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BAA losses rise on Gatwick sale

BAA slipped even further into the red in the first nine months of this year thanks to falling passenger numbers and the forced sale of Gatwick.

The Ferrovial-owned airport operator posted pre-tax losses of £785m over the first three quarters, even worse than last year’s £520m losses. The group blamed a £261m exceptional charge on its pension scheme deficit, a £225m gap between Gatwick’s £1.5bn sale price and its valuation on BAA’s books, and a further £136m loss on financial instruments.

Colin Matthews, the chief executive described the technical losses as a “distraction” yesterday. “The accounting losses we are reporting today reflect non-cash exceptional charges and do not reflect the strong underlying performance of the business,” he said.

Passenger numbers fell by 5.5 per cent to 91 million at BAA’s seven UK airports in the first nine months of this year, but the rate of decline is slowing from the massive 10 per cent drop in the first quarter. Heathrow is the best performer. Passenger traffic fell by just 2.3 per cent to 50 million over the whole period, and rose by 0.3 per cent in the third quarter.

BAA was forced to sell Gatwick by Competition Commission rule, and also has to find a buyer for Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports.