Abigail Townsend: BAA flies high, but just wait till it touches down

The airport authority's assets look better on paper than on the ground

You have got to admire BAA, batting off multi-billion-pound approaches as if they were flies. Rejecting an 810p-a-share approach without a backward glance was one thing, but refusing even to discuss 900p, the massively improved offer from the consortium led by Spain's Ferrovial, took some gall. It values the business at £9.73bn but BAA's chief executive, Mike Clasper, was clear. "The number is higher but it's still not a number we're willing to accept," he told reporters last week.

In fact, by the end of the week, Ferrovial was looking rather embarrassingly as if it had run out of options after an apparent dawn raid on the stock seemed to have failed.

You certainly can't blame Mr Clasper for his approach. This is a company sitting on some extraordinary assets, and his tactics have let the market know that they won't be sold for anything other than top dollar. Ferrovial has until tomorrow, under Takeover Panel rules, to table a higher offer, while Goldman Sachs, which was rebuffed at 870p, has until Friday.

Yet while Mr Clasper may be the very embodiment of serenity, outside the mergers and acquisitions arena, a storm is brewing. The Office of Fair Trading is considering investigating the structure of UK airports, which can surely be only bad news for the owner of Heath-row, Gatwick and Stansted.

But more than that, while on paper BAA's assets look impressive, in reality it's a very different story. Were you building a new airport from scratch today, Heathrow would be the very model of what not to do.

The transport links are terrible, it does not have enough capacity and expanding it will be tough, as that expensive third runway is squeezed in between roads and housing. I would happily forgo the foreign holiday if it meant avoiding Heath-row. It's frankly just depressing: massive, confusing and unwelcoming - and that's before BAA's planned expansion.

It may limit where I can go on holiday, but give me City airport in London's Docklands any day: neat and tidy, convenient to get to and packed with smiling staff, not lost holidaying hoards.

Heathrow needs improving. As BAA has so far failed to do this, maybe Ferrovial, under the leadership of the equally serene Rafael del Pino, was the company to pull it off. Because Heathrow is important - the UK needs a major European hub. BAA's answer is a multi-billion-pound expansion of the airport. But as it's already such an unwieldy mess, I'm not convinced that simply enlarging it will deliver all the improvements BAA is hoping for.

If a deal is done - though that now looks increasingly unlikely - under the stewardship of Mr Clasper it can be guaranteed to be an excellent one for investors. But if a deal is not done, fighting off the Spanish could seem easy in comparison with the task ahead.

No cure for fat cats

I am thinking, rather belatedly, admittedly, of throwing my hat into the dot-com ring and setting up a website: eatlessandexercisemore.com. Because, let's be honest, in many cases of obesity, that's all the treatment most people need.

Not, however, that the drug companies appear to agree. They have poured millions into researching a new generation of slimming pills, seen as the next gold mine for the sector. It certainly makes good business sense. Obesity is a major problem, and one that must be dealt with. But there's a huge demand for quick cures and, rather conveniently, the biggest market for obesity drugs is the developed world, whose largely well-off population can pay for treatments - unlike many HIV and Aids sufferers in Africa. The pharmaceutical companies are also facing a crisis as generic competition soars and pipelines dry up.

So yes, obesity drugs make good business sense. What they are not going to do is help the drugs industry's already tarnished reputation.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own