THE VANCOUVER International Airport Authority is reported by The Sunday Times to have joined Citigroup in a bid to purchase Gatwick Airport from BAA.

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Spain’s Ferrovial, owner of BAA, currently owns seven UK airports including the three largest in the London area; Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. A recent decision by Britain’s Competition Commission means it must dispose of three of its UK airports, which also include Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Southampton.

Those opposing BAA’s domination of the south east, including low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet want BAA to sell two of its London airports. However BAA believes ditching just one will pass muster with the competition authorities. The largest, Heathrow, is the profitable intercontinental cash cow in the group and will be retained, leaving a straight choice between Gatwick and Stansted.

While Gatwick is currently the region’s second largest airport by traffic, its future growth is severely restrained by a Legal Agreement with West Sussex County Council that prevents the construction of another runway before 2019. While it makes the most of existing capacity – it is the world’s busiest single runway airport – expansion at the capital’s third airport Stansted is further along the planning stage and thus BAA may feel it offers the better medium to long term prospects for growth.

YVR Airport Services Ltd., a subsidiary of the Vancouver Airport Authority owned jointly by the airport authority and the infrastructure division of U.S. based Citibank already manages eighteen airports around the world. Most are located in the western hemisphere, including sites in Jamaica, The Bahamas and Chile.

Other potential bidders and consortia eyeing up Gatwick include Virgin Atlantic, Manchester Airports Group, German construction group Hochtief, Frankfurt airport owner Fraport, and Global Infrastructure Partners, owner of London’s City airport since 2006. It is thought that bids for Gatwick could exceed £2billion.

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