China sovereign fund takes 10 percent of Heathrow

MADRID Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:38pm EDT

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MADRID (Reuters) - An arm of China's sovereign wealth fund has taken a 10 percent stake in the holding company controlling Britain's largest airport Heathrow, Spanish infrastructure company Ferrovial (FER.MC) said on Wednesday.

Ferrovial sold 5.72 percent of Heathrow holding company FGP Topco to China's Stable Investment Corporation for 319.3 million euros ($414 million), it said in a statement.

Other shareholders of FGP Topco sold 4.28 percent to Stable, making the Chinese fund an indirect holder of 10 percent of Heathrow Ltd, formerly known as BAA, the Spanish company said.

Following the deal Ferrovial holds a 44.3 percent indirect stake in Heathrow Ltd.

But that will drop to 33.65 percent once European competition officials approve Qatar holding's purchase of 10.62 percent of FGP Topco, Ferrovial's statement said.

The Spanish infrastructure company may use the proceeds from its part of the sale for investments or dividends, its chief executive officer said.

"It gives us extra liquidity which we will study if we invest in infrastructure, services... without ruling out other alternatives such as a possible increase in shareholder dividends," Chief Executive Officer Inigo Meiras said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

The Spanish company planned to remain a major investor in Heathrow, he said.

"We don't have in mind any other divestment. Our objective is to remain as a major shareholder and industrial partner (in Heathrow)," Meiras said.

As Spain's economy slumps and the government slashes infrastructure spending, Ferrovial's income is increasingly dependent on operations in Britain.

The executive said that Ferrovial plans to complete its sale of Britain's Stansted airport in the first half of next year, saying there is interest from several parties.

On Monday New Zealand investment manager Morrison & Co entered the race for Stansted. Other bidders include Manchester Airports Group in partnership with Australia's Industry Funds Management (IFM), Macquarie's infrastructure fund and private-equity firm TPG, according to people familiar with the situation.

(Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Paul Day and Jason Webb)

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