Fraport sells stake in St Petersburg airport to Qatar

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A passenger with luggage walks at Pulkovo airport outside St. Petersburg, Russia, November 7, 2015. REUTERS/Peter Kovalev

Germany’s Fraport (FRAG.DE) is selling a stake in the operator of the St Petersburg airport, which is ailing from low traveler numbers due to the weakness of the Russian rouble, to the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).

The deal, from which Fraport expects to generate a gain of 30-40 million euros ($34-$45 million), will help offset weakening revenues at hubs like Frankfurt and Antalya and allow it to confirm its 2016 earnings forecast, the group said on Sunday.

Attacks in Europe and a failed coup in Turkey have hit demand for travel, prompting easyJet (EZJ.L), Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) and IAG (ICAG.L) to warn on the impact of political upheaval and security concerns.

Fraport saw its passenger numbers at its home base Frankfurt drop 1 percent in the first six months, while it was down 30 percent at its Turkish outlet Antalya following recent suicide bombings in the country. French peer Groupe ADP (ADP.PA) reported lower revenues in the first six months.

The political crisis in Ukraine and Russia, which sparked a fall of the rouble by about half over the last two years, has severely hit passenger numbers and retail spending at the St Petersburg airport, where traffic was down 6.5 percent in the first half of the year.

“Despite the current difficulties in Russia, we continue to regard this as an attractive market,” Fraport Chief Executive Stefan Schulte said in a statement.

Fraport said it is lowering its stake in Thalita Trading, the parent company of Northern Capital Gateway, which holds the concession to operate the Pulkovo Airport in St Petersburg, to 25 from 35.5 percent.

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Consortium partner Copelouzos Group is also selling shares, taking QIA’s stake to 24.9 percent in total.

The rouble weakness had thrown the operating company of St Petersburg airport, which had financed new terminal buildings in euros and dollars, into financial difficulties, forcing Fraport to help resolve the situation.

Fraport said that it will also sell some loans provided to Thalita Trading.

($1 = 0.8944 euros)

(Reporting by Arno Schuetze; editing by Adrian Croft

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