Shares in Ferrovial, the Spanish construction group that owns BAA, the Heathrow and Stansted airport operator, are under pressure after it emerged that the Coalition will introduce tough fines on underperforming airports.
BAA has come under fire for cancelling flights and even briefly shutting Heathrow airport during the cold snap. The company has been heavily criticised for not having enough de-icer to clear its runways during the crisis. It had stockpiled supplies sufficient for just 10 days.
At the weekend, the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, was reported to have called for severe financial penalties to be levied on service failures, including poor preparation for bad weather. At present, airport operators only face penalties handed down by the Civil Aviation Authority, which are for more easily quantifiable problems than service quality, such as seating availability and security queues.
Investors in Madrid reacted badly to the news, sending Ferrovial shares down 2.4 per cent to €7.64 by close of trading on Monday. Ferrovial continued to plunge yesterday and was down a further 0.33 per cent.
BAA spent just £500,000 on anti-snow equipment last year, barely half the 2009 salary and bonus of the chief executive, Colin Matthews. He has waived his bonus this year and signed off plans to spend £10m on a "snow investment programme".
Ferrovial is playing down suggestions the problems could harm plans to sell a 10 per cent stake in BAA. The group wants to cut its majority shareholding to below 50 per cent so it would no longer have to hold BAA's €13bn debt on the group balance sheet.
Although publicly traded, Ferrovial's dominant shareholders are the family of the company's founder, Rafael del Pino, with an estimated 46 per cent stake.