6 November 2010
Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, has authorised the appointment of Merrill Lynch to advise the Government on a process that could see NATS Plc floated on the stock market as soon as 2011.

Ministers are considering the sale of part or all of its 49% shareholding to a single buyer, although the reduction of its stake below 25% would require new legislation. The Government’s current stake is estimated at £500 million.

The sell-off of NATS Plc is complicated by the number of stakeholders involved as well as the regulatory and legislative implications of a sale. A number of airlines, including British Airways (BA), EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic, own about 42% of NATS. The airlines do not speak with one voice and in the past EasyJet has objected to a sale of those shares by other members.