Prestwick Airport back on market hints at progress towards sale

Ministers today put Prestwick Airport officially up for sale again, five weeks after its preferred bidder pulled out.

The airport was originally put up for sale in July 2019.
The airport was originally put up for sale in July 2019.

A formal notice has been issued inviting interest in the South Ayrshire airport which will enable any bids to be formally submitted.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs last month that discussions had started with other potential buyers after the expected sale to Aberdeen and Glasgow airports owner AGS Airports fell through.

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The Scottish Government said a new notice inviting expressions of interest would be placed in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The same process was followed in July 2019 which led to an undisclosed number of bidders submitting offers.

It not known how many of these are still keen to acquire the airport, but the publication of the notice suggests some definite interest remains.

Loss-making Prestwick was taken into state hands almost exactly seven years ago for a nominal £1 to avert large-scale job losses at the terminal and in surrounding aviation and other businesses.

Scottish Government loans to the airport total £43.4m.

Mr Matheson stressed today he was confident the airport had a future in an aviation role.

He said: “We believe there is still interest in Glasgow Prestwick Airport, so we are formally putting the business back on the market.

“Despite the recent setback in the previous sale process, the airport’s senior management team has continued to engage with potential buyers.

“A notice will shortly be placed in the Official Journal of the European Union inviting expressions of interest.

"This allows interested parties to submit formal proposals, and may encourage new interest as well.

“Any proposals would be considered carefully before any decision was taken to divest our shareholding in the airport or any part of the business.

“Glasgow Prestwick Airport continues to develop as a specialist airport, carving a niche in a very competitive market.

The recent financial results – showing an increase revenue and reduction in operating losses – are encouraging and underline the significant efforts of the Prestwick team.

“This is an incredibly challenging time for the aviation industry, but we remain confident Glasgow Prestwick Airport has a role to play in Scotland’s aviation sector.

"As we have done throughout this process, we will update Parliament at the appropriate times.”

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “The SNP have failed to come up with a long-term strategy for Prestwick Airport and must now do everything they can to make it attractive to any prospective buyers.

“Our airports are in crisis so the need for a successful sale is urgent.

“The SNP’s mismanagement of this vital economic asset has caused too much uncertainty at Prestwick Airport which must end with any takeover that occurs.”

Ayr Conservative MSP John Scott said: “Despite the recent problems it has faced, the airport can have a positive future and a positive sale can help to protect vital jobs and livelihoods in the area and beyond.

“This process must find an owner prepared to put in the investment to drive forward Prestwick to better and brighter days ahead.”

Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Colin Smyth said: “The SNP Government was not able to push this deal through previously and can ill-afford another failed attempt.

“But no bids should be accepted unless the buyer agrees to pay back the tens of millions of pounds loaned to the airport from the public purse and jobs at the airport are secured."

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