Whittaker and partners in Forth Ports bid

Michael Hunt

Peel owner John Whittaker is in talks with Canadian firm Vancouver Airport Services about selling a majority stake of the group's airports division.

The sale of Peel Airports, which includes Liverpool John Lennon Airport and the City Airport in Manchester, also known as the Barton Aerodrome, could raise £200m for Peel which may fund its £612m bid for Forth Ports, owner of Grangemouth and Tilbury docks.

A consortium, comprising Peel amongst its members, made a public approach to Forth Ports last Friday.

Other members of the consortium include Arcus, formerly part of Australian investment firm Babcock & Brown, and Deutsche Bank's RREEF infrastructure fund.

A £12.85-a-share offer was rejected by Forth Ports in January and an increased £13.40 offer was also rejected last month.

Forth Ports, one of Britain's biggest port operators, has refused to hold talks until it has published its results on 22 March.

Peel Airports also owns Durham Tees Valley and Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield airports.

Peel has seen the value of its assets decrease considerably as a result of the recession and is looking to sell off non-core parts of the business.

In the latest accounts for the year ending 31 March 2009, the value of assets that its Peel Holdings division owns fell by £329.8m to £1.46bn.

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