US fund circles owner of Newcastle, Leeds-Bradford and Luton airports

Australian fund AMP Capital owns Leeds-Bradford and 49pc stakes in Luton and Newcastle

A Los Angeles private equity fund is closing in on the owner of Newcastle, Leeds-Bradford and Luton airports despite the coronavirus wreaking havoc on the aviation industry.

Ares Management, which has £175bn in investments, has made a preliminary approach for Australian financial services firm AMP in a deal worth £3.5bn.

Its AMP Capital subsidiary also owns Angel Trains, Britain's biggest rail leasing company.

The Ares approach values AMP at $1.85 a share. The stock closed on Tuesday at $1.66 in Sydney, valuing the company at A$5.7bn (£3.1bn).

AMP, whose history can be traced back more than 170 years, effectively put itself on the market earlier this year following a sexual harassment scandal.

The company said it has “received significant interest” for its businesses. 

Chairman David Murray stepped down over the handling of the allegations against a senior executive Boe Pahari.   

Deborah Hazelton replaced Mr Murray following “feedback expressed by some major shareholders”.

AMP Capital bought Leeds-Bradford airport in 2017 for £220m from Bridgepoint, the private equity house behind Burger King UK and Ireland and online cycling retailer Wiggle.

It owns Newcastle alongside seven local councils and has a 49pc shareholding in Luton Airport. Spanish airport operator Aena owns 51pc of the Bedfordshire base.

UK airports have had to lay off thousands of staff after the coronavirus pandemic brought air travel to a near-standstill earlier this year. Experts project it will be many years before demand returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Industry leaders have criticised the Government over its slow progress implementing a testing regime that many think is vital to the sector’s recovery.

Heathrow, which recently lost its crown as Europe’s busiest airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle, has launched legal action against the Treasury over a decision to ban VAT-free shopping.