Gatwick disposal gives legal advisers wings

At a time when transactions are few and far between, airline deals have been keeping their advisers busy, what with Ryanair looking to buy Aer Lingus then changing its mind, and British Airways’ talks with Qantas reaching a similar conclusion.

Now it is the turn of the airports, with a raft of law firms picking up instructions on the sale of Gatwick, which the British Airports Authority (BAA) hopes to sell for £2bn.

Five bidders are in the running to pick up the UK’s second-largest airport from BAA, which is owned by Ferrovial. But with no clear ­frontrunner as yet, the prospect of a sale is providing a feeding frenzy for the lawyers involved.

The Lawyer understands that the Gatwick Future Partnership – a consortium including Deutsche Bank’s RREEF Infrastructure and a Babcock & Brown fund – is being advised by CMSCameron ­McKenna, led by corporate ­partner Charles Currier.

Global Infrastructure Partners, a consortium made up of GE and Credit Suisse, which already owns London City Airport, is believed to have turned to previous adviser Slaughter and May, led by partner Mark Horton. Clifford Chanceis also understood to have a role for that client.

Sources with knowledge of the deal told The Lawyer that Ashurst and Sullivan & Cromwellare advising a consortium comprising 3i, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan. Ashurst corporate partners Bruce ;Hanton ;and ;Eavan ­Saunders Cole are acting, while the US branch of Sullivan & Cromwell is also involved.

Manchester City Council, which is a partial owner of bidder Manchester Airport Group, normally uses a panel of firms made up of Addleshaw Goddard, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Halliwells, Hammonds and Slaughters.

Corporate advice to BAA is being led by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Corporate ­partner Laurie McFadden is leading the team, with assistance from ­corporate ;partner ;Marcus MacKenzie ;among ;others. ­Herbert Smith partners Julian Pollock and Stephen Wisking are understood to be advising BAA on competition and property matters.

All ;advisers ;declined ;to ­comment, ;with ;one ;source ­emphasising: “The clients are ­particularly keen that advisers stick by the non-disclosure ­agreement.”

BAA also declined to comment. It put Gatwick up for sale at the end of last year in order to pre-empt moves by the Competition Commission to break up its monopoly if airports around London.

Six preliminary bids were submitted to a 19 January deadline. However, it is understood that one of the bidders – Hochtief AirPort, a division of the German engineering company – has since withdrawn.

The remaining consortia are: Gatwick Future Partnership; Global Infrastructure Partners; Lysander Gatwick Investment Group ;(Citi ;Infrastructure Investors, Vancouver Airport ­Services and John Hancock Life Insurance Company); Manchester Airports Group and Borealis; and 3i’s infrastructure arm, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan.

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