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December 4, 2009

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Dnata buys Heathrow lossmaker

A COMPANY owned by the Dubai government is buying the loss-making cargo and ground services operations at London's Heathrow airport - just a week after the emirate's main investment group sparked a global market sell-off with news of its debt problems.

Britain's Go-Ahead Group Plc said yesterday it was selling most of the Heathrow and Manchester services to Dnata, a travel services provider owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai, for 15 million pounds (US$25 million).

The corporation, which owns the Emirates airline and major aluminum and infrastructure industries, is the second of two state-owned companies alongside Dubai World - the company that kicked off last week's stock market slump when it announced it was seeking to delay repaying some of its US$60 billion in debt.

Analysts have suggested that the corporation is emerging from the emirate's crisis as the holder of good assets.

Dnata already provides ground handling services at 17 airports in Dubai, Singapore, Switzerland, Philippines, Australia, Pakistan and China.

Go-Ahead also said its ground services operations at another 11 British airports, including London's Luton and Gatwick and Scotland's Edinburgh and Glasgow, will be sold to France's Servisair. Both deals are expected to close at the end of January 2010.

The British company, which also runs profitable bus and commuter train franchises in the capital, is selling off the airports businesses in a bid to boost its books. It is retaining just a small number of activities at Heathrow, primarily to support remaining ground handling contracts at Terminal 1.


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