TUI sells NATS stake to university pension plan

Tour operator TUI Travel is selling most of its stake in the airline consortium that part-owns the UK’s air traffic control service to a university pension scheme for £38m.

TUI said it had agreed to sell the majority of its interest in the Airline Group, which owns 41.9% of UK NATS Holdings (NATS), to Britain’s Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

TUI will keep a small stub shareholding in Airline Group, which it said it no longer considered to be a core part of the group.

The deal should complete in the first three months of next year and depends on European Commission approval.

NATS said it welcomed USS as shareholders and a member of the Airline Group and looked forward to working with USS representatives on the NATS Board.

“It is testament to the strength of the business that an investment in NATS matches the long-term criteria of the UK’s largest pension fund, with their long-term commitment to provide high quality pensions for the higher education sector,” it said.

USS is acquiring a 49.9% non-controlling stake in The Airline Group, which is a 41.9% shareholder in NATS, is the most significant change in ownership since the company became a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in 2001.

“Since then, our delay and safety performance have improved significantly and we have introduced innovative measures to help generate significant fuel savings for our customers, all while reducing the underlying controllable operating costs by around a third in real terms in our regulated business,” said NATS. “Our strategy has delivered service innovation to existing customers and attracted a range of new contracts, allowing NATS to strengthen its core UK business whilst expanding to operate internationally in more than 30 countries.”

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