BAA has said it will fight the forced sale of Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh airports.
The Competition Commission confirmed yesterday it would order the break up of BAA in March, subject to final consultation.
BAA has already put Gatwick up for sale and expects preliminary bids next month. But the head of Spanish group Ferrovial, the majority owner of BAA, said it would use “all available mechanisms” to challenge the order to sell the other two airports.
Ferrovial took over BAA in 2006 in a £16 billion deal that saw it take on considerable debt, and it would struggle to recoup that investment amid a recession and the squeeze on credit. A legal challenge therefore appears inevitable.
The group’s chief executive Joaquin Ayuso said: “We have certain legal mechanisms at our disposal to defend our position.”
Airlines have lobbied hard for BAA’s break-up and many welcomed the announcement by the Competition Commission. But the uncertainty and cost of a sell-off could jeopardise developments at the airports. BAA chief executive Colin Matthews warned the sale “may delay the introduction of new runway capacity”.
The Competition Commission will also propose measures at Heathrow and recommend changes in airport regulation. The Commission has the power to order BAA’s break up over the heads of ministers, but other proposals will be subject to government approval.
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