Stansted Airport was put up for sale yesterday after its owner, BAA, finally gave up a three-year battle against the Competition Commission which ordered the sell-off back in March 2009.
The decision is a blow to BAA chief executive Colin Matthews who has fought to avoid a forced sale of the airport in the current economic climate.
BAA said it would proceed with the sale of the airport but added: "We still believe the Competition Commission ruling fails to recognise Stansted and Heathrow serve different markets."
The sale, which could raise at least £1bn, is expected to attract attention from rival airport operators and private equity groups. Manchester Airport Group has been tipped as one of the frontrunners to buy the business.
Stansted is London's third airport and the UK's fourth-busiest, handling about 17.5 million passengers a year.
BAA has already been forced to sell Gatwick and Edinburgh airports as result of the Competition Commission inquiry.