July 19, 2016 / 11:28 AM / 4 years ago

Heathrow Airport investors say ready to fund new runway

LONDON (Reuters) - Shareholders in London’s Heathrow Airport are ready to invest 16 billion pounds if the government chooses it as the site for airport expansion, one of the investors said in a letter to new Prime Minister Theresa May.

An aircraft lands at Heathrow Airport near London, Britain, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, has been campaigning for years to build an extra runway but a decision has been delayed by successive governments worried about pollution and local opposition. Other airports say they should expand instead.

Appointed last week, Transport Minister Chris Grayling said in a BBC radio interview on Sunday he wanted to “move rapidly” with making a decision about where to build a new runway, and would be looking at the matter in the coming weeks.

Britain-based Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which owns a 10 percent stake in Heathrow, said in a letter to May on Tuesday that the airport’s shareholders were prepared to put up the money to pay for a new runway - the first time the investors have publicly confirmed their readiness to fund it.

“Alongside our investment partners from Canada, China, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, and the USA, we stand ready to invest 16 billion pounds of private money into expanding Heathrow,” USS CEO Bill Galvin said in the letter.

USS owns Heathrow alongside Spanish infrastructure company Ferrovial, which has 25 percent, Qatar Holding with 20 percent, plus other investors Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, Alinda Capital Partners and China Investment Corporation.

Some media reported the government’s decision over whether to expand Heathrow or London rival Gatwick, Britain’s No. 2 airport, could come as soon as September.

Grayling on Sunday declined to comment on which option he preferred. May has in the past raised concerns about expanding Heathrow.

Heathrow puts the cost of building a new runway at 16 billion pounds, slightly lower than the 18 billion pounds estimated by the government-appointed Airports Commission, which recommended expanding Heathrow.

A different Heathrow expansion option to extend an existing runway is forecast to cost 14 billion pounds, while a second runway for Gatwick would cost an estimated 7 billion.

Gatwick’s Chairman Roy McNulty wrote to May on July 13 to tell her its shareholders, led by Global Infrastructure Partners and also including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the California Public Employees Retirement System amongst others, were committed to financing its expansion project.

Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Mark Potter

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