Sale of UK’s third largest air hub by the company formerly known as BAA was demanded by Competition Commission
Stansted airport, one of the prime contenders to supplant Heathrow as part of an expansion of airport capacity in the southeast of England, is to be sold by the company formerly known as BAA in a £1.5bn deal.
The sale of the UK’s third largest airport to Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is expected to be completed by the end of February and marks the continued rise of the group, whose three existing airports and property business contribute around £3.2bn to the UK.
The breakup of BAA also continues apace as a result of the deal, which reduces the number of airports in the hands of the company from seven to four.
The Competition Commission ruled in July 2011 that it should sell Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airport as part of a breakup which was resisted in a succession of ultimately unsuccessful legal challenges.
But the company, which owns Heathrow, Southampton, Aberdeen and Glasgow, and announced in October that it was to change its name from BAA to Heathrow Airport Holdings, has announced that Stansted was being bought by MAG.
Stansted, in Essex, which is London’s third busiest airport and a major hub for budget airlines such as Ryanair, has been identified by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, as the only viable alternative to proposals to construct a £50bn airport in the Thames estuary.
The mayor, who is opposed to expansion at Heathrow in west London and said in October that he favoured an airport to the east of London, later suggested Stansted should be turned into a “superhub” airport with three extra runways and commissioned a feasibility study.
The airport, which handles around 17.5 million passengers and more than 131,000 flights a year, posted pre-tax profits of £86.6m in 2011.They were estimated to be £94.2m in 2012.
Colin Matthews, Heathrow chief executive and a BAA board member, said: “Stansted airport and its people have been part of our company for a long time.
“It 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, and we are proud of its achievements.”
He added: “We wish the new owners every success and are confident the airport will continue to flourish. We will continue to focus on improving Heathrow, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.”
As well as operating Manchester, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports, MAG owns a commercial property company, MAG Developments, which has a £350m portfolio across the three airports and is leading the £650m Enterprise Zone development, Airport City, at Manchester.
It also runs businesses in car parking, airport security, firefighting, engineering, advertising and motor transport.
BAA’s airport ownership was brought into question when the Office of Fair Trading referred the company’s holding to the Competition Commission which, after a long inquiry, ruled that BAA’s airport ownership was uncompetitive.
Criticising the company’s performance, the commission said BAA had to sell Gatwick and Stansted and one of either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports.
Gatwick had already been sold by the time of the ruling and since then BAA has sold Edinburgh.
It held out for some time before finally accepting the ruling on Stansted – mounting a succession of ultimately unsuccessful legal challenges.
MAG had been one of the bidders for Gatwick when BAA put it up for sale while the competition inquiry was going on but it lost out to American private equity group Global Infrastructure Partners which now also runs Edinburgh.
Airport operator BAA says it will change the name under which it operates its UK airports and will use individual airport names.
Follow this link: Airport operator BAA drops name
Ryanair says it will not form part of any consortium to buy Stansted after saying the airport’s owner BAA had excluded the budget airline from the sale process.
Go here to see the original: Ryanair dismisses Stansted bid
The third runway appeals to paranoid machismo, not reason. A recession is no excuse for pushing through dumb projects
Big-willy politics is back. If we do not build a third runway at Heathrow, says Tory MP Tim Yeo, Britain will “slide towards insignificance”. Britain will leave the premier league, lose out to China and become a second-rate power. Those who refuse to build third runways are mice not men. As for manifesto pledges and coalition agreements, they are for wimps. Real men love planes. To be great, says Hamlet, is “greatly to find quarrel in a straw when honour’s at the stake”. What greater honour could there be than a third runway at Heathrow?
Similar dire warnings were made if Britain withdrew from “east of Suez”, refused to join the euro or failed to back a British car industry. They are why governments still build aircraft carriers, buy nuclear missiles and fight foreign wars. They are why lobbyists argue for banking bonuses, high-speed trains and lofty skyscrapers. Yeo says we risk repeating Macmillan’s retreat from empire. Foreigners will kick sand in our faces and be rude about our food and our women.
