BAA appeals against Stansted sale (again)

UK airports operator BAA – owned by Spain’s Ferrovial – has dug in its heels and decided to appeal against the latest legal ruling telling it to sell London’s Stansted Airport – a move that could delay the sale for a few more months.

BAA, the UK airports operator owned by Spanish infrastructure developer Ferrovial, is determined not to let go of London’s Stansted Airport without putting up a robust fight.

In a statement yesterday, BAA said it had “initiated appeal proceedings against the Competition Appeal Tribunal’s (CAT) judgement of February 1 2012, which found in favour of the Competition Commission’s decision […] that required BAA to sell Stansted Airport”. The airports operator “believes that the judgement is flawed and is seeking to appeal the judgement”.

BAA’s appeal is the latest twist in a long-running fight not to divest Stansted Airport – although the company has already agreed to divest one of its Scottish airports, with the sale of Edinburgh Airport, the UK’s sixth-busiest air hub, currently underway.

A spokesman from the Competition Commission, the UK watchdog that ordered BAA last October to sell Stansted and one of its Scottish airports, told Infrastructure Investor that BAA can still appeal to a number of judicial bodies in a process that can delay the sale of Stansted for another few months.

According to the spokesman, the airports operator will now likely appeal the CAT’s ruling directly at the court and, if denied a hearing, will likely move on to the Court of Appeal – the UK’s second most senior court. If that fails, BAA can still try the Supreme Court, the highest legal body in the UK, before calling it quits.

In the meantime, media reports are suggesting that Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), JP Morgan Asset Management and teams spearheaded by 3i and The Carlyle Group have been shortlisted to submit final offers for BAA’s Edinburgh Airport, which is expected to fetch between £500 million (€598 million; $797 million) and £700 million.

In 2009, BAA was forced to sell London’s Gatwick Airport to GIP for £1.5 billion as part of the Competition Commission’s decision to break the airports operator’s stranglehold of British airports.