Page last updated at 09:34 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Sale of Gatwick hits BAA results

Plane preparing to land at Gatwick
BAA was ordered to sell Gatwick by the UK Competition Commission

UK airports operator BAA has reported a large loss after the forced sale of Gatwick airport, and has also said that passenger numbers have fallen.

BAA announced a pre-tax loss of £784.7m for the first nine months of the year, compared with a £519m loss a year ago.

Passenger numbers were down 2.3% at Heathrow, 7.2% at Gatwick and 12% at Stansted, BAA said.

The firm said it had lost £225m on Gatwick, which it announced last week it had agreed to sell for £1.51bn.

Gatwick is being bought by a group controlled by Global Infrastructure Partners after BAA was ordered to sell the airport by the UK Competition Commission.

I think [BAA] will be all the better for Gatwick going and they may well be better for Stansted going too
Howard Wheeldon, BGC Partners

The deal is subject to EU competition clearance and is scheduled for completion in December.

"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," said BAA chief executive Colin Matthews.

Heathrow investment

Despite BAA hoping to receive more for Gatwick, some analysts thought they would struggle to get £1bn for the airport, said Howard Wheeldon from BGC Partners.

"All in all they've probably done quite well given the circumstances," he told the BBC.

He added that BAA would use the money from the sale to reduce its debt, which stands at about £9.7bn.

"To be fair to them they are investing a lot at Heathrow. Terminal 2 is being rebuilt so there's a lot going on. And this debt essentially comes from the building of Terminal 5," he said.

BAA, which is owned by Spain's Ferrovial, has also been ordered to sell Stansted and one of Glasgow or Edinburgh, but is appealing against the decision.

However, Mr Wheeldon said: "I think they will be all the better for Gatwick going and they may well be better for Stansted going too."

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