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Stansted Airport is to be sold to the Manchester Airports group for £1.5 billion, it was announced last night.

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It is the third busiest airport in the London area after Heathrow and Gatwick and is the UK’s fourth busiest airport, handling around 17.5 million passengers and more than 131,000 flights a year.

The deal will mean BAA - now known as Heathrow Airport Holdings - will be responsible for four UK airports after a probe by the Competition Commission.

After an inquiry the commission ruled that BAA’s airport ownership was uncompetitive and said that it must sell Gatwick and Stansted and one of either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports.

Gatwick had already been sold by the time of the ruling and since then BAA has sold Edinburgh.

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said: “Stansted airport and its people have been part of our company for a long time.

“It has been named by passengers as ‘the world’s best airport for low-cost airlines’ for two consecutive years at the Skytrax World Airport Awards, and we are proud of its achievements.”

“We wish the new owners every success and are confident the airport will continue to flourish. We will continue to focus on improving Heathrow, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports.”

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) owns and operates Manchester, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports.

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