BAA battles to retain Stansted

UNDER-fire airport operator BAA yesterday signalled its desire to retain ownership of Stansted Airport as it put its Gatwick operation up for sale.The move follows a damning interim report last month from the Competition Commission which was critical of poor levels of service for airlines and passengers and proposed that BAA should give up running two of its three London airports.

UNDER-fire airport operator BAA yesterday signalled its desire to retain ownership of Stansted Airport as it put its Gatwick operation up for sale.

The move follows a damning interim report last month from the Competition Commission which was critical of poor levels of service for airlines and passengers and proposed that BAA should give up running two of its three London airports.

Yesterday's decision to put Gatwick up for sale with immediate effect, rather than wait for the CC's final verdict, indicates a recognition from BAA that the status quo is not tenable.

But BAA chief executive Colin Matthews insisted that the company did not accept the commission's provisional findings, and that it wanted to continue to operate both Heathrow and Stansted.


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“At Stansted, we believe that a change of ownership would interfere with the process of securing planning approval for a second runway, which remains a key feature of Government air transport policy,” said Mr Matthews.

He added that the decision to sell Gatwick was “not taken lightly” but BAA believed the airport's customers, staff and business would “benefit from the earliest possible resolution of current uncertainty”.

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However, Michael O'Leary, chief executive of budget airline Ryanair, who has been particularly critical of BAA, yesterday renewed his call for Stansted to be sold and dismissed the Gatwick announcement as “just the latest attempt by the BAA monopoly to get itself off the hook of the Competition Commission's recommendations”.

Potential buyers of Gatwick are said to include Sir Richard Branson's airline Virgin Atlantic and the Manchester Airport Group, which already runs Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside airports, together with Germany''s Hochtief, Global Infrastructure Partners, the GE-Credit Suisse Investment fund and Australia's Macquarie group.

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