Government scraps NATS air traffic control sale plans
Date added: 11 July, 2012
The Government has scrapped plans to sell its 49% stake in NATS. Transport Secretary Justine Greening said it was best for taxpayers, travellers and Nats if the Government retained its shareholding. The decision was welcomed by the Prospect union, which represents more than 3,000 air traffic controllers. But Prospect said “all eyes would now turn” on the Airline Group – a body of seven airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic – which owns 42% of Nats. The Germany’s state-controlled air traffic control body, Deutsche Flugsicherung, has been keen to buy this 42%. The Government can see that the strategic importance of Nats to the UK
The Government has scrapped plans to sell its 49% stake in air traffic control company Nats.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said it was best for taxpayers, travellers and Nats if the Government retained its shareholding.
The decision was welcomed by the Prospect union, which represents more than 3,000 air traffic controllers. But Prospect said “all eyes would now turn” on the Airline Group – a body of seven airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic – which owns 42% of Nats.
There has been interest in Nats from Germany’s state-controlled air traffic control body, Deutsche Flugsicherung, which could also be keen to buy the Airline Group’s stake.
Ms Greening said the response to a call for evidence about the Government’s Nats’ shareholding had “highlighted the strategic importance of Nats to the UK and the far-reaching implications of a sale at this time”.
She said these included the continued development of the Single European Sky agenda – an EC initiative by which the design, management and regulation of airspace will be coordinated throughout Europe.
Ms Greening said she had also considered the ongoing work on the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research programme.
“After considering these factors, I have concluded that it is in the best interests of the British taxpayer, the travelling public and the company itself to retain the Government’s shares in Nats at this time.”
Prospect national secretary Garry Graham said: “The Government has clearly listened to the representations made by stakeholders for safety and service delivery to remain paramount, and for the UK to continue to have an authoritative voice in Europe, particularly during the development of the Single European Sky initiative.”
He went on: “All eyes will now turn to the Airline Group – and their intentions. The need for stability and a commitment to safety and service delivery should be at the heart of any decision that they make. They purchased their stake because they had a vested and visceral interest in safety and service delivery. We are concerned that their position is now focused on short-term commercial gain.”
Worries that German air traffic control might buy up large share in NATS
Labour has accused the UK Government of yet another policy U-turn after it was suggested George Osborne was getting cold feet over a £1 billion plan to sell off the Coalition’s 49% controlling stake in NATS. Industry sources claimed that the Treasury was rethinking the proposal to sell it off as it was fearful the German equivalent to Nats would make a move to take over the UK’s air space after it was suggested the 7 British airlines, which form the Airline Group, might sell their collective 42% share to Germany’s state-controlled DFS. One industry source said: “It would not be a good idea to hand control of Britain’s skies to Berlin. https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=2036
Government plans sale of NATS
21st March 2012 (Financial Times) The FT reports that the government is set to announce next week that it will auction part of its stake in the UK’s air traffic controller – a sale that would raise about £250m. and that 7 airlines, calling themselves the Airline Group, that own 42% of NATS are now willing to reduce their stake to 18 to 20%. They want the government, that currently owns 49% of NATS to own at least 25%. BAA may sell the 4% it owns. The BAA 4% could be used to push the stake being offered for sale above 50%.The airlines have said they would veto any sale of a majority stake to a buyer whose interests were “not aligned with those of Nats’ core business.” Several infrastructure investors have apparently expressed interest in buying a controlling stake in NATS. The government is keen to retain influence over what it sees as a strategically important body.
The UK’s 49% holding in National Air Traffic Services (Nats) has been targeted for disposal since the summer of 2010. But talks over the past six months between government departments and other shareholders have struggled to settle details of a sale.