Home Estate Planning Heathrow turns first profit since pandemic amid Middle East takeover speculation

Heathrow turns first profit since pandemic amid Middle East takeover speculation

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Heathrow Airport has turned its first profit in four years amid speculation that a consortium of Middle Eastern, state-backed investment funds could become prominent shareholders in the hub.

Europe’s largest airport reported an adjusted profit £38m last year, up from a loss of £685m in 2022. Pre-tax profits came in at £701m, up 314 per cent.

It came as passenger numbers rebounded spectacularly from pandemic-era lows, in what marked a booming year for the aviation sector.

Some 79.2m passengers passed through Heathrow in 2023, up nearly a quarter on 2022 and helping revenues reach just under £3.7bn. Heathrow said no dividends were paid in 2023 and none are currently forecast for this year, but added that it was a possibility.

“2023 was a good year for Heathrow from a challenging start to a great finish – We delivered much improved service for our customers, and managed to turn a small profit after three consecutive years of losses,” Heathrow’s chief executive Thomas Woldbye, said.

The profit milestone will come as relief for the West-London hub, which has struggled under a multi-billion debt pile and was embroiled in a regulatory dispute with major carriers over the level it can set landing charges.

Woldbye added: “That’s a great platform to build on, although  in 2024, we are expected to deliver even further improved service to more passengers, but with airport charges cut by 20 per cent in real terms.

“We will have to pull every lever to become more efficient and make tough choices on where we spend and invest our money to overcome the huge cost challenge set by the CAA and remain profitable over the next three years.”

Heathrow’s return to profit also falls amid growing speculation that the state-owned investment vessels of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar could become prominent stakeholders in the group.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the Saudi-backed asset management firm Ardian signed a £2.4bn deal for the Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial’s 25 per cent stake in the airport back in November.

Other shareholders are reportedly close to selling, which would see the oil-rich nation take majority control.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Co was also considering buying into the airport.

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