David Prosser's Outlook: BAA prepares to hoist the 'for sale' signs

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The Independent Online

The Competition Commission will surprise no one by announcing today that it thinks BAA should be forced to sell one or more of its airports in order to improve the way the market operates. It will be a popular conclusion – BAA is the company everyone loves to hate, even more so since the Terminal 5 debacle at Heathrow. Airlines and passenger groups have been as one in their dislike of BAA.

Still, it is difficult to disagree with BAA's chairman, Sir Nigel Rudd, who argues that a break-up of his company would be pointless. As Sir Nigel says, it is just not credible that either Stansted or Gatwick stands a chance of being a full-scale competitor to Heathrow, which has an international "hub" status its rivals cannot hope to emulate.

Moreover, the commission's recommendation is as much an attack on the regulatory system governing airports as on BAA itself. The Civil Aviation Authority has a remit to ensure that BAA's dominance does not result in a bad deal for its customers. The verdict today suggests the CAA has failed in this regard.

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