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BAA told to sell off two of its airports.

Byline: HENRYK ZIENTEK

AIRPORTS operator BAA must sell two of its UK airports, competition chiefs have said in a final ruling.

BAA, which runs six UK airports, including Heathrow, will have to sell Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airport, the Competition Commission said.

The sale process will start in three months "or sooner if undertakings are accepted from BAA in the meantime", the CC said.

The announcement follows a provisional ruling on the sales made in March this year and ends a two-year saga which began in March, 2009, when the CC made what was seen then as a final report on BAA's airport ownership.

In that 2009 ruling, the CC said BAA must sell Gatwick - since disposed of - as well as Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

A series of legal challenged by BAA followed, which ended with the CC findings being upheld.

Both in the provisional ruling in March this year and in the final report, the CC said the sale of the airports was fully justified.

It said passengers and airlines would still benefit from greater competition with the airports under separate ownership, despite the current Government's decision to rule out new runways at any of the London airports.

While the legal battle was going on, BAA sold Gatwick to US-based investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners for about pounds 1.5bn in late 2009.

Peter Freeman, of the CC, said: "Both we and the courts have now exhaustively re-examined the case for the sales and found it to be sound, so there are no grounds for delaying further."

BAA chief Colin Matthews said the company was considering seeking a judicial review, adding: "The CC has not recognised that the world and BAA have changed.

"This decision would damage our company which is investing strongly in UK jobs and growth".

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 20, 2011
Words:317
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