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Infratil denies report on Stansted bid

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 25/09/2012

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Months after putting its troubled British airports up for sale, infrastructure giant Infratil is dismissing claims that it is already preparing a bid for Stansted Airport near London.

An unsourced report in London's Telegraph newspaper said Infratil, in a consortium involving the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, had formed "a bid team" which was an early candidate to buy the airport, which competition regulators have ordered its Spanish owners to sell.

Steve Fitzgerald, the former Wellington Airport chief executive who now runs Infratil's airports business, played down the report.

"There's not a process started and we've made no commitment to it," he said, dismissing suggestions Infratil had signed a confidentiality agreement to gain access to Stansted's books.

"At Morrison & Co [Infratil's manager] we look at all airport transactions globally, to see whether any of them might fit the investment criteria of our investors, but it's pretty early days for the Stansted one in particular."

If the report was correct, the bid for an airport expected to sell for about NZ$2 billion, would come as Infratil attempts to sell British airports, Prestwick in Ayrshire and Manston in Kent, which it classes as discontinued operations.

Infratil took an impairment charge of $24.8 million on the airports in the year to March 31, and has asked PwC to find a buyer.

Fitzgerald, however, said airports were still something the company was interested in.

Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial bought BAA in 2006, but was later ordered by competition authorities to sell Gatwick, Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Infratil took no part in the sales processes of other BAA airports, Fitzgerald said.

The sales process comes amid pressure to let Heathrow build a third runway, while the London Mayor Boris Johnson has plugged building an airport in land reclaimed in the Thames Estuary.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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