David Kaminski-Morrow / Paris
British Airways (BA) and BMI have reacted calmly to the prospect of Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial’s taking over UK airports operator BAA, the manager of London Heathrow Airport.
It follows BAA’s agreement in principle to the takeover after a Ferrovial-led consortium offered a price valuing BAA at just over £9.50 ($17.88) per share.
Speaking to ATI at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Paris today, British Airways CEO Willie Walsh and BMI counterpart Nigel Turner each said that they were “looking forward” to working with Ferrovial should a takeover be confirmed.
Walsh says: “We’re looking forward to working with them to make London Heathrow a better airport, to make it more efficient.”
Turner echoes this position, adding that he is unconcerned at the prospective takeover because the airline has confidence that the UK’s regulatory authorities will act in the airlines’ interests and that the investment programmes at London Heathrow and other BAA airports will continue.
“We look forward to working with Ferrovial,” he says. “To the regulator – it’s over to you.”
He also believes the timing is right for a review of the UK airport market – an issue on which UK regulators recently said they are considering opening a review.
“Regulators must take a rigid stand and use any change in ownership as an opportunity to review some critical questions about the strategic importance of the UK's airports,” says Turner.
“Effective monopolies in London and in Scotland are not healthy for the consumer and airlines alike. Divestment of interests in Scottish airports is long overdue. Now must be the time to look at all of these ownership issues.”
Oneworld member BA and Star Alliance carrier BMI are the primary UK operators serving London Heathrow. BAA’s seven UK airports also include London Gatwick and Stansted, the Scottish airports of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and south coast airport Southampton.