British ministers back new Heathrow runway, lawmakers vote to follow

A plane approaches for landing at Heathrow Airport in London. The British Cabinet approved the construction of a third runway at Heathrow, and to put the long-running issue up for a parliamentary vote. (AP Photo)
Updated 05 June 2018

British ministers back new Heathrow runway, lawmakers vote to follow

  • Plans to expand the airport have faced opposition from local communities and environmentalists but the current £14 billion expansion plan is making progress.
  • It will be the first full-length runway to be built in the London area in 70 years.

LONDON: British ministers backed plans for a new runway at London’s Heathrow airport on Tuesday, paving the way for a parliamentary vote on the plan after decades of delays, although the project could still face challenges before building starts.
Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport but it is now full. In the past, plans to expand the airport have faced opposition from local communities and environmentalists but the current £14 billion ($18.5 billion) expansion plan is making progress.
The cabinet gave its blessing to the new runway plan on Tuesday, said transport minister Chris Grayling, paving the way for lawmakers to vote on the issue within 21 days.
The decision comes after almost half a century of indecision on how and where to add new airport capacity in densely populated southeast England and will be the first full-length runway to be built in the London area in 70 years.
“Expansion at Heathrow presents a unique opportunity to deliver a multi-billion pound boost to our economy, strengthen our global links and maintain our position as a world leader in aviation,” Grayling told parliament.
In an attempt to satisfy opponents of the scheme, he said that the new runway would be delivered within existing air quality obligations, and include a 6.5-hour scheduled night flight ban, plus compensation for local residents and a new commission to monitor aviation noise.
An independent commission recommended Heathrow as the site for a new runway in 2015, saying that adding capacity there would bring the country the greatest economic benefits and government has based its policy on these findings.
Business leaders and politicians have argued that a bigger Heathrow is even more important since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016, as the expanded airport will enhance trade links and provide a boost to economic growth.
Heathrow last came this close to expansion in 2010 but a change in government stopped it proceeding, and the current plan could still face legal challenges.
Polling by ComRes last month showed most lawmakers intend to vote in favor of the third runway, which will help the UK catch up with European rivals. Paris and Frankfurt have four runways while Amsterdam has six.
Heathrow, owned by Ferrovial, Qatar Investment Authority and China Investment Corporation among others, will then have to secure planning permission, with construction slated to start in 2021 and the new runway operational by 2026.
A group of local councils and environmental group Greenpeace could however try to mount a legal challenge.


STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

Updated 13 July 2020

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

  • Kingdom’s largest telecom company says it will need an additional two months to complete the deal

CAIRO: The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom’s largest telecom company, said that it will need an additional two months to complete a deal to purchase a 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In January, STC was in agreement to buy the stake for $2.4 billion. In April, it extended the process for 90 days due to logistical challenges stemming from the spread of COVD-19. The company said in a statement that it would extend the period again to September for the same reason.

The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority stake in STC. The ownership of Vodafone Egypt is divided between 55 percent for Vodafone International, which is the target percentage of the Saudi purchase offer, 44.8 percent for Telecom Egypt, and the remaining 0.2 percent for small shareholders.

Telecom Egypt is awaiting the results of Vodafone’s evaluation of the final share price to announce its position on the deal. A Telecom Egypt official stated that the company is still awaiting STC’s position regarding the purchase of the share. If the deal is not completed, it may be presented with its rights to acquire Vodafone’s share, which would allow it to take over 99.8 percent of the company’s shares, leaving 0.2 percent for small investors.

Ashraf El-Wardany, an Egyptian communications expert, pointed out the importance of waiting until the procedures between STC and the Vodafone Group are complete. The results will determine the next steps by Telecom Egypt.

El-Wardany said that the Saudi operator must, after completing the relevant studies, submit a final binding offer at the share price and any conditions for purchase. If approved by Vodafone, it must submit the offer with the same conditions and price to Telecom Egypt, provided that the latter responds within a maximum period of 45 days to determine its position regarding the use of the right of pre-emption and the purchase, or lack thereof, of Vodafone’s share.

According to El-Wardany, there are other possible scenarios. Vodafone International may not be convinced of the offer or the conditions presented by the Saudi side and the sale may be withdrawn, or the Vodafone group may be ready to sell and has prepared another buyer for its stake in Egypt in the event of rejecting the Saudi offer. It may also it back away from the deal and continue to operate in Egypt for a few more years.

El-Wardany said that if Telecom Egypt decides not to use the right of pre-emption to acquire the remaining Vodafone shares for any reason, it will continue with its 44.8 percent stake.
It may also resort to selling all of its shares or part of it to the Saudi side or to any company that wants to acquire its stake.

“This raises the question of whether STC can acquire all of Vodafone’s shares,” El-Wardany said, adding that the coming months “will make the answer clear.”