 2015 to include his new post at RBS.
27 July 2015 – Response from Treasury Solicitor which:
• Confirms Sir Howard joined GIC in 2009 and was appointed to its International advisory board in 2011 but claims he resigned in 2012 upon being appointed chairman of the Airports Commission.
• Admits that Sir Howard is a director of Prudential and that M&G is a subsidiary of Prudential. It is admitted that Sir Howard owns shares in Prudential although it is denied that Sir Howard has any remuneration directly from M&G’s investments.
• The Solicitor does not respond to the point that these positions were not listed in Sir Howard’s Declared Interests on the Commission’s website, but instead states that they were in the public domain – via Wikipedia.
The attached letters between TAG, the Department for Transport and the Airports Commission revolve around pre-judicial review action TAG launched on 12 June, questioning Sir Howard’s acceptance of the Chairmanship of the Royal Bank of Scotland, RBS.
Document 1 – 12 June 2015 TAG pre-action protocol letter to Airports Commission and Department for Transport
Document 2 – 2 July 2015 Treasury solicitor’s response to pre-action protocol letter on behalf of the Commission.
Document 3 – 10 July 2015 TAG follow-up letter to Airports Commission
Document 4 – 27 July 2015 Treasury solicitor’s response to TAG’s letter of 10 July 2015
150331-Register-of-Interests-Form-Howard-Davies.pdf (March 2015)
150629-Register-of-Interests-Form-Howard-Davies.pdf (June 2015)
GIC announces changes to its Board
01 Nov 2012
[It contains no mention that Howard Davies is meant to have stepped down in September 2012].
GIC today announced that Dr Richard Hu Tsu Tau will retire from the GIC Board with effect from 30 November 2012.
Dr Hu’s association with GIC started when he was appointed a director of the GIC Board in 1981. He was then Chairman and Chief Executive of Shell Group of companies and his appointment to the GIC Board, the first from the private sector, paved the way for other such appointments.
He also succeeded the first GIC Managing Director, Mr Yong Pung How, in 1983. In December 1984, Dr Hu stepped down as Managing Director and in 1985, he was appointed Minister for Finance. He held this cabinet position till 2001. In addition to being on the GIC Board, Dr Hu was also the founding Chairman of GIC Real Estate, the real estate arm of GIC, from 1999 when it was corporatised as a separate entity. Over the 10 years till 2009, under Dr Hu’s stewardship, the real estate group developed from a department investing mainly in US office properties to one of the most globally diversified real estate investors in the world.
Attached is a copy of the letter of appreciation from Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Chairman of GIC, to Dr Hu on his retirement from the Board.
Mr Lim Siong Guan, Group President, GIC, said, “On behalf of GIC, I would like to thank Dr Richard Hu for his invaluable contributions to GIC over the last 31 years as a Board director. GIC has benefitted tremendously from his keen insights, his steady hand and his ready help which has enabled GIC to hone its investment skills, as well as to develop its perspectives and leadership. ”
GIC also announced three new board appointments:
a) Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, with effect from 1 November 2012.
Mr Hsieh is currently an adviser to PrimePartners Group and a Director of United Overseas Bank Limited.
b) Mr Loh Boon Chye, with effect from 1 November 2012.
Mr Loh will assume the appointment of Deputy President Asia Pacific at Bank of America Merrill Lynch on 1 December 2012.
c) Mr Gautam Banerjee, with effect from 1 January 2013.
Mr Banerjee is Executive Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Singapore until his retirement on 31 December 2012.
Attached are short biographies on Messrs Hsieh, Loh and Banerjee.
Mr Lim added, “We are pleased to welcome Mr Hsieh, Mr Loh and Mr Banerjee to the GIC Board. They add to the private sector leadership and investment experience among Board directors, and GIC looks forward to tapping their experience and networks of contacts.”