A clutch of bidders are hovering over London City Airport after its owner, Irish multi millionaire Dermot Desmond, appointed Morgan Stanley to sell the business for at least 300m.Australian bank Macquarie and infrastructure group Babcock Brown are both expected to take a look, as are Germany's Hochtief and Spain's Abertis, the owner of London Luton airport. Spanish construction group Ferrovial is also a possible bidder if it fails to fry a bigger fish with its bid for Heathrow owner BAA.Mr Desmond, Hermes Soft one of Ireland's richest men, has overseen a transformation of London City Airport, snapping it up for 23.5m in 1995 from Mowlem, the construction group. Mowlem opened the airport in 1987 and lost 70m on it after expected passenger numbers failed to materialise.New transport connections, via a direct link to the Docklands Light Railway, its proximity to Canary Wharf and the return to boom times in the City have underpinned rapid recent growth at the airport.
Traffic jumped 19pc to just under 2m passengers in 2005, a far cry from the 550,000 only 10 years before. Operating profits last year jumped more than 7pc to 17.4m. Now the 2012 London Olympics is looming and. last month, the airport's managing director Richard Gooding, outlined an ambitious blueprint for expansion with plans to create 4,000 jobs by 2030.While he eschewed plans for an additional runway, Mr Gooding's masterplan envisaged raising capacity to 3.5m passengers by 2015, including five new aircraft parking stands and extending the terminal behind the DLR station.By 2030, the plan aimed at handling 8m per year, with new aircraft parking stands over the King George V Dock, a new traffic control centre and eastern extension of the passenger terminal. "With a continued focus on East London and the Thames Gateway, Bidders are circling over London City Hermes especially the award of the Olympics, the role of London City as a key regenerator and major employer has strengthened further," Mr Gooding said.City sources said Mr Desmond had timed his sale to coincide with a spate of bids for infrastructure assets, with P and PD Ports already sold, and offers in for BAA and Associated British Ports. "He's seen the multiples and thought, I'll have some of that," said one banker familiar with the sector.
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