BAA owner's £132.5m sale of Belfast airport bodes well for likely forced sale of Gatwick and Stansted

BAA owner Ferrovial has sold George Best airport in Belfast for nearly four times what it paid for it just five years ago.

The Spanish firm has recently been told by the UK Competition Commission that it will probably have to sell three other UK airports, including Gatwick and Stansted.

The £132.5m sale to Dutch buyer ABN AMRO Global Infrastructure Fund suggests that Ferrovial should do better than expected out of the forced London airport sales likely after the commission makes its final ruling next spring.

Ferrovial is understood to have paid just £35m in 2003 for Belfast airport, which was renamed after footballer George Best three years later. Around 2.7 million passengers are expected to use the airport this year.

Last month's report from the Competition Commission found “competition problems” at all seven of Ferrovial-owned BAA's UK sites and recommended the sale of two out of three of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, as well as either Edinburgh or Glasgow airport.

The Belfast airport was owned directly by Ferrovial rather than through BAA. Its sale is expected to be completed by the end of the month.