Malaysia Airports said to plan exercising rights on Sabiha

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(Updates with Malaysia Airports comment in fourth paragraph.)

(Oct 20): Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd. plans to buy an additional 40 percent stake in Istanbul’s second-biggest airport to gain full control, people familiar with matter said.

Malaysia Airports, which owns 60 percent of Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport, plans to exercise its pre-emptive rights to buy the remainder from units of Turkish builder Limak Holding AS, said the people. The company has until tomorrow to exercise the right to match TAV Havalimanlari Holding AS’s offer of as much as 285 million euros ($364 million), they said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private.

Sabiha Gokcen, located on the Asian side of Turkey’s biggest city, is drawing investors with the fastest passenger growth in Europe. A bid from Malaysia Airports would put an end to plans by TAV Havalimanlari, owner of Istanbul’s larger Ataturk airport, to buy the stake in a deal reached last month.

“The board is considering all options and will decide on the matter by the end of the month,” Nik Anis Nik Zakaria, general manager of corporate communications at Malaysia Airports, said in an e-mailed statement. “We have not arrived at any conclusion as this point.”

Shares of Malaysia Airports rose as much as 0.9 percent in Kuala Lumpur and closed 0.1 percent higher. TAV Havalimanlari gained 1.2 percent at the midday break in Istanbul.

Malaysia Airports, operator of airfields in the Southeast Asian country, had agreed in December to raise its stake in Sabiha Gokcen to 60 percent, paying 225 million euros to buy out Indian partner GMR Infrastructure Ltd.

Traffic at Sabiha Gokcen is expected to increase to 24 million travelers this year from almost 19 million in 2013, Chief Executive Officer Gokhan Bugday said in a July interview.

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