Stansted: Airport sale ruling comfirmed by Competition Commission

COMPETITION chief’s today confirmed a ruling that airport operator BAA must sell two of its UK airports, including Stansted

But BAA, which currently runs six UK airports, including Heathrow, signalled that the long saga may still not yet be over, warning that it might seek a judicial review.

Under the ruling by the Competition Commission (CC), BAA will have to sell Stansted followed by either Edinburgh or Glasgow airport.

Today’s announcement, which had been widely expected, follows a provisional report from the CC in March this year and an original ruling, which was seen as final at the time, in March 2009 .

In that ruling, the CC said that BAA must sell both Gatwick and Stansted airports, plus either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

BAA agreed to sell Gatwick, which was acquired by US-based investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners in late 2009 for around �1.5billion, but mounted a series of legal challenges to the commission’s other rulings, which were eventually upheld.

The CC then effectively reopened the case in order to consider whether, in the meantime, there had been material changes in circumstances but in the provisional ruling in March this year, which was confirmed yesterday, the commission decided that sale of the airports remained fully justified.

Most Read

Peter Freeman,chairman of the CC’s BAA remedies implementation group, said: “We hope that the sales can now proceed without delay so that passengers and airlines can start to enjoy the benefits of greater competition.”

He added: “It has been a long process whilst BAA has challenged the decision – quite understandably given its significance. However, both we and the courts have now exhaustively re-examined the case for the sales and found it to be sound so there are no grounds for delaying further.”

But BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said the group was “dismayed” by the ruling, and accused the CC of failing to recognise “that the world and BAA have changed.”

He added: “This decision would damage our company which is investing strongly in UK jobs and growth. We have a responsibility to protect our shareholders’ investment and we will now consider a judicial review of the CC’s decision.”

Spanish-owned BAA argues that the change in Whitehall policy, which has ruled out new runways in south east England, and the sale of Gatwick have together significantly changed the airport market.

It also argues that it has invested �5billion in UK airports since 2006 and that its operational performance, criticised in the CC’s provisional report, has since improved.