BAA put Stansted up for sale today, ending a legal battle that saw the Competition Commission order the airport operator to sell off the Essex airport.

Following the announcement, a spokesman for Ryanair said the budget carrier would be interested in pursuing a deal.

“There is huge growth potential there and we would be very interested in discussing the future of Stansted with any groups looking at a potential purpose,” the spokesman said.

Both Ryanair and easyJet have pulled flights from Stansted in recent years amid rows over landing fees. Where once Ryanair had 24 million passengers a year passing through Stansted, it now has 18 million. Were the airline to buy Stansted, it seems likely that increased numbers of Ryanair flights would begin operating out of the airport.

However, according to Reuters, Manchester Airports Group is the “early frontrunner” in a bidding war that it’s expected will draw offers from US banks and Asian operators.

Australia’s Industry Funds Management has agreed to buy a 35 per cent stake in Manchester Airports Group if it wins Stansted, Reuters reported.

Manchester Airports Group already operates Bournemouth and East Midlands airports.

Image: Getty