BAA to abandon Stansted sale fight

StanstedAirport operator BAA is to give up its long legal battle over the forced sale of Stansted Airport.

The company, which recently lost a Court of Appeal ruling over Stansted, said it would not make a further appeal and would proceed with the sale of the Essex airport.
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The Competition Commission (CC) had originally ruled that BAA must sell Gatwick, Stansted and one of its Scottish airports following an inquiry into the company's airport ownership.

BAA said: "We still believe that the CC ruling fails to recognise that Stansted and Heathrow serve different markets."

The BAA decision ends a process which began as far back as March 2007 when the Office of Fair Trading referred BAA airport services to the CC. The CC ruling that BAA must sell off Gatwick, Stansted and one of either Glasgow or Edinburgh Airports was made in March 2009.

Gatwick was sold to Global Infrastructure Partnerships (GIP) in December 2009 and GIP also took over Edinburgh Airport last year.

BAA mounted a series of legal challenges to the CC ruling, with the latest one - against the sale of Stansted - ending in defeat at the High Court in July this year. After that latest loss, BAA said it would appeal to the Supreme Court but now the Spanish-owned company signalled an end to its fight to hang on to Stansted.

BAA, which formerly ran seven UK airports, will have responsibility for just four - Heathrow, Southampton, Glasgow and Aberdeen - once the Stansted sale is concluded.

Brian Ross, economics adviser to protest group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), said: "We are pleased with this outcome. Historically the expansion of Stansted has been cross-subsidised by Heathrow. This type of cross-subsidisation will not be an option in future and that means we can all breathe a little easier."

Stansted currently handles around 17.5 million passengers and more than 133,000 flights a year. A total of 16 airlines operate from the Essex airport, flying to more than 150 destinations in 32 countries. The airport offers work to 10,200 people including 1,400 BAA employees.
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