Transport Airports

London’s Stansted airport starts a bidding war among prospective buyers

Sep 22, 2012 3:36 pm

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UK’s third largest airport Stansted has many bidders, including Ryanair which uses the airport as its main base. It has been hit hard during these Euro crisis times by its reliance on leisure travelers.

— Rafat Ali

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A consortium led by an Australasian investment manager has emerged as an early rival to Manchester Airports Group in the £1bn battle for Stansted airport.

Morrison & Co, which operates out of New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong, is heading a bid team that also includes the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Infratil, a Wellington-based infrastructure investor.

Stansted’s owner, BAA, lost a three-year legal fight against its forced sale. BAA’s controlling shareholder, Ferrovial, is thought to have issued non-disclosure agreements last week to interested bidders, effectively kick-starting the process. The sale is being handled by Deutsche Bank and ING.

Infratil’s role has surprised some observers because it is trying to sell its two smaller British airports – Glasgow Prestwick and Manston in Kent. Infratil, which runs about £2.5bn of assets, has twice written down the airports in the past two years.

Even so, Infratil is an experienced airport operator and its operations at Prestwick have enabled it to develop a relationship with Ryanair, which is responsible for almost 70pc of Stansted’s traffic.

The consortium faces early competition from the council-owned Manchester Airports Group, which is building up its firepower via a potential deal with Australia’s Industry Funds Management.

The antipodean investor, which has around £21bn under management, has agreed to inject about £1bn for a 35pc stake in the Manchester airport company on the condition it wins the bid for Stansted.

The sale, which may also interest JP Morgan, Citi Infrastructure Partners and Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, is complicated by the review of airport capacity in the South East, which could have a major impact on Stansted’s value.

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