BAA: No decision yet on Stansted sale

The UK’s largest airport operator said it will not reach a decision on selling its third-busiest airport until the UK’s Competition Commission releases a final decision on the airport’s ownership early next month.

The British Airports Authority (BAA) has not yet made a decision as to whether it will sell Stansted Airport, a spokesperson for the firm told InfrastructureInvestor.

London’s Sunday Times had reported that Span’s Grupo Ferrovial, the majority owner of BAA, will drop its objections to the sale after previously pledging to fight the UK Competition Commission’s provisional decision forcing it to sell the airport.

The spokesperson called the report “speculation” and said BAA will not reach a decision on the sale until the commission releases its final decision on the airport’s ownership early next month.

The airport is BAA’s third-busiest, with 2007 passenger traffic of 23.7 million, versus Gatwick’s 35.1 million and Heathrow’s 67.8 million.

In August 2008 the commission issued a decision requiring the BAA to sell two of the three airports it owns in London – Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick – and one of its two airports in Scotland – Glasgow and Edinburgh – as part of an ongoing inquiry into problems caused by lack of competition at UK airports.

The BAA responded by putting Gatwick up for sale, but had initially indicated it would fight to keep Stansted within its portfolio of seven UK airports.

Preliminary bids for Gatwick were due in January and three bidding parties are known to be in the process: Global Infrastructure Partners, a $5.64 billion infrastructure fund that already owns 75 percent of London City Airport; Citi Infrastructure Investors is leading a bid with the Vancouver Airport Services and John Hancock Life Insurance; and Manchester Airports Group, along with Borealis Infrastructure, the infrastructure arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, a Canadian pension scheme.

The deadline for binding bids is believed to be toward the end of March or early April.