Gatwick sale damages BAA

Spanish-owned BAA, the company which runs airports around the UK, reported massive losses yesterday after the forced sale of its major asset Gatwick.<br /><br />The company, which has come under fire from the Competition Commission (CC) for its monopoly on airport ownership around the UK, said pre-tax losses hit &pound;784.7m, worse than a &pound;519m loss a year ago. <br /><br />Passenger numbers fell 2.3 per cent at Heathrow, 7.2 per cent at Gatwick and 12 per cent at Stansted, as the downturn discourages many from travelling.<br /><br />BAA said it had lost &pound;225m in selling Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) for &pound;1.51bn, after the CC ruled it had to shed its assets. The deal is due to complete by the end of the year. It has also been ordered to dispose of Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh, but is appealing against the decision.<br /><br />&ldquo;We are pleased to have agreed the sale of Gatwick Airport and our focus for the rest of the year is on improving efficiency and service standards for our customers, and further reducing costs,&rdquo; BAA&rsquo;s chief executive Colin Matthews said.<br /><br />The group, which is owned by Ferrovial, is expected to use the cash from the sale to help pay off its &pound;9.7bn debt mountain. <br /><br />Yesterday&rsquo;s losses were also hit by a &pound;261.7m exceptional charge against its pension scheme deficit and &pound;136.1m of losses on financial instruments, which are thought to be derivatives it uses for hedging.<br /><br />The company also said it still plans to build a third runway at its Heathrow airport, rejecting claims from the Tory leader David Cameron that it is shelving them.