RPT-UPDATE 1-Manchester Airports Group buys London's Stansted airport

Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:42pm EST

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LONDON Jan 18 (Reuters) - Manchester Airports Group (MAG) said on Friday it had agreed to buy London's Stansted airport from Heathrow Airport Holdings for 1.5 billion pounds ($2.4 billion).

As part of the transaction, Australian infrastructure investment group Industry Funds Management (IFM) will become an investor in MAG, invest new equity and take a 35.5 percent stake in the enlarged group, MAG said.

Single runway Stansted, which is predominantly a low-cost leisure and holiday travel airport, is based 50 kilometres northeast of central London and is Britain's fourth busiest airport, handling just under 18 million passengers last year.

The Stansted sale is part of a drive by Britain's competition regulator to loosen the grip of Heathrow Airport Holdings - formerly BAA - on the UK airports market.

Australia's Macquarie and Malaysia Airports Holdings had also been bidding for Stansted, sources close the matter told Reuters earlier this week.

MAG owns and operates Manchester airport in north west England, as well as two other British airports.

Spain's Ferrovial is the largest investor in Heathrow Airport Holdings with a 34 percent stake. Other investors include Qatari and Chinese funds.

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