London’s Gatwick Airport up for sale

Last month, while in London, I wrote about how the BAA, the UK’s largest airport operator, might have to sell off two or three of its hubs amid concerns from Britain’s Competition Commission about the company’s market dominance.

It owns giant Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Southampton airports.

Yesterday the company announced that it was putting Gatwick, Britain’s second largest airport, up for sale.

Already some investors are interested. The BBC reports that Australian company MacQuarie, Germany’s Fraport and the owners of Manchester’s airport are considering making bids.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Virgin Atlantic, never one to shy away from publicity, has thrown its hat into the ring as well.

“Virgin Atlantic would relish the opportunity to bid for Gatwick as part of a consortium and inject our customer service expertise into any future running of the airport,” the company’s CEO, Steve Ridgway, tells the BBC.

Gatwick’s selling price? Around $3.5 billion or so, according to some reports.

This news all but seals the fate of London’s Stansted airport. The Competition Commission has suggested that the BAA needed to sell two of its three London airports, and there’s really no way it’s going to part with Heathrow.

We won’t know the CC’s exact recommendations until a report comes out next year. In the meantime speculation begins on which might be the third airport on the block, if the BAA needs to go that deep into its holdings.