Ferrovial heads off rival bid for BAA as it brings Macquarie Bank on board

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The Independent Online

Spain's Grupo Ferrovial increased its chances of securing the biggest airport takeover in history yesterday when it hired the Australian bank Macquarie as joint financial adviser.

The move not only adds firepower to the bid, but it also takes out a potential rival. Macquarie was widely seen as a suitor for BAA, the company behind Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted and smaller airports.

BAA rejected an £8.75bn takeover approach from Ferrovial earlier this month as far too low.

The City Takeover Panel has given the Spaniards until 24 April to make another offer. A research note from Banco BPI said: "We now expect the consortium to become more aggressive price-wise on the bid for BAA, without fearing Macquarie's opposition."

Macquarie now becomes joint adviser alongside Citigroup. In what was seen as a quid pro quo for ruling itself out of the bidding, Macquarie now has an option to buy Ferrovial's stakes in Sydney airport and Bristol airport.

Ferrovial has a 21 per cent stake in Sydney, worth about £375m, and a 50 per cent stake in Bristol, worth £106m. The option becomes valid only if it secures BAA.

It Ferrovial does sell these assets, it could use the proceeds to cut debts, easing some concern about whether it can really afford BAA. The JP Morgan analyst Damian Brewer said: "This brings Macquarie on side and I think therefore increases the likelihood that we will see an improved offer from the Ferrovial consortium."

Ferrovial's last bid was an 810p-a-share cash offer. City investors suggest they may be looking for more than £9 before they will agree to a deal. The Spanish group is talking to shareholders and may make a move next week. BAA, which has been bullish about its chances of survival, said this week that it is looking to expand in China. BAA shares put on 11.5p to 838.5p.