BAA wins competition appeal

December 21: UK airport owner BAA has won a partial victory in its appeal against the Competition Commission´s (CC) ruling forcing it to sell three airports.
BAA applied to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) arguing that the CC’s ruling was flawed on two counts; firstly the participation of Professor Peter Moizer within the CC may have led to bias, as he is an advisor to the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, administered by one of the Manchester authorities that has shares in Manchester Airport; secondly that the CC failed to take into account the financial impact to BAA in its timescale for selling three airports.
The CAT has concluded that “a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias affecting the deliberations, thinking and ultimate outcome of the investigation”, thereby upholding BAA’s appeal on the first count. However, it didn’t agree with BAA’s argument on timescale, saying that BAA had “not demonstrated that the Commission had failed to take account of relevant considerations”.
BAA has recently completed the sale of Gatwick Airport, but under the CC’s ruling still has to dispose of Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh Airports. Today’s ruling by the CAT is not expected to change the ruling to sell three airports, but will inevitably lead to further delay as BAA can now submit further evidence regarding the claim of bias.
In a statement, BAA said “We are pleased that the CAT upheld our appeal on the grounds of apparent bias. Further discussions should now take place with the Competition Commission to determine the appropriate response to this judgement.”