Monday, 14 December 2015

Mega consortium comes together for London City Airport; China's HNA also rumoured to have submitted first round offer

I have a little update on the sale of every City dealmakers' favourite airport.

Ever since news of the £2 billion sale of London City airport broke in the Financial Times this summer bidders have been circling the asset.

Well, first round bids are in and Global Infrastructure Partners is now in the process of drawing up a shortlist of potential acquirers that will be taken into the next round.

Now, I have been given a list of the parties who submitted offers. However, I have to warn readers that the list may not be entirely accurate as usually helpful sources are refusing to confirm who submitted offers and who has made it onto the shortlist for the next round.

So, I would advise readers to take the list with a pinch of salt. Still, I think the names of the bidders are worth airing on little old Betaville as it might help other reporters, bankers and infrastructure investors flesh out the true facts.

Perhaps the most intriguing name on the "list" of first round bidders is HNA Group, the rather large Chinese aviation company that recently purchased Swissport for $2.8 billion and a stake in Toulouse Airport.

To be clear, it's not the first time "Chinese" interest in London City Airport has been mooted. Ben Martin, a former colleague at The Daily Telegraph, wrote in October that a Chinese fund called Gingko Tree was in talks with Macquarie about trying to buy London City Airport. Here is the link to Ben's piece:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/transport/11909778/Chinese-fund-poised-to-enter-bidding-war-for-City-airport.html

I have, though, been informed that Macquarie (as a principal) has withdrawn from the auction, so I'm not sure what has happened to Gingko Tree's interest in London City Airport.

HNA isn't the only Asian company in the frame. Reuters reported a few days ago that Cheung Kong Infrastructure - the investment group controlled by Asia's richest man, Li-Kai Shing - also submitted a first round offer for London City Airport. Here is a link to the Reuters story:

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-city-sale-cki-idUKKBN0TL2AW20151202

One of the front runners for London City Airport is said to be a group of bidders dubbed the "mega" consortium. According to City sources, this consortium comprises Canadian pension funds Borealis, Ontario Teachers' Pension Fund and AIMCo. Hermes, the British pension fund manager, and Wren House, Kuwait's infrastructure fund are also part of the "mega" consortium, which is said to be working with Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Macquarie Capital on the deal.

Other bidders said have to submitted first round bids are Canadian pension fund PSP together with its subsidiary Avi Alliance and Atlantia, the Benetton family's investment vehicle.

Remember, it's still early days in the sale process so readers should expect changes to configurations of consortia and withdrawals.

And well-placed sources said they didn't expect the second round of the London City Airport auction to get going until February 2016.

Global Infrastructure Partners declined to comment.

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