After selling Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal ruled in favour of BAA, concluding that the original decision to force the airports operator to sell three of its seven UK airports was potentially biased.
Gatwick: ruling to sell
The court ruled in favour of the first count, saying there “was a real possibility of bias affecting the deliberations, thinking and ultimate outcome of the investigation” but rejected BAA’s second argument. By saying it would now allow more time to hear arguments from both BAA and the CC on what should happen regarding the airport sales, the court has effectively bought BAA valuable time, even if ends up having to sell the airports.
BAA sold Gatwick to GIP in late October for £1.51 billion (€1.69 billion; $2.43 billion), a discount from its £1.8 billion regulated asset value and a far cry from the £3 billion analysts said it could have fetched before air travel took a turn for the worse. With more time to negotiate its future airport sales, BAA might end up selling them at a time when conditions have improved and thus fetch a better price.
BAA said it was “pleased” with the court’s decision and preparing for future discussions with the CC. The competition authority, meanwhile, said it was reviewing the ruling with a view to making further submissions to the tribunal. It also underlined that the court said its decision was taken with “the greatest reluctance”. Budget airliner Ryanair expressed disappointment with the court’s ruling and its possible impact on the sale of Stansted airport.
BAA currently runs Heathrow, Stansted and Southampton airports in England and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports in Scotland. It was bought by Spanish group Ferrovial in 2006 for £10.3 billion.