TBI directors forced to retract £700m asset valuation

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The Independent Online

TBI, the regional airports group at the centre of a £516m hostile bid from the French construction giant Vinci, was yesterday forced to retract claims made earlier this week that its assets were worth almost £700m.

TBI, the regional airports group at the centre of a £516m hostile bid from the French construction giant Vinci, was yesterday forced to retract claims made earlier this week that its assets were worth almost £700m.

Under Takeover Panel rules, TBI, which owns Luton, Belfast International and Cardiff International airports, may not make either an asset valuation or a forecast.

Keith Brooks, TBI's chief executive, said on Wednesday that the group's Belfast and Cardiff airports were worth "£500m alone". Commenting on the group's overall value, he added: "After debt, we are talking £660-£670m in an eggs-for-eggs comparison."

A spokesman for Vinci, which complained to the panel, said: "They obviously don't have the numbers to stand this [valuation] up."

But TBI said yesterday: "No reliance should be placed on any figures relating to asset valuations or forecasts. The board hopes that this clarifies any misunderstandings." A spokesman added that figures would follow in the group's defence document.

Vinci launched its 90p-per-share hostile bid on Wednesday, two days after it snapped up a 14.9 per cent stake in TBI. TBI's board unanimously rejected the bid. The French group said it expected to file its offer document early next week.

TBI's shares yesterday slipped 2.5p to 95.5p after Luton's biggest operator, the no-frills airline easyJet, said Vinci was "in cloud cuckoo land" if it expected to retain current airport handling fees.

Vinci's bid is conditional on TBI reaching a settlement with easyJet on passenger and baggage handling fees on terms "no less favourable" than the current contract, which expires on 31 August.

Analysts said that Vinci's offer was at the low end of fair value. Andrew Murphy, at WestLB Panmure, said: "In a normal non-bid situation, 85p to 90p per share is slightly above fair given the company's prospects and structure ... but with the number of interested bidders around, the assets could possibly fetch 105p to 115p per share."

TBI also owns airports in Sweden, Bolivia and the US. It lost almost a fifth of its value earlier this month after warning profits would be hit by bmi British Midland's withdrawal from Belfast International.

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