BAA successfully appeals airport breakup ruling

AP News
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Posted: Dec 21, 2009 6:22 AM

Airport operator BAA Ltd. won its appeal Monday against a U.K. government ruling that it must sell three of its airports, successfully arguing that a conflict of interest had biased the investigation into its business.

Britain's Competition Commission ruled in March that BAA, which had a monopoly on London's main airports, should sell off three of the seven facilities it owns across Britain, including London's Gatwick and Stansted. But BAA argued that one of the members of the commission had been biased against by virtue of his work for the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, which is linked to the Manchester Airport Group _ a potential buyer for the airports BAA would have to get rid of.

On Monday the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London backed BAA's claim and overturned the ruling, saying that "a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias affecting the deliberations, thinking and ultimate outcome of the investigation."

BAA has already agreed to sell Gatwick airport to Global Infrastructure Partners, a U.S.-based private investment fund, for 1.5 billion pounds ($2.4 billion). It was not immediately clear what impact if any Monday's ruling would have on the sale.

A BAA spokesman declined comment, saying the group was still seeking information from its legal team.

The company is owned by a consortium headed by Grupo Ferrovial S.A. of Spain.

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On the Net:

Competition Appeal Tribunal ruling: http://www.catribunal.org.uk/238-5051/Judgment.html