Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan is getting a new partner in its investment in a growing European airport that is in the midst of an expansion.
Part of Denmark's Copenhagen Airports is trading hands as an infrastructure division of Macquarie sells a 27.7-per-cent stake to the country's state pension plan known as ATP Group, for 9.77 billion Danish Krone ($1.9-billion). Combined with the 30-per-cent stake Teachers owns, this will give pension funds control over 57.7 per cent of the flight hub. The Danish government will continue to own a nearly 40-per-cent stake.
The deal showcases the value of relationships among the world's top private market investors. Macquarie had been looking sell off its holding in the airport for several months and was required to first offer the stake to Teachers, because of a privilege called pre-emptive rights. Teachers, which also owns portions of a variety of other airports around Europe, did not want to enlarge its already sizable investment. But the Toronto-based pension fund was able to act as a matchmaker between ATP and Macquarie to secure a like-minded partner that is well-known and respected in its home Danish market. This could be an advantage as the airport continues an extensive capital investment and renovation plan amid rigorous regulatory oversight.
In infrastructure investing, being aligned with a partner that has similar aspirations, expectations and growth targets for the asset is desirable. Copenhagen is currently seeking to boost its status as a European hub airport, with the aim to increase the number of flights as well as domestic and international passengers moving through the terminal each year. It plans to boost capacity to 40 million passengers annually from 29 million, and at the same time lower some fees.
"The airport in Copenhagen is key infrastructure in Denmark and we are proud to be one of its stewards going forward," Christian Hyldahl, CEO of ATP Group, said in a statement. "We are keen to work together with all stakeholders to further develop the airport and contribute to its long-term continuation as a critical transportation hub in northern Europe to the benefit of both Danish society as well as the members in ATP."
Deals for infrastructure around the world are increasingly competitive and the utility assets where cash-flow streams are contracted and regulated are among the most appealing to investors. For pension funds looking for a proxy to fixed-income investments in a low-interest-rate environment, these holdings have a lot of appeal. Airports are a little different because they are high profile, relatively scarce and offer the potential for growth not only by increased global travel but also through the development of retail offerings and other services such as parking and on-site hotels.
Teachers and Macquarie have a long history working together on airport deals. Teachers' bought into Copenhagen's airport in 2011 when it agreed to trade stakes with a division of Macquarie. Teachers gave over its 11-per-cent holding in Sydney, Australia's airport and paid nearly $800-million (Australian) ($780-million) in exchange for stakes in Brussels and Copenhagen airports.
Since then, Teachers has had an active airport investment strategy, building up a dedicated aviation subsidiary called Ontario Airports Investments Ltd. to oversee its portfolio, as well as source other acquisition opportunities. It now owns parts of London City, Bristol and Birmingham airports, as well as Brussels and Copenhagen.