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Morrison & Co-led group puts bid in for Stansted airport: report

BUSINESSDESK: A group led by Wellington-based investment bank Morrison & Co and including Infratil and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund has put in a bid for Stansted airport in Britain, Reuters reports.

The Morrison & Co-led group has joined the race for the Britain's third-largest airport and will face off against Manchester Airports Group, which is in partnership with Australia's Industry Funds Management, Macquarie's infrastructure fund and private-equity firm TPG, Reuters says, citing unnamed sources.

Stansted's reliance on low-cost Irish carrier Ryanair, which accounts for some 70% of the airport's traffic, is expected to drag down the price, with an estimated price tag of £1 billion. Stansted is valued at £1.3 billion based on regulatory calculations.

The Manchester Airports Group-led bid is seen as the front-runner, Reuters reports.

Morrison & Co executive director Airports Group Steven Fitzgerald told BusinessDesk last month Stansted was in an "interesting" market, though the sale was in a pre-process stage and it was too early to comment on whether there had been any early talks about a deal.

Sydney-based Mr Fitzgerald wasn't immediately available for comment.

Madrid-based transportation infrastructure investor Ferrovial bought BAA in 2006 for some £10.3 billion and has been forced to three of its nine airports by the UK's Competition Commission in 2009.

It has already sold Gatwick and Edinburgh airports, and is selling Stansted after giving up its battle when UK Court of Appeal turned down its application in July this year. That leaves it with Heathrow, Southampton airport in southern England and Glasgow and Aberdeen airports in Scotland.

Yesterday, Heathrow warnings full-year earnings will miss its £1.27 billion earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation target after fewer passengers travelled through Europe's busiest hub over the summer. Traffic at Stansted fell 4.6% to 13.5 million in the nine months ended September 30, it said.