Airport setback

Prestwick withdrawn from market as sale talks end

Prestwick Airport

Airport made a small profit

Prestwick Airport has been taken off the market after the Scottish Government ended talks with a potential private buyer.

The airport, which has delivered an operating profit before exceptional items of £500,000, will focus increasingly on cargo to maintain a revenue stream in light of pandemic pressures on travel.

Chief executive Ian Forgie said “The future of the airport is significantly brighter now than it was five years ago. However, we are realistic that the short-term outlook remains tough with headwinds continuing to impact travel and global supply chains.

“The Scottish Government has restated its long-term commitment to return the Airport to the private sector and having carefully considered bids received under a recent sales process have decided not to proceed with a sale at this time.”

The business has shown a steady improvement in performance since the 2016/2017 accounts when operating losses stood at £7.8m. This has allowed the business to recognise underlying asset value in line with accounting standards by reversing previous non-cash impairments.

The accounts show that the focus on the diversified nature of its operations has created a stronger business model for the airport, allowing it to adapt to the drop in passenger numbers due to the lockdown restrictions in 2020.

Mr Forgie said: “The last two years have been tough with a global pandemic impacting every part of our lives. 

“During this time our staff, management and directors have worked hard to ensure that Glasgow Prestwick Airport continues to adapt to maintain operations throughout the period, whilst continuing to deliver the excellent service that we have become known for.

“We are therefore pleased to have been able to generate a small operating profit last year despite lockdowns and travel restrictions.

“Our financial performance is not simply reliant on passenger numbers, and we will continue to develop our diverse and distinctive range of services with a team that is agile and passionate about the success of the airport.

“I am pleased that the airport retains the confidence and support of our shareholder and with a new chairman and recently refreshed operating board we look forward to the airport continuing the progress of recent years by focussing on the development of new revenue opportunities and building on its strengths by providing a distinctive range of services”

Chairman Andrew Miller stepped down at the end of October and as replaced by former Menzies CEO Forsyth Black.

At that time The Scottish government said the process of returning Prestwick Airport to the private sector was continuing and decisions still had to be taken in relation to the sale of the business.

In August this year sources said negotiations with a prospective buyer had stalled over the government’s expectations on price.

It was announced in February that the government’s original preferred bidder – understood to be Glasgow and Aberdeen airport owner AGS – pulled out.

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French firm Vinci, owner of Gatwick and Belfast International airports, declined to confirm that it had been in talks with the Scottish government.

Responding to today’s announcement, Scottish Labour’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport spokesperson Colin Smyth said: “The collapse of this botched deal has been a long time coming. 

“Serious questions need to be asked about the Government’s handling of this sale. They agreed to the preferred bidder and the sale has collapsed on their watch.

“They have provided no explanation of what went wrong, failing to even confirm whether the bidder pulled out or the Government rejected a bid.

“Prestwick workers have been stuck in limbo for years waiting for this deal to materialise, only to get knocked back to square one and they deserve answers. 

“Thousands of jobs are on the line – there is simply no room for the SNP’s usual incompetence.  

“We cannot abandon Prestwick and let it become yet another failed industrial intervention from the SNP.

“The SNP must show they have a plan to for the future of this vital strategic asset, and the tens of millions of taxpayer pounds invested in it.” 

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