In the News ... BAA's third runway

Some of the UK's top business leaders have come out against the controversial proposed third runway at BAA-owned Heathrow.

Gordon Brown had previously approved the airport's extension, citing the extra money it would contribute to the economy. But key business leaders disagree. News Corp's James Murdoch, Carphone Warehouse CEO Charles Dunstone, Sainsbury chief Justin King, BSkyB boss Jeremy Darroch and Kingfisher chief executive Ian Cheshire were among those to sign a joint letter stating: 'To say that all those from the business community support the third runway is wrong.' The business leaders backed Tory plans to boost rail links instead. The news comes as airport operator BAA saw passengers fall ten per cent in the three months to 31 March.

- The reaction?

A BAA spokesman told The Sunday Telegraph: 'We need a third runway to preserve the direct connections that make our companies globally successful.' British Airways pointed to the £7bn of annual economic benefits the runway would bring.

- Who are the PR players?

BAA, which was forced to sell Gatwick and Stansted, is banking on increased revenue from Heathrow. Finsbury advises BAA and the Daily Mail recently suggested its founder Roland Rudd's friendship with Lord Mandelson influenced the decision on the runway.

- What happens next?

Political parties and UK businesses are drawing battle lines over economic considerations. In particular BAA, BA and Virgin Atlantic will be keen to argue against the letter and will look to soften Conservative Party opposition.

£316m - Loss recorded by BAA during the first quarter of 2009

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