BAA abandons fight to sell Stansted Airport

AIRPORT operator BAA is to give up its long legal battle over the forced sale of Stansted Airport.

BAA, which recently lost a Court of Appeal ruling over Stansted, said it would not make a further appeal and would proceed with the sale of the Essex airport.

The Competition Commission (CC) had originally ruled that BAA must sell Gatwick, Stansted and one of its Scottish airports following an inquiry into the company’s airport ownership.

A spokesman for the company said: “Having carefully considered the Court of Appeal’s recent ruling, BAA has decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court and is now proceeding with the sale of Stansted Airport.

“We still believe that the Competition Commission ruling fails to recognise that Stansted and Heathrow serve different markets.”

Monday’s decision by BAA brings to an end a process that started as far back as March 2007 when the Office of Fair Trading referred BAA airport services to the CC.

The CC ruled that BAA must sell off Gatwick, Stansted and in March 2009 ruled that one of their airports in Scotland, Glasgow or Edinburgh, also had to be sold.

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Gatwick was sold to Global Infrastructure Partnerships (GIP) in December 2009 and GIP also took over Edinburgh Airport last year.

Over the years, BAA has mounted a series of legal challenges to the CC ruling. The latest one, which was against the sale of Stansted, ended in defeat at the High Court last month.

After that latest loss, BAA said it would appeal to the Supreme Court but this week the Spanish-owned company announced that it had decided to end its fight to keep hold of Stansted.

Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion said it was “pleased with the outcome”.

Brian Ross, economics adviser, said: “Historically the expansion of Stansted has been cross-subsidised by Heathrow. This type of cross-subsidisation will not be an option in future and that means we can all breathe a little easier.

“The prolonged period of uncertainty over Stansted’s ownership has been unsettling for the airport’s employees, unhelpful for the local community and damaging for the airport’s business.

“Our hope is that with a new owner there will be an opportunity for genuine and meaningful dialogue based on maximising the local benefits of the airport and minimising its adverse impacts on the community.”

Once the sale of Stansted is completed, BAA, which formerly ran seven UK airports, will see the number of UK airports it wons reduced to just four: Heathrow, Southampton, Glasgow and Aberdeen.