Two of the four first-round bidders to buy Edinburgh Airport from BAA have withdrawn from the process ahead of the April deadline for submitting second bids.
The withdrawal of indicative offers by rival investment consortia led by 3i of the UK and Carlyle of the US has left a straight fight for Edinburgh between Gatwick owner Global Infrastructure Partners and US investment bank J P Morgan.
Edinburgh owner BAA put the airport up for sale late last year after being ordered to sell either Edinburgh or Glasgow by the Competition Commission. The sale is expected to value Edinburgh, Scotland’s biggest airport, at between £400 million and £600 million.
BAA has also been ordered to sell Stansted, a move it continues to contest, having sold Gatwick three years ago – also at the behest of the Competition Commission – to Global Infrastructure Partners.
The Financial Times reported the withdrawal of the bids following talks between the investment groups and the Competition Commission on the additional costs attached to the management systems required to take over the airport.
The cost of switching IT systems between BAA and the successful bidder is expected to run into tens of millions of pounds.
BAA’s choice of Edinburgh rather than Glasgow for the sale caused some surprised in the industry. The airport handled 9.5 million passengers last year, an increase of 9% on 2010.