BAA Slims Edinburgh Airport Bids, Nears Stansted Decision

BAA Ltd., the owner of London’s Heathrow airport, said it has drawn up a shortlist of bids for its Edinburgh terminal after an auction produced strong interest in a base that serves Scotland’s chief administrative center.

“We have a smaller number of bidders going into a second round and we’re pleased with the progress,” Chief Executive Officer Colin Matthews said in a phone interview. “The success of the capital city has been reflected in the success of its airport, that’s what buyers are going to be valuing.”

BAA is auctioning Edinburgh, which is worth at least 500 million pounds ($786 million), according to analysts, after antitrust regulators ruled that the company should be broken up. The start of the sale process lured bidders including JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s infrastructure fund, London Gatwick owner Global Infrastructure Partners Ltd., 3i Infrastructure Plc and Carlyle Group, people familiar with the sale process said last month.

Passenger numbers at Edinburgh rose 9.2 percent to a record

9.4 million last year. BAA, bought by Spanish construction group Ferrovial SA for 10.1 billion pounds in 2006, predicts the number will rise to 12.3 million by the decade’s end.

Incheon International Airport Corp. of Korea and Arcus Infrastructure Fund, which acquired Edinburgh-based Forth Ports Plc last year, were also among early bidders, people have said.

Matthews said today he aims to reach a decision “relatively quickly” on whether to continue opposing the forced sale of London’s Stansted airport after losing its most recent appeal against a U.K. Competition Commission ruling on Feb. 1.

While Stansted is “a valuable asset” that should grow faster than capacity-constrained competitors in coming years, as a leisure hub it’s “strongly dependent” on the state of a U.K. economy that “has not yet really started to recover,” he said.

BAA (SP) Ltd., the part of the company that owns regulated London airports, said today its loss shrank to 191.5 million pounds in 2011 from 321.8 million pounds a year earlier.

Sales rose 9.9 percent to 2.28 billion pounds, spurred by higher retail spending, milder winter weather and a record 69.4 million passengers at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest hub.

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