Stansted’s new owners look for traffic growth

Marion Dakers
STANSTED’S new owners are aiming to finalise their purchase by the end of February, before trying to reverse the London airport’s falling passenger numbers.

Manchester Airports Group and Australia-based Industry Funds Management have pledged that it will be “business as usual” at Stansted while the pair’s £1.5bn acquisition is completed.

The firms have said the airport has potential for “significant volume growth over the short, medium and long term”.

MAG, which has been pursuing Stansted for more than a year, has previously flagged up its success in property management, retail and car parking as good grounds for its bid.

Charlie Cornish, MAG chief executive, has also set his sights on restoring Stansted to its 2007 traffic peak within a decade.

Traffic at Stansted has fallen by a quarter since a record 23.8m passengers used the leisure-focused airport in 2006/7.

Stansted’s performance was hit by the economic slowdown and subsequent financial turbulence for many airlines, along with a question mark over ownership following a 2009 Competition Commission ruling.

Heathrow Airport Holdings, which ditched its BAA branding weeks before the Stansted deal was announced, had been forced to sell the airport after losing its final appeal against the antitrust ruling last year.

It is thought that Heathrow will use the proceeds of the sale to pay down some of its £12bn debt pile, as it did with the earlier sales of Gatwick and Edinburgh airports.

Ryanair, the airline responsible for almost 70 per cent of Stansted’s traffic, said at the weekend that it welcomed the sale.

The budget airline added that its team “look forward to working with the team at MAG to develop low fare traffic growth at Stansted”, after deciding not to join in with the auction in October.