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Airport operator's shares tumble over 'bad service levy' fear

Shares in Ferrovial, the Spanish construction group that owns Heathrow and Stansted airport operator BAA, are under pressure after it emerged that the Coalition will introduce tough fines on underperforming airports.

BAA has come under fire for cancelling flights and even briefly shutting Heathrow airport during the cold snap. The company has been heavily criticised for not having enough de-icer to clear its runways during the crisis. It had stockpiled supplies sufficient for just 10 days.

At the weekend, transport secretary Philip Hammond was reported to have called for severe financial penalties to be levied on service failures, including poor preparation for bad weather. At present, airport operators only face penalties handed down by the Civil Aviation Authority, which are for more easily quantifiable problems than service quality, such as seating availability and security queues.

Investors in Madrid reacted badly to the news, sending Ferrovial shares down 2.4% by close of trading on Monday. Ferrovial continued to plunge yesterday and was down a further 0.33%.

BAA spent just £500,000 on anti-snow equipment last year, barely half the 2009 salary and bonus of chief executive Colin Matthews. He has waived his bonus this year and signed-off plans to spend £10m on a "snow investment programme".