Takeover target BAA yesterday maintained its share-holders are remaining loyal to the company which is battling an £8.75 billion hostile bid from a consortium led by Spanish group Ferrovial.
The message from BAA chief executive Mike Clasper came as the world's largest airports operator posted a small rise in annual profits.
BAA also offered its share-holders a higher dividend and forecast improving passenger growth this year which traders and analysts said would be enough to keep shareholders on its side in the tussle with Ferrovial.
Speaking after BAA reported an expected two per cent rise in full year underlying pretax profits, Mr Clasper yesterday noted that as the group is in an offer period it is able to check movements in its share register on a daily basis.
This has shown very few sellers, he said.
"They - shareholders - may have been underwhelmed but they stayed with us," Mr Clasper insisted.
"So I think some of the press commentary about under-whelming was not quite capturing the views of our shareholders."
The chief executive would not directly comment on whether he believes Ferrovial will increase its 810 pence a share offer.
However, he did say: "What I do know is that 810 pence is nowhere near the value of this company. There's a lot of speculation about a higher Ferrovial bid but nothing that's on the table."
BAA, which owns seven UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, and two overseas, Naples and Budapest, has rejected Ferrovial's bid as "not beginning to reflect" the true value of its assets. The Spanish group's consortium also comprises Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec and an investment company directed by Singapore's GIC Special Investments.
"Investors are more interested in whether Ferrovial will increase its bid, which we believe is likely, and whether other bidders will emerge, which in our view is less certain," Cazenove said in a note to clients.
BAA said pretax profit before exceptional items for the year to March 31 was £620 million.
This was broadly in line with an expected £627 million, according to the average of six analysts.
"The results are really of no importance, although the figures are fine. It's all to do with the Spanish bid and I get the sense that there is growing uncertainty that it will be successful," a trader said.
Mr Clasper said passenger growth of two per cent for the year was lower than expected due to a strike by British Airways ground staff at Heath-row last summer while the July bombings in London affected travel. BAA expects this to rise to 3.5 per cent this year.
However, passengers spent more money at its airports, particularly in the second half of the year, which the firm attributed to more aggressive promotion of its duty free and catering businesses.
Airport charges were also rising, Mr Clasper said. BAA said it was on track to achieve a nnual cost savings of £45 million from 2008/09. It announced plans in November to cut 700 management and back office jobs.
Net retail income per passenger rose 2.9 per cent, ahead of analysts' expectations. BAA proposed a final dividend of 15.25 pence from 14.30 pence last year.