Gatwick bidders get second shot at airport

31.5.2009   (Observer)

by Dan Milmo

Bidders shut out of the Gatwick auction could re-enter the fray after Manchester
Airports Group (MAG), the frontrunner to acquire Britain’s second-largest airport,
held talks about enlarging its bidding consortium.

It is understood that MAG has discussed teaming with former suitors Global Infrastructure
Partners (GIP), an investment fund, and Lysander, a consortium made up of Citi
Infrastructure, Vancouver Airport and John Hancock Life Insurance. MAG would welcome
a fourth partner in a consortium with two other members: Canadian infrastructure
investor Borealis and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF).

Lysander was thrown out of the auction after its bid, believed to be just under
£1.2bn, was deemed too low by BAA. The status of US-based GIP is less clear, after
its bidding team halted work when BAA appealed against a Competition Commission
ruling that ordered a partial break-up of the group. According to reports, a precondition
of GIP’s £1.3bn bid was that BAA did not appeal against the commission’s ruling
that Gatwick, Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airport should be sold.
One of the grounds for BAA’s appeal is that a member of the commission panel,
Peter Moizer, is an adviser to GMPF.

However, BAA is under pressure to sell Gatwick because it must refinance £1bn
of debt by March next year. MAG’s bid moved forward last week after Standard &
Poor’s, the credit rating agency, gave an appropriate grade rating to its planned
offer. Fitch, another agency, has given MAG’s bid an investment grade rating.