BAA Ordered to Sell Three UK Airports


CNN is reporting that Britain's competition watchdog has ordered airport operator BAA to sell three of its seven airports, including two in London.

BAA must sell Gatwick and Stansted airports in London and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports in Scotland within two years, the Competition Commission said Thursday, adding that the sale of the airports will encourage competition "where today there is no competition at all."

BAA owns seven airports in the United Kingdom, including London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. The Competition Commission says there are competition problems at all seven airports, with adverse consequences for passengers and airlines.

Finding new owners for the three airports will result in lower prices and improved customer service, said Christopher Clarke, chairman of the study. All three must have separate buyers, the commission said.

BAA said it acknowledged the need to change but did not agree with all of the commission's findings. "We believe the commission's analysis is flawed and its remedies may be impractical in current economic conditions," BAA said in a statement, adding it needs more time to consider the report before responding further.

BAA must sell the airports in sequence, beginning with Gatwick—which went up for sale in September—then Stansted and then either Edinburgh or Glasgow, the commission said.

The Competition Commission is an independent public group that investigates mergers, markets and regulated industries. The Office of Fair Trading, a government department, asked the commission to look into airport competition in March 2007.

The once-state-owned BAA, which used to be known as the British Airports Authority, was privatized in 1986 and floated on the stock market in 1987. It is now owned by Spanish property group Ferrovial.

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