August 20, 2008

Airport Sale Plans Revealed

PLANE passengers who have endured travel misery will learn today just what changes to UK airport ownership are proposed by competition chiefs.

In a preliminary report, the Competition Commission (CC) is likely to recommend a break up of airport operator BAA's "monopoly" of south east England airports which comprise Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

The commission could make the case for BAA being forced to sell one or more of its London airports - a move that is likely to spark a bidding frenzy from a number of companies.

The commission will also give its views on BAA's ownership of its four other UK airports - Southampton, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. In an "emerging thinking" document published in April this year, the CC said that BAA's common ownership of the UK airports "may not be serving well the interests of either airlines or passengers".

Last weekend, BAA chairman Sir Nigel Rudd said he expected the commission to recommend the sell-off of Gatwick or Stansted - or both - together with one of his company's Scottish airports. It is believed that a number of international firms are interested in taking over Gatwick should BAA be forced to end its stewardship of the West Sussex airport.

One of the possible buyers could be the UK's Manchester Airport Group which runs Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside airports.

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