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NEWS Last modified on July 19, 2011

Investors cool on sale of Stansted

BAA has been ordered to sell Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow to break up its UK monopoly, but interest from potential buyers in the gateways has so far been cool.

BAA has been ordered to sell Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow to break up its UK monopoly, but interest from potential buyers in the gateways has so far been cool.


In its final report, the UK Competition Commission (CC) said the sale of the airports to separate owners would benefit passengers and should now proceed “without delay.”


“The introduction of new ownership at Gatwick, whilst too recent for us to draw any firm conclusions, has given a foretaste of the benefits competition can bring. We think that these benefits will be all the greater once Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow are all in competition with each other,” the report states.


Peter Freeman, the chairman of the CC's BAA remedies implementation group, told Airport World the market conditions had remained essentially unchanged since their first ruling in 2009 and further sales remained the right decision.


“We have had quite a lot of exchange with BAA and I think the decision is essentially the correct one, we got it right in 2009,” he said.


Colin Matthews, the head of BAA, branded the decision a “draconian” and “unreasonable” and said the group would now seek a judicial review to overturn the CC’s decision.


But in marked contrast to the announcement that BAA would sell Gatwick in 2009, interest from investors in buying Stansted has so far been cautious.


Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which manages four airports in the UK and has previously expressed an interest in buying Stansted, said it would be making the development of its existing portfolio a priority at this time.


"We are currently focused on growing our four airports, developing the multi-million pound Airport City at Manchester and on embedding our long term strategy,” a spokesman said.


"However, the decision by the Competition Commission means that we may look in more detail at these airports if we can be confident that an acquisition will add value for our shareholders."


Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), the operator of Gatwick Airport, which welcomed today’s decision by the CC, would not comment on whether they would bid for Stansted.


German investor Hochtief said it would not comment on speculation and rumour, while the Fraport Group, which has shown interest in bidding for Athens International Airport and a stake in Spanish airport operator Aena this year, was unavailable for comment.

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