A French firm has announced the purchase of Belfast International as part of a wider deal that will see eight further airports around the world acquired.
Vinci, an infrastructure firm which already owns 33 airports, announced it is purchasing Belfast International yesterday.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the firm said the acquisitions “strengthens” its presence in Europe.
It already operates 12 airports in France and 10 in Portugal.
The Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken, whose constituency of South Antrim is home to the airport, welcomed the news.
“The sale of Belfast International Airport to a major worldwide airport operator, Vinci, is to be welcomed as it opens the way for further investment in the facility,” he said.
“Belfast International has enjoyed impressive passenger growth over the past three years.
“This year, it is expected to exceed six million passengers for the first time ever. Hundreds of new jobs and significant investment in on-site facilities have taken place, and my hope is that that level of activity will be maintained.”
He continued: “Vinci is buying into a winner. It is now time to abolish Air Passenger Duty (APD) and build a dual carriageway to the airport and help ensure that under its focused and committed senior management team, the airport continues to break new ground and expand.
“In fact, the team is currently attending Routes Europe 2018 in Bilbao seeking to convince airlines, offering new international destinations, to consider Belfast International Airport as a base.”
Mr Aiken added: “Belfast International Airport is of vital importance to the Northern Ireland economy and I am confident that it will continue to play a full and active role in developing our international links and inbound tourism offering in the years to come.”
The company said in a statement: “VINCI Airports, a VINCI Concessions subsidiary, is acquiring nine new airports (two freehold property, three concession, four management contracts) and three partial management contracts in American airports following acquisition of the airport portfolio held by Airports Worldwide.
“The operation boosts VINCI Airports’ global network, which now includes 45 airports in 11 countries and on three continents. It also increases the number of passengers welcomed in its airports by 25.6 million to more than 182 million per year.”
The statement continued: “VINCI Airports is acquiring a 100% stake in Belfast International Airport in Northern Ireland, which welcomed 5.8 million passengers in 2017.”
The airport has been owned by OMERS since 2013, via its shareholding in the US company Airports Worldwide.
In a statement yesterday, OMERS confirmed it has “entered into a definitive agreement to sell its interests in Airports Worldwide to Vinci Airports”.