Birmingham International Airport has been urged to join the bidding war as BAA was told it will almost certainly have to sell off several of its UK airports.
BAA, which has come under intense criticism for the service provided by its airports, is set to be forced to give up Gatwick and Stansted airports as well as one of either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports following the publication of a damning report by the Competition Commission.
Manchester Airport Group (MAG), which operates Manchester, Bournemouth, East Midlands and Humberside airports, said it could be interested in acquiring “one or more” of BAA’s airports.
But experts believe Birmingham International Airport should also look at throwing its hat in.
Dr Pat Hanlon, transport economist at the Business School at the University of Birmingham, said: “It is an option they should certainly consider as part of a consortium.
“The acquisition of another airport would constitute a good investment for any firm over the long term in commercial terms.
“The long term view is rosy in financial terms, despite the current cyclical downturn.
“Airports have been one of the gainers in the increase in demand for air travel in the last few decades.
“But there must be some question mark over whether Birmingham has the financial resources to do that as it is unlikely to be able to fund it on its own.
“It would also depend on the detail of the Competition Commission report on how the airports are to be disposed of.”
The airport is currently owned by the metropolitan borough councils of the West Midlands and two foreign pension funds and last night John Morris, Birmingham International Airport head of corporate and community affairs, said the management was keeping its focus on the airport’s immediate concerns.
He said: “The airport management team is focused on both the day-to-day operation and the future development of Birmingham airport.”
Other companies thought to be interested in bidding for any available BAA airports include German infrastructure group Hochtief, the General Electric-Credit Suisse concern Global Infrastructure Partners and Australian banking and finance giant Macquarie.
It is thought that American, Asian and Middle Eastern bidders could emerge over the next few months as well. Macquarie and MAG are thought to be interested in Glasgow Airport as well as one of BAA’s London airports.
Interested parties will have a few months to get their plans together as the Competition Commission still has to publish its final report on BAA airport ownership, which is expected by the end of the year.
The commission is now seeking views as to whether a “divestiture trustee” be appointed to preside over any airport sell-offs.
It also wants views on whether BAA should be given a sell-off timetable and whether measures should be put in place to ensure there is no drop in standards at any of the to-be-sold airports.
The commission made it clear that any sold-off airport would need to go to purchasers it approved. In its report, the Competition Commission accused BAA of a lack of responsiveness to the needs of its airline customers and a lack of initiative in planning capacity and said its investments were not tailored to the requirements of airport users.