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Speculation over Glasgow Airport future after BAA takeover

11.06.06

Glasgow Airport could be sold as part of Spanish construction firm Ferrovial's offer to satisfy a government inquiry into the future of British airports and to pay off some of the debt used to buy the airports operator, according to an article in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.

Ferrovial seems to have won its £10.2bn bid to acquire BAA, which sparked immediate speculation about a break-up of the group. Its acquisition of BAA gives it owenership of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports, as well as Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick and Southampton. But the Office of Fair Trading announced an inquiry into competitiveness during the bid process.

The immediate speculation was that Gatwick could be offloaded - because BAA control more that 90% of air passengers in the London area. Now Glasgow is being suggested as another airport that could be sold - because BAA control a similar percentage for passengers flying in to or from Scotland.

Ferrovial will be keen to reduce the heavy debt burden on the acquisition and is believed to be looking to sell Naples and Budapest airports, raising a potential £500m. Although it has publicly stated that it plans 'to keep together and to focus on BAA's UK airports', sources say that may not be enough.

Based on the estimates that London City has used to value itself the Scottish airports is valued at £1.5bn. Edinburgh would be worth £660m, Glasgow £600m and Aberdeen £220m. It is understood Glasgow would be the most likely airport to be sold.

Stephen Furlong, analyst at Dublin-based Davy Stockbrokers said he thought one of the Scottish airports may go. He said: 'In terms of the UK airports the OFT are going to make a decision this month over whether they are going to launch a further investigation which they probably will. This would take about 6 months.'

'Ferrovial need a lot of money. They are looking to achieve value and sales is one way they can achieve this. It will be measured, there will not be a fire sale. But I wouldn't be surprised if one of the Scottish airports was sold.'

Last night one source close to the situation told the newspaper: 'I think the OFT will have more bearing on the ownership issues than Ferrovial. If the OFT rule that it is bad for the consumer to have three airports owned by one company, then Ferrovial could move to preempt that decision and hive off one of the Central Belt airports.'

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