Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Virgin Atlantic plans Gatwick bid

Passengers at Gatwick Airport
35 million passengers passed through Gatwick in 2007

Virgin Atlantic says it is planning a bid for Gatwick airport, which has been put up for sale by its owner, BAA, in conjunction with other parties.

Virgin is talking to a group of interested parties about a bid for the airport, valued by analysts at up to 2.5bn.

A decision on Gatwick could be made by the end of next year.

The Competition Commission has said BAA may have to sell some airports because of market dominance concerns.

Heavenly marriage?

"I think it remains to be seen how much Gatwick is actually worth, bearing in mind we are in the middle of a downturn and bearing in mind it needs to be independently verified," Paul Charles, a spokesman for Virgin Atlantic, told BBC News.

"We have said before we are interested in forming a consortium... It doesn't mean we will put forward all the money or some of the money, or necessarily Easyjet," he said.

"What it does mean, there would be a group of interested parties who we are talking to who would come together, input their own expertise into owning and operating Gatwick Airport," he said.

A combination of the airlines' customer service expertise and the backing of financial institutions would be a "marriage made in heaven", he said.

Gatwick had been "starved" of investment because BAA had concentrated on Heathrow, he said, adding that if the bid succeeded, the airport would be much more customer-focused.

But Easyjet denied that it was in talks to buy Gatwick.

"We are not forming or fronting a consortium and there is no suggestion that we would contribute financially to any bid," said easyjet's Andrew McConnell.

He said that, at the most, the airline was considering offering an as-yet unidentified bidder some sort of long-term commitment on capacity at the airport to enable them to evaluate their bid.

Several firms are said to be interested in buying Gatwick. Potential bidders include Australian company Macquarie, Germany's Fraport, and the owners of Manchester airport.

BAA, which is owned by Ferrovial of Spain, also operates Heathrow and Stansted, as well as airports at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen in Scotland, and Southampton in southern England.

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Budapest Business Journal BAA puts London Gatwick airport up for sale - 3 hrs ago
China Post BAA puts London Gatwick Airport for sale - 5 hrs ago
Leigh Journal Bidding war expected for airport - 8 hrs ago
Telegraph Gatwick for sale as BAA fends off Commission - 9 hrs ago
The Independent 'Pragmatic' BAA puts for sale sign on Gatwick, but hopes to keep Stansted - 11 hrs ago

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