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London’s Gatwick Airport up for sale

Ferrovial’s British airports operator BAA said on Wednesday it is putting its Gatwick Airport in London up for sale — but vowed to fight to retain the rest of its portfolio.

”We have decided to begin the process of selling Gatwick Airport immediately,” Colin Matthews, chief executive of Spanish-owned BAA, told reporters in Toronto.

Sector sources said Gatwick, one of the Europe’s busiest airports with 35-million passengers, could fetch between £2-billion and £3-billion.

A string of potential buyers has already registered an interest, while Virgin Atlantic said on Wednesday it was interested in bidding as part of a consortium.

Frankfurt operator Fraport and German builder Hochtief have expressed possible interest, as has Singapore-owned Changi Airports International.

The move is a response to Britain’s Competition Commission, which last month said in a provisional ruling that BAA must sell three of its seven United Kingdom airports, including two of London’s Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted and one of Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland.

BAA said it disagreed with the Competition Commission’s analysis, and that it will try to keep Stansted airport to the north of London as a change of ownership could interfere with the airport’s expansion.

The firm added that it will also ”continue to present our case” in Scotland, where it also owns Aberdeen airport.

”At Stansted, we believe that a change of ownership would interfere with the process of securing planning approval for a second runway, which remains a key feature of government air transport policy,” Matthews said.

Separately, in a meeting with Spanish press in Toronto, the CEO of Ferrovial Airports division Inigo Meiras said it is interested in the privatisation of Spanish airports authority Aena and is also eyeing other airports outside the UK.

This summer the Spanish government said it would privatise 30% of Aena, the whole of which has been valued at €30-billion.

”We are not obviously going to look at airports in England, but outside, yes, we will do so,” said Meiras. — Reuters

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