US group approaches TBI in £500m bid

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The Independent Online

TBI, the world's largest operator of regional airports, is in takeover talks with a US private equity group, which could lead to an offer for the company worth around £500m.

TBI, the world's largest operator of regional airports, is in takeover talks with a US private equity group, which could lead to an offer for the company worth around £500m.

There was a flurry of speculation earlier this month that TBI was about to unveil a deal. Although the discussions are progressing, it is not clear whether the company will be in a position to make an announcement before its interim results, due in November.

TBI received an unsolicited offer in August from an unnamed suitor and was forced by the Takeover Panel to disclose the approach. Since then it has received a second and more serious offer, which is the subject of the current discussions.

The group owns or operates a total of 37 airports worldwide, including Belfast and Cardiff, and it also has a 25 per cent interest in London Luton airport, the main hub for the low-cost airline easyJet.

It has other operations in Australia, Sweden, and North America, where it operates Orlando airport and has interests in airports in Atlanta, Toronto, Albany and Burbank.

In the last 18 months, TBI has embarked on a strategy of focussing exclusively on airport operation. Under its chief executive, Keith Brooke, TBI has sold off all of its commercial property interests for £190m and bought Airport Group International for £86m, widening its portfolio of overses operations.

In the year to 31 March it increased underlying pre-tax profits by 37 per cent to £15.5m but reported a headline loss of £4.5m because of charges associated with its restructuring. Passenger numbers increased by 15 per cent at Belfast airport and by 5 per cent at Cardiff - its two principal airports.

TBI's biggest shareholder is Schroders with just more than 13 per cent. Philips and Drew owns 4 per cent and Legal & General 3.7 per cent whilst one of George Soros's funds has a 4.2 per cent stake.

Its shares reached a high of 91.75p earlier this month on speculation that a bid was imminent but have since dropped back and now stand at 81p.

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