A series of international firms were today reported to be targeting Gatwick Airport as owner BAA faced being broken up by competition bosses.
Germany’s Hochtief, Global Infrastructure Partners, the GE-Credit Suisse Investment fund, Australia’s Macquarie and Britain’s Manchester Airport Group have all indicated their interest to BAA chairman Sir Nigel Rudd, the Sunday Times said.
Other bidders including American and Asian groups are expected to emerge in the coming months in what could be a multi-billion pound tussle, the paper added.
The interest comes as Sir Nigel revealed this weekend that he expected the Competition Commission (CC) to recommend the sell-off of Gatwick or Stansted - or both – together with one of the Scottish airports.
That would be the first time the commission, whose provisional findings from a probe into the firm’s position are released this week, has forced the sale of assets outside of a takeover or merger situation.
BAA, which was bought by the Spanish property group Ferrovial in 2006, has a near monopoly on airports in South east England and Scotland – owning Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Southampton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen.
It has been widely criticised for poor passenger facilities and excessive airline charges, culminating in the fiasco of the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal Five earlier this year.
The CC launched a probe into BAA in March last year, and in an update four months ago said BAA’s common ownership of seven UK airports “may not be serving well the interests of either airlines or passengers”.
Sir Nigel said in a BBC interview that a break up ruling would not be a “disaster” for the company, but insisted that it would do little to increase competition at its main airport, Heathrow.
“Heathrow does not compete with Gatwick and with Stansted or with Luton or Manchester,” he said.
“It competes with Charles de Gaulle (Paris), it competes with Dubai now and with Schiphol (Amsterdam), because these are big international hub airports so the ownership of these airports actually has nothing to do with competition.”