China group interested in taking BAA stake

SPANISH conglomerate Ferrovial said it is still studying offers for the 10 per cent of British airports operator BAA that it has put up for sale.

Chinese airports operator HNA is seen as a leading contender and is understood to have lodged an interest in taking a stake in BAA, although it wasn’t clear whether it would make a firm offer.

HNA is China’s fourth-largest airline group and is the parent of Hainan Airlines Co.

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A Ferrovial spokesman said: “The sale process is open and we’re studying offers.

“We’ll announce a decision once we’ve made one.”

BAA owns London’s Heathrow and Stansted airports, Southampton, as well as Scotland’s Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports.

Ferrovial wants to sell the 10 per cent stake in BAA to trim its debt.

Non-binding offers for the stake are expected in the first half of 2011.

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Ferrovial owns 55.9 per cent of BAA. By dropping its holding below 50 per cent, it will no longer need to consolidate all of BAA’s debt on its balance sheet.

In January, Ferrovial chief executive Inigo Meiras said it was mainly in talks with infrastructure funds and sovereign wealth funds, as well as pension funds primarily from the US and Britain.

“This stake seems to offer more value for a UK pension fund given inflation hedging than for a Chinese company,” said one analyst.

BAA has to break up its network of airports under an order by the Competition Commission to sell Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports.