Gatwick looks for a buyer who's in it for the long haul

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Gatwick airport will be up for sale in early November. BAA, the airport operator, hopes to sell it for around £3bn and will send an information memorandum to interested bidders in the first half of next month.

A source close to BAA, selling because of pressure from the Competition Commission, said the process would take at least a year. BAA's advisers on the deal are Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC.

BAA hopes an investor looking at Gatwick as a purchase that will reap rewards over 20 or 30 years will acquire the airport, and so ensure the credit crunch does not lower the price it can fetch for such a premium asset.

The source said: "To own the number two airport in the UK is a rare thing, and BAA would hope that this is reflected in the price."

The Competition Commission wants to break up BAA, which it believes holds a monopoly in the South-east, through owning Heathrow, Stan-sted and Gatwick, and also in Scotland, where it has three airports.

The commission has indicated it will recommend a sale of two London airports and one in Scotland when it completes an investigation into BAA next year. BAA decided to sell Gatwick as a result of the preliminary findings.