BAA loses appeal against selling Stansted

AIRPORTS operator BAA has lost its appeal against a ruling by the competition watchdog that it must sell Stansted Airport.

It is the latest twist in a lengthy legal battle which has been rumbling on since 2009 when BAA was ordered by the Competition Commission to sell Stansted, Gatwick and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports.

The firm, which also owns Heathrow, Glasgow, Southampton and Aberdeen, sold Gatwick and recently agreed to the sale of Edinburgh.

However, it has continued to fight the Stansted decision, arguing that it was not reasonable to consider the Essex hub as serving the same market as its other airport serving London, Heathrow.

For this reason, BAA said it was not anti-competitive for it to operate both airports, but the competition regulator did not agree. This decision was upheld at a Competition Appeal Tribunal ruling this morning (Wednesday, Feb 1).

A BAA spokesman said: “We are disappointed by the decision of the Competition Appeal tribunal which we will now carefully consider before making any further statements.”

Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion’s (SSE) economics adviser, Brian Ross, said: “BAA has been appealing this for almost three years now.

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“The whole purpose has simply been to delay the inevitable and to serve the interests of its shareholders with little regard for the impacts on Stansted’s employees and the local community.”

In another development to the ongoing saga, BAA has also re-clarified its position regarding the sale of its 279 properties surrounding Stansted Airport.

Chief executive Colin Matthews said in a letter made public last week that the company had committed to selling “the entirety of the property portfolio acquired”.

SSE described the move as a “major shift in the company’s position” and said it followed sustained pressure from the campaign group and local councils.

Stansted Airport said the letter re-clarified the position that BAA and Stansted Airport Ltd had maintained since May 2010 when plans for a second runway were aborted.

Most of the properties were bought by BAA over the past eight years, when the idea of a second runway at Stansted was mooted in a government white paper.

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “It would be premature to view this as a sign that BAA has given up all hope of ever building a second runway at Stansted.

“But it is clearly a move in the right direction and we hope the Government will take note, especially since the Government is currently examining options for increasing London’s airport capacity.”