THE forced sale of BAA’s Gatwick and Stansted Airports, together with either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports, looks a bit dubious.
Monopolistic conditions have existed in Britain’s airport sector for decades. So what’s driving the timing of the Competition Commission’s recommendation in favour of a sale now?
You can be sure that airport competition issues will have been raised by successive governments and regulators during the years since BAA was first floated on the London Stock Exchange, but, oddly enough, nothing was done to liberalise the market. Such inaction came at a time when every other type of monopoly in Britain, from buses to phones, were being vigorously broken up by successive governments.
You can almost hear American accented voices talking darkly about anti-competitive practices as US airlines hoped competition between London’s airports would result in cheaper landing fees and more landing slots for them.
My guess is that BAA countered the liberal tendencies of the past with effective lobbying that argued that the national interest was better served by the airports remaining in the control of a single body.
But two years ago BAA ceased to be a British-controlled company, after it was acquired by Spain’s Ferrovial. It’s not too easy for a Spanish organisation to put forward arguments about Britain’s national interest.
But, American airlines aside, what could more competition between London’s airports mean for the rest of the country? It’s possible that greater competition combined with runway expansion at one or more of the South East’s airports could open up the possibility of an air link between the capital and our region.
As welcome as KLM’s new flight between Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol is, it’s not as good as a link to London. If competition means landing slots at Heathrow become cheaper, then flights with small passenger volumes may become more viable than they are at present.
On the surface of it, the commission’s recommendations, published last week, don’t directly affect the region, but they could yet result in some radical changes to air travel in this part of the world.
STEVE MORGAN’S comeback at Redrow is fascinating.
The man who founded the housebuilding company has spent tens of millions of pounds of his personal fortune buying the company’s shares on the open market and he has now secured a seat on the board.
Clearly Mr Morgan has serious intent. It would be very surprising if Mr Morgan didn’t shortly go the whole way and make a bid for the entire company.
Mr Morgan must think he can run the business better than current management.
Neil Fitzsimmons has stepped down as chief executive of the business suggesting Mr Morgan wants to take active control of the firm.
But what is the opportunity that he sees? At present you would have to be pessimistic about the prospects for house builders. Sales of all homes, including new builds, are very slow.
Perhaps he’s playing a longer, more patient, game. After all, the market will pick up again one day and, when it does, there will be profits to be made.