Several well-respected business journalists have reported the imminent sale of the Porter Airlines terminal at BBTCA. Have they been taken in?
Oliver Moore and David Hains
On August 29, 2014 the Globe and Mail published Toronto’s Billy Bishop terminal sale not linked to runway plans, Porter says. Moore and Hains cited Porter senior executive Michael Deluce as their source for the report. The report cited the Wall Street Journal which broke the story and a subsequent Porter Airlines press release.
The Globe report gave no indication of a potential buyer or a timeline for the sale.
On September 25, 2014 the Globe and Mail published the article Deal for Porter Airlines’ Toronto terminal nearly ready to fly. Mr. Erman, business writer, in the piece (for Globe subscribers only) cited ‘one person familiar with the process’ and ‘a second person, who had been briefed on the numbers’ as sources.
Mr. Erman reported that buyers in Canada and abroad showed an intense interest but did not give names other than to say that Canadian pension funds are keen to own airports. The report alluded to an auction for the asset and stated that it ‘could be done in a month’. That would have made the sale completed by the end of October.
Jeffrey Hodgson and Euan Rocha
On December 15, 2014 Reuters published, Exclusive: Porter nearing sale of Toronto airport terminal – sources. The reporters, Hodgson and Rocha, stated that ‘three sources familiar with the process’ said that Porter was nearing the sale of its passenger terminal.
However, the article stated, “One of the sources familiar with the process said at least two separate bids are expected this week … .” The article did not explain how expected bids equate to a claim of nearing the sale.
The report gave the names of the two expected bidders: Alberta Investment Management Corp and Macquarie Group Ltd.
On January 7, 2015, Bloomberg published the report Porter Said to Near Sale of Toronto Island Terminal. Citing ‘people with knowledge of the matter’ Mr. Deveau reported that an agreement on the sale could be finalized by the end of January.
The article gave a group led by InstarAGF Asset Management Inc. as the buyers.
Deal, No Deal
Interestingly, the Bloomberg headline is more tentative than the two previous ones. Compare them.
Deal for Porter Airlines’ Toronto terminal nearly ready to fly
Exclusive: Porter nearing sale of Toronto airport terminal – sources
Porter Said to Near Sale of Toronto Island Terminal
They all assert the deal is near; however, only the last one differs in that it casts doubt. Mr. Deveau also reports, “No agreement has been reached and talks may still fall through.”
So what’s going on?
It’s almost as if ‘unnamed sources’ and ‘people familiar with the process’ are planting exclusives, going from media outlet to media outlet to build hype to sell the Porter terminal. How else to explain an offer that generated intense national and international interest, that has a deal yet to close two and a half months after the first reported date and has a shifting list of purported bidders.
As well, it seems that the Bloomberg article, coming as it did after the bad news story about Air Canada reassessing its use of BBTCA and the terminal required a positive Porter story.
It’s almost as if we’re looking at the emperor’s new clothes or listening to the boy who cried wolf or witnessing an outstanding spinmeister at work.