Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

BAA sell-off decision restored

The Court of Appeal has restored a decision that could force BAA to comply with an order to sell three of its airports
The Competition Commission ruled last year that BAA must sell three of its airports, including Stansted

A decision that could force airport operator BAA to comply with an order to sell three of its airports has been restored by the Court of Appeal.

In March last year, the Competition Commission (CC) ruled that BAA must sell Gatwick and Stansted airports as well as one of either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

But BAA successfully appealed against the ruling, with the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) finding last December that there was "apparent bias" in the CC's ruling over Gatwick.

In turn, the CC went to the Court of Appeal in June to challenge the CAT decision.

And Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Jacob and Lord Justice Patten ruling on Wednesday that the CAT was wrong to find "apparent bias" and restored the Commission's decision.

They refused BAA's application to appeal to the Supreme Court, although the authority can renew its application direct.

BAA had already decided to sell Gatwick even before the March 2009 CC sell-off ruling which had followed a lengthy inquiry into UK airport ownership.

However, BAA was concerned that Professor Peter Mozier, one of the CC airports' inquiry panel, had a connection to the Manchester Airport Group which had been interested in buying Gatwick.

In its ruling last December, the CAT agreed with BAA's claim that Prof Mozier's role meant there had been "apparent bias" in the sell-off decision. The CAT said Prof Mozier was not actually biased "but that a fair-minded person would have concluded that there was a real possibility of bias".

Gatwick was sold last year for £1.5 billion to US-based investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners.

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