BAA mulls a fresh lawsuit in sell-off spat

 
Kasmira Jefford
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BAA said it is considering judicial review after the Competition Commission ruled yesterday that the airport operator must sell Stansted and Glasgow or Edinburgh airport.

In its final report, the commission said that the sales process for London’s third-largest airport Stansted would start in three months’ time, and would be followed by the sale of one of the Scottish airports.

Colin Matthews, BAA’s chief executive, said he was “dismayed” by the Competition Commission’s final decision and said it was looking at its legal options with regards to the ruling.

“The Competition Commission has not recognised that the world and BAA have changed. This decision would damage our company which is investing strongly in UK jobs and growth,” he said.

The group, controlled by Spain’s Ferrovial, also argued that being forced to sell in a difficult market could destroy shareholder value.

The report ends a two year battle between BAA and the CC, who in 2009 ruled that BAA exerted a dominant hold on UK airports and told it to sell Gatwick, Stansted and one of its Scottish airports.

“The CC has concluded that the sale of the airports is fully justified and that passengers and airlines would still benefit from greater competition with the airports under separate ownership,” the CC said in a statement.

MEET THE ADVISERS

NUSRAT ZAR

HERBERT SMITH

Law firm Herbert Smith is acting as legal adviser to BAA, with partners Nusrat Zar from the litigation division and Stephen Wisking from the EU competition group leading the case.

Zar joined Herbert Smith 16 years ago as a trainee lawyer, and was made partner in the firm’s litigation division four years ago.

She advises on a range of public and administrative law matters including judicial review, the European Convention on Human Rights, and regulatory and disciplinary proceedings.

Zar has acted in a matter concerning reform of the House of Lords, a motion put forward by Lord Mayhew of Twysden. She has also acted for Ofgem defending a judicial review challenge to NGC’s use of system charges brought by Scottish Power as well as acting for companies facing investigations by the Serious Fraud Office and other regulators.

TIME LINE | BAA’S BATTLES

June 2006: The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced it would review the UK airports market.

August 2006: BAA delists from the stock market and shortly after faces calls for its breakup from British Airways and Ryanair.

April 2007: The OFT refers BAA to the Competition Commission (CC) to investigate the supply of airport services within the UK.

Sept 2007: The CC publishes it initial findings calling for a fundamental restructure of BAA following its “poor standards of service”.

April 2008: Colin Matthews takes the reins as chief executive, succeeding Stephen Nelson.

March 2009: The CC orders BAA to sell off Stansted airports and either Edinburgh or Glasgow, in a move against the group’s monopoly.

December 2009: BAA completes the £1.5bn sale of Gatwick airport to Global Infrastructure Partners.

October 2010: BAA appeals to the Supreme Court after judges reinstated an order forcing the company to break-up its monopoly.

March 2011: The Supreme Court refuses BAA’s permission to appeal further.

July 2011: Britain's Competition Commission reiterated in its final report that BAA must sell two of its airports.