Stansted to be sold after monopoly ruling upheld, although bosses still looking for a fight

STANSTED could be sold within the next three months, after owners BAA lost its latest court battle to keep a firm grip on the UK airport industry.

The Competition Commission ruled in 2009 that the hub would have to be sold to the highest bidder after citing that the company had a monopoly of airports in the country.

As a result BAA sold Gatwick for �1.5billion, but will now be forced into selling Stansted, alongside Glasgow and Edinburgh, after the decision was upheld against an appeal on Monday.

However, chief executive Colin Matthews vowed to fight on. “We are dismayed,” he said. “The commission has not recognised that the world and BAA have changed.

“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 decision.”

BAA, which also owns Heathrow, added that the Government has changed its aviation policy to rule out any extra runways at Stansted, so the “market has changed”.

A spokesman added: “The airports in question face increased competition from non-BAA airports, particularly those in Europe, for the business of low cost carriers who now take a pan-European view of the market.

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“It is also clearer now than it has ever been that Heathrow and Stansted serve different markets.”

BAA say it has invested �5 billion into UK airports since acquiring the company in 2006 – including over �300 million at Stansted.

Operational performance has improved in line with that investment – security queues are shorter, baggage delivery is more reliable, and flight punctuality recently hit record levels.

However airport campaigners Stop Stansted Expansion, who have asked for a 50-year guarantee that no new runways will be built, have urged BAA to “accept defeat”.

Economics adviser Brian Ross said: “The uncertainty has gone on far too long and BAA should now respect the ruling and the courts and sell as quickly as possible.

“A fresh challenge, in the hope of buying more time so that Stansted is sold under better market conditions, would worsen relations with the community which it has already done so much to destroy.

“Our hope is that with a new owner in place there would 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.”

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