Ferrovial cut its stake in BAA to below 50 percent, in a deal valuing the operator of London Heathrow, Europe’s third largest cargo airport, at about $7.4 billion.

The Spanish infrastructure group said it is selling 5.88 percent of BAA, to U.S. investment firm Alinda Capital Partners for $435 million.

The sale reduces Ferrovial’s stake in BAA, which owns six U.K. airports and Naples airport in Italy, to 49.99 percent from 55.87 percent. This allows it to remove the airport operator’s debt from its balance sheet, reducing the Madrid-based Ferrovial’s net debt from $26.2 billion to $6.9 billion.

New York-based Alinda owns and operates U.S. toll roads including Alabama’s Tuscaloosa Bypass Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.

Ferrovial, which led a consortium that acquired BAA for $15.8 billion in 2006, sold London Gatwick airport to U.S.-based Global Infrastructure Partners for $2.24 billion in 2009 after regulators demanded the group sell some of its airports to boost competition in the U.K. industry. The Competition Commission told BAA last week it must sell one of its three Scottish airports followed by the disposal of London Stansted, a freighter and express hub.

— Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com.