Stansted Airport owner BAA has bowed to the inevitable and decided to sell the Essex hub rather than pursue its earlier intention to take the fight to the Supreme Court.BAA looked fully primed for battle this time last week rather than be forced to sell Stansted in the worst recession for decades with a gun to its head.
But in a terse statement issued today it revealed: “Having carefully considered the Court of Appeal’s recent ruling, BAA has decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court and is now proceeding with the sale of Stansted Airport.
“We still believe that the Competition Commission ruling fails to recognise that Stansted and Heathrow serve different markets.”
It said it would not be adding to the statement. Nor could it confirm whether it had received any tentative approaches or offers.
The sale of Stansted will leave BAA with four UK airports – Heathrow, Southampton, Aberdeen, and Glasgow.
It remains one of the region’s principal employers – 10,200 people work at Stansted; the airport’s adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and exceptional items) was £86.6m last year.
Approximately 17.5m passengers and 133,500 flights pass through Stansted every year. The hub has been named by passengers as ‘the world’s best airport for low-cost airlines’ for two consecutive years at the Skytrax World Airport Awards in a poll of 12 million passengers covering 388 airports worldwide.
Currently 16 airlines operate from Stansted, serving more than 150 destinations in 32 countries and the airport handled many of the additional VIP and head of state flights for the London Olympics.
The airport is also a major cargo centre with over 205,000 tonnes of cargo handled a year.
Regardless of the figures, BAA and Ferrovial – the Spanish infrastructure company that had high hopes for the airport when it took a controlling stake – is unlikely to receive anything like the going rate for an airport because it has been forced by the Competition Commission into an effective firesale.
The Coalition Government’s opposition to a second runway at Stansted has also devalued the operation.