Talks underway

New interest in taxpayer-owned Prestwick Airport

Cargo at Prestwick
Prestwick is hoping to find a buyer

A new potential buyer has emerged for taxpayer-owned Prestwick Airport following a previous failed attempt to sell it.

The airport was brought into public ownership in 2013 for £1, with plans to return it to the private sector once it became operationally profitable.

It has achieved four consecutive years in the black and revenue is up from £35m to £58m, largely a result of cargo and military contracts, and there is still a large loan provided by the government.

Passenger traffic more than trebled to 459,000 last year, but this is a relatively small part of operations and is provided by one airline, Ryanair.

Takeover talks in 2020 broke down and the potential buyer walked away. A new, undisclosed, party has now emerged.

Appearing before the economy and fair work committee on Wednesday, chief executive Ian Forgie was asked if there were any credible bids on the table for the airport.

He said: “We’re currently looking at one expression of interest that is going through that early process of diligence and we’ll give more details in due course.”

He blamed the pandemic for the breakdown of the previous negotiations.

The Scottish government bought Prestwick Airport from its previous New Zealand owners a decade ago to avoid its closure, and funded its loss-making operations with about £52m of loans.

Forsyth Black, the airport’s non-executive chairman, said there had been no bids during his two years in post.

Mr Gray told the committee that a non-disclosure agreement prevented him giving more details. He the government would insist that any buyer met a number of conditions.

“We want those terms to be clear, that (buyers) are going to provide a clear future pathway for the airport, that they demonstrate they’ve got the finance and the experience in order to be able to make it a success, and that they’re going to continue to show and demonstrate wider economic development in the area.”

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