Two top press officers resign from BAA

MADRID Wed Aug 22, 2007 4:06pm BST

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MADRID (Reuters) - Two top press officers have resigned from Spanish-owned BAA, the firm said on Wednesday without giving reasons, as the beleaguered airport operator fights off a barrage of criticism on the state of its airports.

The departure of Duncan Bonfield, director of corporate affairs, and Mark Mann, head of media relations, are the latest exits of BAA executives after Tony Douglas left in July as chief executive of Heathrow Airport after nine years at the firm.

The Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that Bonfield and Mann had stepped down, because they were unsatisfied with how Spanish construction company Ferrovial, which bought BAA last year, is dealing with media, politicians and regulators.

Duncan Bonfield declined to comment on the Daily Telegraph story, beyond confirming his departure. A Ferrovial spokeswoman said the firm had nothing to add to the BAA statement.

Shortly after Ferrovial's purchase of BAA in a debt-fuelled 10.1 billion pound takeover in June 2006, an air travel-related terror scare resulted in strict new security measures at all airports.

TRAVEL CHAOS

The resulting travel chaos triggered attacks on Ferrovial's management from the media, accusing the company of poor service, long queues and ageing infrastructure at Heathrow airport.

The Competition Commission is investigating the dominance of airports in London and Scotland by BAA in a sweeping probe of the sector to be published in 2008.

BAA owns Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports and Scottish airports at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Shares in Ferrovial have fallen around 10 percent since the beginning of the year, dragged down by markets' dislike of large debt loads in a climate of rising interest rates.

The stock bounced off year lows this week after Germany's Fraport said it would take a look at BAA's airports if a decision were made to sell.

Ferrovial has said selling an airport would not solve the problems, blaming its troubles on chronic lack of capacity rather than the structure of BAA.

Ferrovial's shares were 1.4 percent higher at 64.6 euros at 3:32 p.m. in a broadly higher market.

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