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BAA has sold World Duty Free Europe (WDF) to Italian company Autogrill for ”546.6m ($1,102m).
The deal gives Autogrill a 12-year concession agreement for the operation of the stores at BAA”s seven UK airports, subject to regulatory approval.
The airports operator said last week ” when it announced a new CEO will take over from April ” that it was looking for a buyer for its chain of 58 duty free shops as part of efforts to raise cash to help pay off huge debts.
”BAA is selling WDF as part of its ongoing non-core asset disposal programme,” the company said in a statement. ”Proceeds of the sale will be used to repay debt.”
And a spokesman told ABTN: ”The significant thing is that ”546m is at the high end of expectation as to how much we”d get for WDF, so we”re pleased.”
It is well documented that BAA is also looking to sell parts of the Airport Property Partnership, which includes various commercial properties at its airports, but whether it will be enough to prevent the need to offload core assets is not known - BAA”s Spanish owner Ferrovial is trying to refinance ”9bn of debt which it took on to buy the operator in 2007, and on which it has an annual interest bill of around ”800m. Last week a spokesman for the Spanish group said it could legally sell one of the BAA airports, but that this option was ”not on the agenda now.”
Another major factor will be tomorrow”s (11 March) Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) price review for Heathrow and Gatwick ” BAA”s biggest earners in terms of income from landing fees ” and if revenue streams are cut at such important hubs, Ferrovial may yet have to raise further funds.
Autogrill - owned by the Benetton family ” acquired catering operator Alpha Airports last year and today bought the remaining 49.95% of Spanish company Aldeasa, which also operates airport shops.
This has made the group the world”s leading provider of food, beverage and retail services for travellers, it says, with the value of today”s two transactions at ”1,070m.
”The integration of Aldeasa, WDF and Alpha Group will enable the Autogrill Group to achieve synergies of about ”40m a year by 2011,” said a company statement.