28-Mar-2011 2:05 PM

NATS could have completely new ownership by 2012

UK's Government has confirmed plans to sell down its 49% stake in air traffic control operator NATS. BAA is reportedly considering divesting its 4% stake, which will mean a majority 53%will be sold to new entities (The Guardian, 27-Mar-2011). Global Infrastructure Partners, which has a majority stake in London Gatwick and London City airports, is a potential bidder, as is Lockheed Martin. The Airline Group, a consortium of British airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, bmi, easyJet, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook and TUI Travel, which owns 42% of NATS has urged the government to reconsider plans to sell its stake, warning of "highly damaging" consequences including threats to safety and lack of heft in negotiations with European air traffic control bodies. The Airline Group wants to see the government retain at least a 25% stake in NATS, and if it doesn’t, the group will also consider selling its stake. NATS has stated that safety concerns are exaggerated, given the strict standards set and implemented by the UK Civil Aviation Authority regardless of ownership. NATS reported a pre-tax profit of GBP74.2 million in 2010.

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