BAA owner Ferrovial has reported plunging profits ahead of the likely break up of its UK airports empire.
The Spanish infrastructure group that bought BAA in 2006 announced profits of just under Euro59 million for the first six months of the year, down from Euro756 million at the same stage last year.
Almost Euro500 million of the shortfall was due to income from asset sales in the first half of 2007. However, the dive in profits will alarm analysts.
Ferrovial blamed a combination of the fall in sterling against the euro, the increased cost of airport security measures and the downturn in consumer spending. It said the increase in charges to airlines at Heathrow and Gatwick since April would help offset the security costs.
The group is heavily indebted and only secured a £13-billion refinancing deal last month. It is feared a forced sale of UK airports next year could put Ferrovial in greater difficulty and jeopardise investment at Heathrow.
Ferrovial owns Gatwick and Stansted as well as Heathrow, along with Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Southampton airports. It is expected to have to sell Gatwick, Stansted and Glasgow.