Tourism Industry News
Gatwick auction opens to bidders this week
BAA, the airports group, will formally kick-start the £2bn auction of Gatwick this week when it issues the sales prospectus to potential bidders.
Two principal bidding consortiums have already formed, one led by Virgin Atlantic, the other by Canadian group Vancouver Airports Authority.
In the next three weeks, the Competition Commission will publish its proposed remedies for ending what it has called BAA's monopoly in the south east and Scotland. In August, it indicated that BAA would have to sell two of its airports in the south east and one in Scotland.
BAA, led by Colin Matthews, accepts that it will have to sell Gatwick but will fiercely resist the commission's plans to force it to offload Stansted.
Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Manchester Airports Group and is in financing talks with Goldman Sachs. Low-cost carrier EasyJet is interested in signing a revenue-sharing agreement.
The rival consortium includes the Vancouver group, a Citigroup infrastructure fund and US financial services group John Hancock. The trio recently agreed to buy Chicago's Midway airport for $2.4bn but could now pull out of the deal because of financing concerns, which could strengthen their interest in Gatwick. First-round bids are expected soon after Christmas.
Airlines blame BAA for the chronic shortage of airport capacity, particularly in the south east, claiming its monopoly position has given it little incentive in aggressively pursuing expansion plans. BAA blames tight planning laws.