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Sunday, 5 March, 2000, 13:25 GMT
BA: no Eye float - yet
London Eye by Big Ben
The London Eye is already a London landmark
British Airways says it has no immediate plans to spin-off its London Eye tourist attraction.

The airline's attraction on the banks of the River Thames - also known as the Millennium Wheel - has proved a popular hit since its delayed launch in February.

Standing 450 ft high, it dwarfs the historic Houses of Parliament across the Thames.

At the moment there is only permission for it to operate for five years, but it is expected that the local council will give the go ahead for a 20 year extension.

A BA spokesman said there would be little point in even considering floating the attraction at the very least until the extension is granted.

He said that the company was not actively considering such a move.

Marketing value

BA's finance director, Derek Stevens, was quoted by the Sunday Times newspaper as saying the airline was considering various refinancing projects for the Eye.

The sale of shares to City institutions and the public would be one of the options available.

The wheel, which was meant to begin turning on New Year's Eve, started working only on 1 February after a series of technical problems.

Its building cost spiralled to 70m from the 25m the airline had originally planned to spend.

But since then there have been hundreds of thousands of bookings for the attraction, with it expected to produce chunky profits in addition to the undoubted marketing value it brings to the airline.

The reports suggests that London Eye's business could be valued at about 250m if it were to be sold.

The attraction's success has been a welcome piece of good news for BA, whose core airline recently reported a 60m pre-tax loss for the last three months of 1999.

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See also:

01 Feb 00 |  UK
Wheel delights passengers
07 Feb 00 |  Business
BA posts 60m loss
07 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Eyeing the London Eye from space
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