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BAA Must Sell Airports After U.K. Court Rejects Appeal

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- BAA Ltd., the owner of London’s Heathrow airport, will likely have to sell two of its U.K. airports after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a decision by a competition regulator.

BAA will have to sell London Stansted airport and either the Edinburgh or Glasgow, Scotland, airports, unless they can negotiate a settlement with the U.K.’s antitrust regulator, the Competition Commission, the company said today in a statement. BAA, owned by Madrid-based Ferrovial SA, already sold London Gatwick under pressure from the regulator.

Originally ordered to sell the airports by spring 2011, BAA previously had success fighting the forced sales. An appeals tribunal in December 2009 accepted BAA’s argument that an adviser for the regulator didn’t remove himself from the investigation soon enough when a conflict of interest arose. That ruling was overturned by an appeals court in October.

BAA is “disappointed” by the court’s decision not to hear the appeal, the company said in a statement.

“We continue to make the case to the Competition Commission that the circumstances in which they found reason to force the sale of airports have changed significantly since early 2009 and should certainly be reviewed in the light of the government’s policy to rule out new runway capacity in the southeast of England,” the company said.

The commission is “currently examining whether there have been significant developments since we made the original decision back in March 2009 that could cause us to reconsider that decision,” Rory Taylor, a spokesman for the regulator, said in an e-mailed statement.

“We should report back on this towards the end of next month,” Taylor said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lindsay Fortado in London at lfortado@bloomberg.net; Steven Rothwell in London at srothwell@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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