Prestwick Airport sale falls through after preferred bidder pulls out

The preferred bidder for the South Ayrshire airport has pulled out, ministers revealed today

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 2:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 4:24 pm
Prestwick Airport has been owned by the Scottish Government since 2013. Picture: John Devlin
Prestwick Airport has been owned by the Scottish Government since 2013. Picture: John Devlin

The identity of the bidder has never been confirmed, but The Scotsman has reported it was AGS Airports, which owns Glasgow and Aberdeen airports.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said the Covid crisis had been a factor in the decision.

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In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s connectivity committee, he wrote: “Covid 19 has impacted on the aviation sector globally.

“We have been advised that the company selected as preferred bidder does not wish to complete the purchase of the business at this time.

"Scottish ministers will reflect upon future options for the business.”

The Scottish Government bought the airport for a token £1 in 2013 to avert its closure and the loss of hundreds of jobs in the area.

It formally put the site on the market last year and received an undisclosed number of offers from potential purchasers.

However, negotiations with the preferred bidder dragged on beyond the expected completion of the sale late last year.

Mr Matheson added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the aviation sector globally and, unfortunately, it has now affected the planned sale process of Glasgow Prestwick Airport.

"While this is a disappointing development, we understand businesses across the aviation sector are having to take difficult decisions to respond to the collapse in demand.

“It’s important to remember that 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.

“We will now consider future options for Glasgow Prestwick Airport in light of this development, as well as the on-going challenges for the industry, but remain confident it has a role to play in Scotland’s aviation sector."

Scottish Labour transport spokesperson and South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “This news will be deeply worrying for the 300 workers directly employed by Prestwick Airport and the many thousands of jobs in Ayrshire that rely on the airport.

"When the sale was announced, I argued it should not go ahead unless the buyer agrees to paying back the tens of millions of pounds loaned to the airport from the public purse.

"We must not allow a cut-price sale for the sake of the SNP Government washing its hands of the airport.

Instead, the Government should set out a clear plan for the running of the airport under public ownership if the sale of the airport at a fair price can’t be secured.”

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “It is disappointing the preferred bidder has pulled out but it’s not surprising.

“Scotland’s airports are in crisis as result of the pandemic.

“The SNP Government urgently needs to come up with a rescue plan for the entire aviation sector.

“We must also urgently hear from the SNP transport secretary how he intends to protect Prestwick.

“Thousands of jobs are dependent on all our airports succeeding and we need to see action now from the SNP.”

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