LRT attacked for ignoring bid referral: Would-be buyer amazed at handling of advertising subsidiary's privatisation

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LONDON Regional Transport has been attacked over its handling of the tender process for privatising London Transport Advertising, the subsidiary that sells poster space in the capital's underground and bus stations, writes Gail Counsell.

Roger Fernley, managing director of British Transport Advertising, criticised LRT for sticking to its shortlist of four companies, even though the potential bid from one, More O'Ferrall, was last week referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, which may not report until mid-October.

Mr Fernley said his company was one of two which withdrew from the tender process because LRT made it clear that it did not want a sale delayed by a referral.

After seeking guidance from the Office of Fair Trading, BTA, which handles outdoor sites for Railtrack, the rail track owner, was told its bid would be referred and pulled out.

'I am frankly amazed that LRT and their advisers have got themselves into exactly the position that they insisted bidders should take care to avoid,' he said.

Mr Fernley said that if he and other bidders who withdrew had known that a referral would not automatically block their chances, they would not have withdrawn.