NetJets Europe buying airport near Frankfurt

 - February 27, 2009, 5:11 AM

NetJets Europe has agreed to acquire Egelsbach Airport near Frankfurt, Germany’s financial center, for an undisclosed sum. The deal–subject to final approval by the local municipal authorities who own the airport company Hessische Flugplatz GmbH Egelsbach (HFG)–is expected to be completed this month.

The airport, which has a 4,593-foot main runway, is located 16 miles from downtown Frankfurt and will continue to be available to other business aircraft operators. In 2007, the 77,000 movements that it logged made it the busiest business aviation airport in Germany, and the new owner has agreed to honor the existing annual movements limit of 100,000.

NetJets will be investing in IFR equipment as the airport is currently approved only for VFR operations. However, it will not seek to remove the airport’s existing ban on night operations (after 7 or 8 p.m., depending on the season).

The fractional ownership provider has said that its main goal is to ensure convenient access to the Frankfurt Rhein Main region since Frankfurt’s busy international hub airport is almost completely dominated by scheduled airline traffic. The terms of the acquisition also specifically exclude the possibility of allowing airline operations at Egelsbach. The airport will continue to be operated by HFG, which will be directly owned by NetJets.

“We are in a unique position to invest in airfield improvements without needing to increase flight movement capacity,” said NetJets Europe CEO William Kelly. “Unlike most airport operators, the NetJets business model is not dependent on increasing traffic numbers. The proposed acquisition demonstrates our willingness to invest for the benefit of our fractional owners while providing a service for other business aviation customers seeking to do business in the Frankfurt Rhein Main region.”

The decision over the future ownership of the German airport should clear the way for almost $130 million in previously announced commercial developments around the site, according to NetJets. The company has given no indication that it intends to acquire other airports.

Flights to and from Germany now account for about 12 percent of all NetJets Europe traffic. The company has just over 100 German customers and about 20 of these are companies listed on Frankfurt’s DAX stock exchange.

About 10 percent of NetJets Europe’s 1,100 pilots and cabin crew live in one of the seven German cities (Frankfurt, Berlin, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart) that form part of the company’s network of 44 gateway cities around Europe. The operator also makes extensive use of German maintenance, repair and overhaul services to support its fleet, including Jet Aviation’s facilities in Dusseldorf, Kassel, Saarbrucken and Hannover, Beechcraft in Augsburg and Nayak in Cologne.