Britain prepares to sell its airports to the public

The British government Wednesday priced Heathrow and six other British airports at more than 1.225 billion ($1.98 billion) in its latest sell off of nationalized industries. The sale of the British Airports Authority is part of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's huge program of selling state-owned assets to get more stock into the hands of the British public. Most recently, the government sold Rolls-Royce, the airplane engine maker, and British Airways.

The BAA includes Heathrow, the world's busiest airport in international traffic.

This is the first time the government has used tender offers in its sales. Shares in BAA will be sold at 2.45 ($3.96) each. This price applies to three-quarters of the 500 million shares the government is selling. The rest have been set aside for tender offers by investors who will make bids above the fixed price, with the highest bidders getting those shares.

``Following this sale, the state-owned sector of industry will have been cut by more than one-third in only eight years,'' says Transport Secretary Paul Channon.

Of the 500 million shares to be offered, 260 million are available to the general public and BAA workers at the fixed price; 125 million tender shares are available to the public and institutional investors; and 115 million shares have been placed with institutional investors at the fixed price.

Trading in BAA shares begins July 28 on the London Stock Exchange.

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