BAA launches appeal over order to sell three airports

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The Independent Online

BAA launched its appeal against the Competition Commission's order to sell three of its UK airports yesterday, telling a hearing that the Commission's ruling was "riven" with apparent bias. At the same time the group is moving closer to selling Gatwick to the owners of London's City airport.

The airport operator, which was told in March that it must sell Gatwick, Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh, says that a member of the Competition Commission's panel, Professor Peter Moizer, is also an adviser to the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. The fund formed part of the Manchester Airports Group that was bidding for Gatwick. "Manchester Airports Group's money is under his control and advice," BAA's lawyers told the appeal hearing yesterday.

The group is also claiming that the two-year deadline to sell the airports, laid down by the competition authorities, is unfair because the recession will mean it receives a suppressed price.

Despite the appeal, BAA looks set to sell Gatwick, the UK's second busiest airport, possibly agreeing a deal as early as today. The company is locked in talks over price with Global Infrastructure Partners, the operator of City airport in London's Docklands.

While negotiations continue, it is thought the two sides will settle on a price of close to £1.5bn. A spokesman for BAA said yesterday that there are a number of bidders and no timetable for a sale has been set.