BAA airport sell-off ruling reinstated

13th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British court reinstated on Wednesday an order by competition authorities that could force Spanish-owned airports operator BAA to sell two more of its seven airports in Britain.

BAA last December won part of its appeal against an earlier ruling saying it must sell Gatwick and Stansted airports near London, as well as either Glasgow or Edinburgh. It sold Gatwick to a US group last year.

But judges at Britain's Court of Appeal said on Wednesday that the original decision made by the Competition Commission in March 2009 against BAA should stand.

The judges said it was wrong of the competition appeals tribunal to find "apparent bias" in the Competition Commission's ruling ordering the sale of the airports.

BAA said it was "disappointed" by the decision and would seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

"We note the court's view that apparent bias in relation to a panel member existed during part of the commission's investigation and will study this judgment carefully," it said in a statement.

The Competition Commission said it was pleased with the ruling.

"The effect of this decision is to restore in full our report, together with its remedies, including the requirement for BAA to sell Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports, Gatwick having already been sold," it said.

"Our intention now is to work with BAA to implement these measures in the interests of the travelling public."

BAA had argued that Peter Mozier, a member of the commission's airports inquiry panel, was connected to the Manchester Airport Group, which had been interested in buying Gatwick, and therefore there was a possibility of bias.

BAA, which was privatised in 1987, also operates Heathrow airport, Southampton airport in southwest England and Aberdeen in Scotland.

In October 2009, BAA agreed to sell Gatwick to US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners for 1.51 billion pounds.

© 2010 AFP

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