Paul Hastings, Weil called in for sale of majority stake in Edinburgh Airport

Paul Hastings acts for buyer Vinci in £1.27bn deal as Weil counsels seller Global Infrastructure Partners

Paul Hastings is advising French construction and concessions giant Vinci on its £1.27bn acquisition of a majority stake in Edinburgh Airport from Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), which is being repped on the matter by Weil.  

The deal will see Vinci take a 50.01% stake in Edinburgh Airport Limited, the company that owns the airport, with GIP to manage the remaining stake.  

The Paul Hastings team advising Vinci was led by London energy and infrastructure M&A partners Jessamy Gallagher and Candice Lambeth, along with associates Jo Lee and Emily Madden. The team also included corporate partners Stuart Rowson and Ally McKechnie, and associate Hattie Jones. Antitrust and NS&I advice was provided by partner Jade-Alexandra Fearns, while ESG advice was provided by partner Ruth Knox.

Travers Smith has advised management on the sale of the stake in the airport, with the team led by corporate and infrastructure M&A partner Jonathan Walters, supported by associate Gareth Atkins.

Scottish law firm Brodies is advising Vinci on Scottish law matters, with the team led by M&A partner William McIntosh.  

Meantime, the Weil team acting for GIP was led by London M&A partners Murray Cox and Brendan Moylan, assisted by Jamie Macdonagh and David McKendrick; antitrust and regulatory advice was provided by Niklas Maydell and Jakob Dewispelaere; tax advice provided by Jenny Doak, Oli Walker and incentives advice by Kevin Donegan; and employment advice provided by Mark Taylor.

Edinburgh Airport is the sixth busiest in the UK and reported a total revenue of £272m and an EBITDA margin of 65% in 2023, Vinci said. As part of the agreement, GIP and Vinci will jointly lead investment in Edinburgh Airport and establish a long-term partnership for its future development.

Airport assets in the UK are regaining their appeal following recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last November Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund struck a deal to buy a 10% stake in Heathrow Airport from Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial, with French PE group Ardian to buy a further 15%. The deal is currently pending as other potential buyers weigh joining in, according to Bloomberg.

Weil earlier advised GIP when it sold a majority stake in Gatwick Airport to Vinci in 2018 for £2.9bn. Slaughter and May also acted for GIP on the matter, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advising Vinci which on the tax and structuring aspects of the deal.  

Earlier in 2018 Vinci had also bought a portfolio of airports that saw it take a majority stake in Belfast International Airport in Northern Ireland, in a deal that again saw Freshfields advise Vinci alongside Orrick.  

Those transactions made the UK Vinci’s second biggest market globally, with revenue nearing €6bn in 2023. The conglomerate operates more than 70 airports globally.  

New York-headquartered GIP is the largest independent infrastructure manager by assets under management globally, with around $112bn in AUM. The business is itself in the process of being bought by BlackRock, in a $12.5bn deal expected to close in Q3 2024. Skadden and Fried Frank are acting as legal counsel to BlackRock, while GIP is being counselled by Kirkland & Ellis and Debevoise & Plimpton.  

The Edinburgh Airport transaction is expected to complete during summer 2024, following receipt of regulatory approvals.

The deal comes amid a surge in global M&A after dealmaking slumped to a 10-year low in 2023, as an improved interest rate outlook, slowing inflation and strong corporate earnings see confidence return to boardrooms.  

Global M&A volumes jumped 38% in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2023 to nearly $800bn, according to LSEG, though deals are taking longer to complete amid increased regulatory scrutiny.

Weil placed 19th in the global M&A legal advisor rankings by deal value in the opening three months of the year, working on 34 deals worth $29.7bn. The firm finished the same period in 2023 in 14th place, dropping to 20th place in the year’s rankings. Paul Hastings was not among the top 25 firms included in the rankings.   

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