Ruling buys BAA time on airport sales
LONDON (Reuters) - Airport operator BAA has won an appeal against the Competition Commission on Monday, opening the door for fresh talks on a ruling that its control of Britain's airports should be broken up within two years.
BAA had argued to the Competition Appeal Tribunal that the Competition Commission's March ruling it should dispose of London Stansted airport and either one of Edinburgh or Glasgow airports in Scotland within two years had been influenced by bias.
"The Tribunal has upheld the appeal on grounds of apparent bias and is inviting BAA to initiate discussions with the Competition Commission on a way forward," a BAA spokesman said on Monday.
The airport operator sold Gatwick, the capital's second busiest airport, to Global Infrastructure Partners for a smaller than expected 1.5 billion pounds in October.
BAA had argued the Competition Commission's panel was an adviser to the Manchester Airports Group -- at the time, a potential bidder for Gatwick -- which had created a conflict of interest.
Justice Barling, said BAA's "apparent bias" appeal had succeeded in a unanimous decision by the three-person panel.
BAA was unsuccessful in its other argument that putting all three airports up for sale during a recession would force it to accept a lower price but the court did not agree.
Analysts said the ruling buys BAA, which is owned by Spanish builder Ferrovial, some time. Once the economy improves, the operator will have a better chance of fetching higher bids for the attractive airport assets.
The operator said last week its nine-month profit rose 16.8 percent and that it expects 2010 earnings to come in at 956 million pounds.
Shares in Ferrovial in Madrid closed up 1.4 percent at 7.7 euros.
(Additional reporting by Andres Gonzalez; writing by Rosalba O'Brien; editing by Mike Nesbit and Karen Foster)
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