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Tuesday, November 11, 1997 Published at 08:17 GMT


Bus company in airport deal

Bristol's airport coming under FirstBus control

The country's biggest bus operator, FirstBus, is poised to take control of Bristol's International Airport.

The company was named as Bristol City Council's preferred bidder to take a 51% stake in the regional airport, which has been municipally owned for 40 years.

The deal is expected to be finalised before Christmas, when details of the multi-million pound deal will be confirmed.

The City Council is to keep the remaining 49% of the shares.

It decided to sell the majority shareholding so that the airport at Lulsgate, on the outskirts of Bristol, would be free from Government restrictions on capital investments, which apply to local authorities.

[ image: FirstBus: Bristol City Council's preferred bidder to take a 51% stake]
FirstBus: Bristol City Council's preferred bidder to take a 51% stake
More than 40 firms were originally interested in taking over control of the airport. These were reduced to a shortlist of five, which also included the coach company National Express, Thomas Bailey Investments - owners of Cardiff Airport - a consortium headed by property group London & Regional, and a consortium including Manchester Airport and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

Work has already started on a £22 million new terminal and planning permission was recently given for a £3 million, one kilometre diversion of the A38 to allow the installation of state-of-the-art landing equipment.

Mr Trevor Smallwood, chairman of FirstBus, said he fully supported the investment proposals, which were aimed at reinforcing the airport's position as a premier airport serving the south west.

For his company it offered a chance of diversification into a public transport sector noted for its good growth prospects.

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