VENTURES AFRICA  – Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) is set to acquire Edinburgh airport for a surprise £807 million ($1.3 billion).

GIP, an investment fund founded by Credit Suisse and General Electric, beat a consortium led by JP Morgan Asset Management’s infrastructure fund. The price dwarfs the £500 million  ($807 million) figure expected in the City and reflects the intense competition for the airport, which also attracted the interest of buyout groups 3i and Carlyle.

The disclosure was made yesterday as the dismantling of BAA’s British interests moved forward.

GIP, a company chaired by Nigerian businessman Adebayo Ogunlesi, is expected to quicken the amount of time passengers spend in check-in, security and baggage handling.

The airport attracted 9.3 million passengers last year and generated earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £48.3 million ($78 million). It was recently snubbed by Ryanair, which reduced its flights there, but yesterday the budget carrier said the deal would free it from the “dead hand” of BAA.

According to GIP Chairman Adebayo Ogunlesi, the company sees a significant opportunity to apply its “tested and successful operational expertise” and our knowledge of the global airports sector to develop and enhance the performance of Edinburgh Airport.

BAA, part of Spanish infrastructure company Ferrovial, owns Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports. The company was coerced to sell one of its Scottish airports by the Competition Commission, and is contesting a ruling that it must offload Stansted.

However, GIP is unlikely to be allowed to bid, if Stansted becomes available, due to its controlling stake in Gatwick, which the company acquired from BAA for £1.5 billion ($2.4 billion) in 2009.

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