Gatwick disposal gives legal advisers wings

4.2.2009   (The Lawyer)

At a time when transactions are few and far between, airline deals have been
keeping their advisers busy, what with Ryanair looking to buy Aer Lingus then
changing its mind, and British Airways’ talks with Qantas reaching a similar conclusion.

Now it is the turn of the airports, with a raft of law firms picking up instructions
on the sale of Gatwick, which the British Airports Authority (BAA) hopes to sell
for £2bn.

Five bidders are in the running to pick up the UK’s second-largest airport from
BAA, which is owned by Ferrovial. But with no clear ­frontrunner as yet, the prospect
of a sale is providing a feeding frenzy for the lawyers involved.

The Lawyer understands that the Gatwick Future Partnership – a consortium including Deutsche Bank’s RREEF Infrastructure and a Babcock
& Brown fund – is being advised by CMS Cameron ­McKenna, led by corporate ­partner Charles Currier.

Global Infrastructure Partners, a consortium made up of GE and Credit Suisse, which already owns London City
Airport, is believed to have turned to previous adviser Slaughter and May, led by partner Mark Horton.   Clifford Chance is also understood to have a role for that client.

Sources with knowledge of the deal told The Lawyer that Ashurst and Sullivan & Cromwell are advising a consortium comprising
3i, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan.     Ashurst corporate partners Bruce Hanton and Eavan ­Saunders Cole are acting, while the
US branch of Sullivan & Cromwell is also involved.

Manchester City Council, which is a partial owner of bidder Manchester Airport Group, normally uses a panel of firms made up of Addleshaw Goddard, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Halliwells, Hammonds and Slaughters.

Corporate advice to BAA is being led by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.   Corporate ­partner Laurie McFadden is leading the team, with assistance from
­corporate partner Marcus MacKenzie among others.   ­Herbert Smith partners Julian
Pollock and Stephen Wisking are understood to be advising BAA on competition and
property matters.

All advisers declined to ­comment, with one source ­emphasising: "The clients
are ­particularly keen that advisers stick by the non-disclosure ­agreement."

BAA also declined to comment. It put Gatwick up for sale at the end of last year
in order to pre-empt moves by the Competition Commission to break up its monopoly
if airports around London.

Six preliminary bids were submitted to a 19 January deadline. However, it is
understood that one of the bidders – Hochtief AirPort, a division of the German
engineering company – has since withdrawn.

The remaining consortia are: Gatwick Future Partnership; Global Infrastructure
Partners; Lysander Gatwick Investment Group (Citi Infrastructure Investors, Vancouver
Airport ­Services and John Hancock Life Insurance Company); Manchester Airports
Group and Borealis; and 3i’s infrastructure arm, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan
and the Canada Pension Plan.