Big-willy politics is the most dangerous politics of all. It appeals to paranoid machismo, not argument or reason. Yeo’s taunt at David Cameron – is he “a man or a mouse” over Heathrow – is the dumbed-down remark of a politician who takes £140,000 in a year from energy companies while chairing the Commons energy select committee – though this may say more about today’s parliament than about Yeo. The thesis that any profit to an interest group must be “good for Britain” is insidious. War is more profitable than peace, but we do not go to war with Russia.
The case for a third runway at Heathrow is like that for a heliport in St James’s Park or a shard on Hampstead Heath. Some might find it remunerative and convenient, but we try not to commit such outrages on the environment these days. No sensible country builds airports with flight paths over densely populated areas. However much BAA and BA may spend on PR to keep alive “the case for a third runway”, it cannot alter this fact.
The London area has more airports and more runways than any other city in Europe. Heathrow alone serves more “key business” destinations than Paris and Frankfurt together. Screaming for a “hub” is lobbyists’ nonsense. London’s trading future lies in being a terminus, not a transit lounge. Anyway, a mere 15% of London air travel is business rather than pleasure, the latter overwhelmingly that of outbound Britons. Why boosting Britain’s £15bn tourism deficit holds the key to economic recovery is a mystery.
There is nothing to stop Heathrow serving more business destinations if BAA and BA wanted. Instead they are addicted to outbound leisure travel, as is glaringly obvious from any Heathrow departure board. As for inbound tourists, far more harm is done by Cameron’s clampdown on their visas than might be done by directing them to Stansted or Gatwick.
BA prefers to work out of Heathrow, while Spanish-owned BAA has sold both Gatwick and Stansted and has no interest in their growth, let alone in a new Thames airport. These are two companies with a commercial interest in Heathrow, pure and simple. They are continuing to press for a third runway for one reason alone. Cameron and George Osborne have shown they will bend under pressure. While this is sometimes the welcome reversal of a bad decision, each U-turn is a gift to the lobbyists.
Cameron famously said in opposition that “secret corporate lobbying, like the expenses scandal, goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics”. Money, he said, was “buying power, power fishing for money, and a cosy club
Airports operator BAA decides to sell Stansted Airport, ending its long-running battle against a Competition Commission ruling.
See more here: BAA to sell off Stansted Airport
Tony Hayward plunges back into a conflict zone, Premier Oil’s Falklands adventure excites investors and BAA gets ready for another rush
After the critical mauling former BP boss Tony Hayward received for his handling of Gulf of Mexico blowout, you would think he’d want a quiet life. But instead, his new job as boss of Genel Energy has put him at the centre of a skirmish between the oil barons of Iraq and Kurdistan.
Genel, whose backers include Nat Rothschild, has taken a bet on Kurdistan being the next big province for the oil industry and recently increased its stake in an exploratory field there. So the City will want to know Hayward’s take on the argy-bargy between Baghdad and Erbil at the company’s half-year results on Thursday. Iraq has threatened to cut ties with foreign oil companies if they violate Iraqi law and proceed with upstream work in the self-governing region. Kurdistan, meanwhile, is close to completing a pipeline to Turkey that will enable its producers to bypass Iraq altogether.
Mehmet Sepil, Genel’s president, is already feeling chipper: “Baghdad has lost its oil and natural gas fight against northern Iraq. Baghdad says it will put those who operate in northern Iraq on a blacklist but the largest companies in the world are working there. The energy fight is over today. The important question is when Baghdad will admit this.” My guess is not any time soon.
Premier still in choppy waters
There will be another chance to take the temperature of the (political) waters of the South Atlantic when plucky British explorer Premier Oil reports its first-half figures on Thursday.
Last week rival Desire Petroleum did its best to drum up excitement over the chances of a commercial oil strike off the Malvinas, as Buenos Aires likes to calls them. The buzz bodes well for Premier, which recently bought a 60% stake in Aim-listed Rockhopper Exploration’s interests in the Falkland Islands to get its hands on some of the action in the Sea Lion field, which could have between 400m and 500m barrels of recoverable reserves.
