BAA wins appeal on airport sale

Spanish-owned airport operator BAA has won its appeal against a ruling by the UK Competition Commission that it must sell three of its airports.BAA contested that the original ruling panel was affected by “apparent bias”. The main basis of this accusation was a conflict of interest following learning that a member of the commission panel was a long-standing fee-paid adviser to the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. This fund is governed by the 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester, which own all of the shares in Manchester Airport Group – a potential purchaser of one or more of the airports.BAA has already agreed to sell Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners for some £1.5 billion, but now has a stay of execution on the sale of the other two airports – London Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh.A spokesperson for the BAA said it was pleased that the tribunal had upheld its appeal on the grounds of apparent bias and said further discussions should now take place with the Competition Commission as the tribunal suggested.However, the Competition Commission looks set to push forward with a new ruling to help ensure that the sale of the other two airports is eventually enforced. A spokesperson stated that: “It was reviewing the ruling and was planning to make further submissions to the tribunal, adding that the judge had made the ruling with ‘the greatest reluctance’.”The overturning of the original ruling will provide BAA with a much longer period in which to set its future strategy and obtain a much improved price for the airports should the Competition Commission eventually force through the sale. This would now only need to be completed in a timescale of years rather than months.

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