UK Government Gives Up BAA Stake

British airports operator BAA could become a possible target for takeover bids after the UK government indicated it is to give up its special stake in the company.

The so-called “golden share” was taken by the government when the airports operator was privatized 16 years ago and has been used to firewall BAA from unwanted takeovers.

Earlier this year, the European Court ruled that the special 15 percent share was illegal as it infringed the principle of the free movement of capital. The UK government has decided not to appeal the decision.

BAA, which is the world`s largest publicly owned airport company, includes London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted among the seven it operates in the UK. It also has international interests.

Following the government announcement, BAA issued a statement saying that it would seek the removal of the 15 percent limitation of shareholdings at its next annual meeting in 2004, or earlier if appropriate.