But the oil companies are battling in choppy seas, as the Argentinian government is threatening to take anyone “illegally” drilling off the disputed islands to court. The British government has promised to stand by its explorers, and many industry experts point out that the Argentinian court threats are highly unlikely to stand up under international law.
But some equity analysts have since questioned the wisdom of Premier choosing to put so many of its eggs into such a fragile basket. The chief executive, Simon Lockett, will need to explain why the Sea Lion should be allowed to roar.
Another hurdle for BAA
BAA, the owner of Heathrow airport, had a quietly successful Olympics – which counts as a major achievement for one of the UK’s more pilloried businesses. Given that success for BAA consists of not being caned by the national press on a daily basis, a glitch-free Games is cause for celebration. But it faces a more complicated repeat of that test on Wednesday when it is expecting its busiest arrival day for Paralympians, with more than 1,000 athletes expected to arrive while the airport handles about 190,000 passengers at the same time.
It will be an interesting introduction for BAA’s newest prospective shareholder, Qatar Holding, which has agreed to acquire a 20% stake in the business. Spain’s Ferrovial, which once owned 55% of BAA, will soon find its stake dipping below 40%. If the next few weeks go smoothly, as they hopefully should, then perhaps BAA can begin to think it has banished the operational glitches that have bedevilled its recent history, not least the terrible handling of the 2010 snow crisis. If errors abound, however, the ensuing media and political reaction might make the Qataris wonder what they have let themselves in for.
BAA-share buying includes 10.6% from biggest shareholder Ferrovial which denies it is seeking full exit after 2006 takeover
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is buying 20% of Heathrow owner BAA in a move that adds the airport operator to a portfolio of British interests including Harrods and stakes in Barclays and J Sainsbury.
Ferrovial, the Spanish conglomerate and the largest shareholder, is to sell a 10.6% stake in BAA’s parent company to Qatar Holding. At the same time two more shareholders have sold shares representing 9.4% of the business to the fund, leaving it with a 20% investment in the owner of the Heathrow, Stansted, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports. The total value of the transaction is £900m.
Qatar Holding, funded by proceeds from the world’s third largest gas reserves, said the UK was an “attractive investment destination” and that it saw “long-term fundamental strength in the British economy”. It added: “Qatar Holding looks forward to working together with our fellow shareholders and the management team of BAA to enhance the company’s industry leadership and create sustainable value.”
The transaction represents further retrenchment by Ferrovial from one of the UK’s most bruising foreign takeovers, although the Spanish group denied that it is seeking a full exit. With the ink barely dry on the €16bn takeover of BAA by a Ferrovial-led consortium in 2006, Heathrow buckled under a new security regime following the interruption of a plot to bomb airliners with liquid explosives.
Ferrovial’s reputation took years to recover and in 2010 it announced plans to sell off a chunk of its 55% shareholding, which will stand at less than 40% once the Qatar deal is completed.
At the time Ferrovial, frustrated by a perceived undervaluation of BAA in its share price, said it was selling a stake to get a market value for the asset. However, analysts said it would also help to get BAA’s £11bn debt burden off Ferrovial’s balance sheet by reducing the stake to less than 50%. BAA eventually sold a 5% stake to investment group Alinda Capital Partners, and removed BAA’s debt from Ferrovial’s balance sheet, while saying it had no intention of selling down its interest further.
Iñigo Meiras, chief executive of Ferrovial, whose interests range from toll roads to construction, denied that the conglomerate was paving the way for a full exit from what has at times been a traumatic investment. “After this transaction we are still the largest shareholder and will be two times bigger than the second largest. We are really committed to the asset,” he said.
Meiras added that Qatar Holding had been interested in a 20% stake at the time of the Alinda transaction but had been unable to reach a deal. The Qatari investment brought a wealthy partner on to BAA’s shareholder register, he said. “We have to invest a lot of money and with an investor like Qatar Holding we have a strong financial investor for the future,” he said.
Airport operator BAA loses its latest appeal against the Competition Commission’s ruling that it must sell Stansted Airport.
Go here to see the original: BAA loses latest Stansted appeal