Competition Commission says BAA must sell Stansted and Edinburgh airports as well as Gatwick

BAA could be forced to sell Stansted and Edinburgh airports as well as Gatwick, after the UK's competition watchdog confirmed proposals to break up the company.

The Competition Commission's preliminary decision on BAA's stake in the UK airports market has concluded that the sale of Gatwick will not be enough to loosen the airport operator's control of the market.

In its provisional findings in August, the commission recommended that three airports should be sold: two in London and one in Scotland. This morning's announcement is the first time it has said which airports they should be.

Since August's announcement, BAA has announced plans to sell off Gatwick. Potential bidders include Australian firm Macquarie and a consortium led by Virgin Airways.

However, BAA is likely to oppose the forced sell-off of Stansted and Edinburgh, claiming the Competition Commission has not yet given firm enough reasons for breaking up the company.

Colin Matthews, BAA chief executive, said: “As we said when the Competition Commission published its provisional findings in August, we do not believe that it has set out compelling evidence to support its view that selling Stansted as well as Gatwick will increase competition, and we remain concerned that its proposed remedies may actually delay the introduction of new runway capacity.”

The Competition Commission has asked for views on its provisional decision by 9 January next year, and expects to publish a final report in late February or early March.