Saudi Arabia snaps up 10% of Heathrow as it steps up its investment in the UK

Saudi Arabia is taking a 10 per cent stake in Heathrow as it steps up its investment in the UK.

Its sovereign wealth fund, whose vast array of assets includes Newcastle United FC, has agreed to pay Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial £1billion for the shares.

Ferrovial said it was offloading its 25 per cent holding in Heathrow, 17 years after first buying into the west London hub.

Flight of fancy: The Saudi sovereign wealth fund, whose assets include Newcastle United FC, will pay Spanish giant Ferrovial £1bn for its 10% stake in Heathrow

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is taking 10 per cent, while French private equity group Ardian is buying the other 15 per cent stake.

Although the sale will need to pass regulatory hurdles, it marks the latest push by PIF into Britain.

PIF has recently invested in Newcastle United and luxury car maker Aston Martin. It is estimated to have more than £550billion in assets.

But the fund, which is controlled by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has faced backlash over its government’s human rights record.

Canada, Singapore, Australia, Qatar and China are also investors in Heathrow.

Ferrovial bought a stake of almost 56 per cent in the airport in 2006 but by 2013 this had been whittled down to 25 per cent.

Following a rocky ride during the pandemic, Heathrow has largely bounced back. 

It flew 59.4m passengers in the first nine months of 2023, up 34.4 per cent from 2022. In September passengers topped pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

But Ferrovial this year warned that regulatory changes to lower landing charges – the fees paid by airlines to use airports – would hit its portfolio.

It still has a 50 per cent stake in airports in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton, and 49 per cent of Terminal One at New York’s JFK airport.