BAA to sell Gatwick Airport

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UK airports operator BAA has confirmed plans to sell London Gatwick Airport, although it remains opposed to selling other airports as recently called for by competition authorities.

CEO Colin Matthews says in a statement that "we have decided to begin the process of selling Gatwick Airport immediately".

The announcement comes weeks after the UK Competition Commission said BAA should sell two of its three London airports, the others being Heathrow and Stansted. It also said BAA should sell one of its two main Scottish airports.

Matthews says: "Gatwick has long been an important and valuable part of BAA and the decision to sell was not taken lightly. We believe that the airport's customers, staff and business will benefit from the earliest possible resolution of current uncertainty."

BAA said after the Competition Commission published provisional findings of its review into the airport operator recently that it disagreed with the results and analysis.

Its CEO says today: "We will continue to present our case, in respect of the South East airports and those in Scotland. At Stansted, we believe that a change of ownership would interfere with the process of securing planning approval for a second runway, which remains a key feature of government air transport policy."

He adds: "The Commission itself states that a shortage of runway capacity in the South East is a main cause of poor service standards, but we believe its proposed remedies will delay delivery of that capacity.

"BAA will continue to change in many respects. We have a new management team. Our priority is to improve the quality of service we offer passengers and airlines."

BAA operates seven UK airports, specifically London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen in Scotland, as well as Southampton.

The Competition Commission said in its recent report that the common ownership is a "principal cause" of competition problems at these airports. It is due to publish a final report early next year.