City airport owner Desmond steps in to save TBI

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Dermot Desmond, the Irish entrepreneur who owns London City airport, emerged as a potential suitor for the regional airports operator TBI yesterday after the French construction giant Vinci walked away from its £517m bid.

Mr Desmond's investment company Crossbill increased its stake in TBI to 5 per cent. News of the share buying came as TBI stock fell a further 22 per cent to 45p – valuing it at exactly half the amount Vinci offered to pay when it launched its hostile 90p-a-share bid in August.

Vinci was able to withdraw the offer because acceptances only reached 84 per cent – below the 90 per cent level required to declare the bid unconditional. However, even if more than 90 per cent of shareholders had accepted, it would still have sought to walk away on the grounds that the terrorist attacks on America had resulted in a material change in TBI's prospects.

The French group left the door open to a possible revised offer by saying it had "no current intention" of selling the 14.9 per cent stake it built up in TBI during the course of the bid. Under Takeover Panel rules, any new bid within 12 months would have to be recommended by the TBI board.