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.

a.townsend@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Quantitative Risk Manager

Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments