Talks over Prestwick Airport sale extended as Covid-19 hits aviation sector

Glasgow Prestwick Airport is reliant on loans totalling nearly £40m .Picture: John DevlinGlasgow Prestwick Airport is reliant on loans totalling nearly £40m .Picture: John Devlin
Glasgow Prestwick Airport is reliant on loans totalling nearly £40m .Picture: John Devlin | JPIMedia
Plans to return the heavily indebted Glasgow Prestwick Airport to the private sector have been waylaid by the coronavirus outbreak, with the timeframe for talks with a potential buyer of the troubled hub set to be extended.

Discussions have been ongoing since December with a preferred bidder in an attempt to sell off the Scottish Government-owned asset, which is reliant on public loans worth nearly £40m.

But with the global aviation sector sent into a tailspin as a result of the pandemic, the talks will continue for longer than planned.

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A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “The aviation industry, globally, is contending with challenges of an unprecedented scale caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Every aspect of the industry has been impacted and, understandably, this includes the sale of Glasgow Prestwick Airport.

“Whilst talks with the preferred bidder are continuing, it has been necessary to extend the time frame for these discussions. Progress continues to be made by both parties.”

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The identity of the preferred bidder has not been disclosed, but as revealed by The Scotsman last year, it is believed to be AGS Airports, the owner of Glasgow Airport.

The most recent accounts for TS Prestwick Holdco, the company that operates the airport, show it is running at an annual loss of £3.8m.

The South Ayrshire airport was taken over by the government in November 2013 for the token sum of a £1 in order to protect the thousands of jobs supported by Prestwick

However, the airport has been at the centre of controversy over its growing revenue stream from providing fuel for US military aircraft.

Maurice Golden, the Scottish Conservative economy spokesman, told The Times: “Perhaps if the SNP hadn’t spent years dithering on this matter, the return of Prestwick Airport to private hands could have been concluded long before now. Instead the SNP government has used taxpayers’ money to tide things over without any real effort to get it thriving again.

“So while it’s understandable that no progress is being made at this particular point because of coronavirus, the nationalists only have themselves to blame for letting it get this far.”

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