Spanish construction and services firm Ferrovial has announced a SFr1 billion ($790 million) takeover of the Zurich-based airport handling specialist Swissport.
Ferrovial said it would pay British private equity firm Candover SFr521 million for the former SairGroup company's shares and take on debt worth SFr481 million.
Swissport is one of the world's largest airport handlers and operates in 170 airports in 40 countries. The purchase would place Ferrovial as the largest independent operator in the sector according to the Spanish firm.
Candover led the SFr610 million buyout of Swissport from the former SairGroup in February 2002.
"Swissport has been an excellent investment for the Candover 2001 Fund, generating a return of 2.6 times the original cost," said Candover director Charlie Green in a Swissport statement.
Completion of the deal, which is subject to competition and regulatory approval, is expected next month.
Ferrovial has been expanding into services that offer wider profit margins and faster growth than construction.
"This operation is another step in our company's internationalisation strategy," said Ferrovial CEO Joaquin Ayuso. "With Swissport we will be maintaining our focus on businesses with a recurring and stable earnings performance."
The Spanish company is already involved in airport management in Europe (Bristol and Belfast), Australia (Sydney) and Chile.
Swissport had revenue of SFr1.297 billion last year, 90 per cent from Europe and North America.
swissinfo with agencies
Ferrovial will purchase Swissport for just over SFr1 billion.
The Spanish group will pay SFr520 million for shares owned by Candover and take over SFr481 million in debt.
Candover bought Swissport after the collapse of SAirGroup in 2002 for SFr580 million.
Swissport is the world's biggest independent airport ground-services company.
The former SAirGroup company employs 21,000 people in 40 countries.
In 2004, Swissport's services dealt with 70 million passengers and generated revenue worth nearly SFr1.3 billion.