BAA still mulling challenge to Stansted sell-off

AIRPORTS group BAA said today it was still “considering its position” following the latest reverse in its long-running battle with competition chiefs over an order to sell-off Stansted Airport.

The statement came as the BAA subsidiary which runs Heathrow and Stansted airports reported reduced losses for 2011, helped by improved turnover and cash generation.

Revenue grew by 9.9%, from �2.07billion in 2010 to �2.28bn, and cash generation by 23.3%, from �918.5million to �1.13bn.

Losses before exceptional items were 19.2% lower at �166.7m, against �206.2m, while bottom-line pre-tax losses were down by a similar margin at �255.8m against �316.6m.

As previously reported by BAA, passenger numbers at Stansted fell by 2.8% last year to 18.0million, against 18.6million in 2010, while numbers at Heathrow grew by 5.5% to a record 69.4million, from 65.7million. The combined total for the two London airports of 87.4million represented an overall increase of 3.7%.

BAA added today that punctuality at Heathrow had reached its highest level in more than a decade, with 79% of aircraft leaving within 15 minutes of their scheduled time against 71% the previous year. Punctuality also improved at Stansted, from 78% to 88%.

In July 2011, the Competion Commission ruled that there had been no material changes in circumstances that required it to review its decision in 2009 that BAA should have to sell Stansted, together with either Glasgow or Edinburgh airport in Scotland.

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A challenge by BAA was heard by the Competition Appeal Tribunal in December, with the CAT upholding the original decision earlier this month.

“BAA is currently considering its position in the light of the CAT’s decision,” the group said today.

In view of the delayed resolution to the Stansted issue, the CC has reversed the order of the sell-off with BAA currently in the process of seeking a buyer for Edinburgh airport.

BAA added that although in 2010 the coalition had ruled out the development of any new runways in the South East, there were now signs that the Government recognised the issue of airport capacity.

Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, said: “BAA delivered a strong operational performance in 2011 with record traffic levels and high service standards at Heathrow.

“Last year saw Heathrow’s best punctuality performance in over a decade and the international Airport Service Quality passenger survey showed that 70% of Heathrow’s passengers rated their experience as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good’, compared with just 41% when the Ferrovial-led consortium bought BAA in 2006.

“We continued to invest significantly in further improving our airports during 2011, particularly on the new

Heathrow Terminal 2.

“The group’s financial position has been strengthened with �3 billion in new financing completed in the last 12 months and we have fully repaid our �4.4 billion bank bridge loan nearly two years early.

“We are pleased that the UK Government recognised the importance of a successful hub airport to UK economic growth in its Autumn statement. All potential solutions to the UK’s lack of hub airport capacity have their pros and cons and all should be on the table to ensure the right solution is found for both the short and long term.”