Prestwick Airport sale: Approach from potential buyer pledging ‘significant’ investment

South Ayrshire site still to be re-privatised a decade after being saved by nationalisation

Prestwick Airport is understood to be considering an approach from a potential buyer as the Scottish Government-owned site stressed it had not been taken off the market.

An investment firm is believed to have expressed interest in the South Ayrshire airport and pledged to inject “significant” development funding.

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The airport has drafted in specialist advisors to assess information provided by the unnamed company, but things are at an early stage and no formal offer has been submitted or requested.

Ministers bought Prestwick Airport for a nominal £1 in 2013 to avert its closure. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)Ministers bought Prestwick Airport for a nominal £1 in 2013 to avert its closure. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)
Ministers bought Prestwick Airport for a nominal £1 in 2013 to avert its closure. (Photo by John Devlin/The Scotsman)

The news comes after ministers decided not to pursue a sale two years ago after rejecting bids.

The Scottish Government, which saved the airport from closure ten years ago by buying it for a nominal £1, has said it still intends to return it to the private sector “when the time and circumstances are right”. The airport said all sale enquiries were assessed.

Ministers have loaned the airport a total of £43.4 million up to 2019, although, with interest, the total is thought to have reached some £55m. They said the “estimated recoverable loans” would be included in Scottish Government accounts to be published later this year.

The airport has focused on non-passenger activities such as freight and refuelling military aircraft, but its sole passenger airline Ryanair has gradually expended operations since the Covid pandemic, from five routes in 2019 to 11 this summer.

Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray told MSPs in May that, with an operating profit of£1.9m, the airport was a “good-going concern” and he expected “commercial interest will be forthcoming”. He said: “When interest arrives with the Government, we would of course look to support Prestwick returning to the private sector as soon as is practicable.”

At that stage, he said he had “not had any interest signalled to me, but we continue to discuss such opportunities with the management” of the airport.

On repayment of the loans, he said: “We will seek to recoup the money that has been invested in Prestwick as best we can, to ensure good value for the public purse.”

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An airport spokesperson said: "Although the airport is not in an active sale process, we do from time to time receive enquiries to buy the airport. All enquiries received are subject to the appropriate due process and assessment to determine the credibility of the approach."

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said: “They are right to set out some criteria for interested parties because if the airport is to be sold it must be to someone with the financial clout and background to run it effectively.”

Scottish Liberal Democrats economy spokesperson Willie Rennie said: "Prestwick has had many millions in taxpayer support over the years. Simply plodding on down the same road is not sustainable or acceptable.

"Whether it is returned to private ownership or not, any plan for the airport will need to recognise the importance of skilled jobs, decarbonising the aviation industry and meeting our climate change commitments.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It remains the intention of ministers to return the business to the private sector when the time and circumstances are right for the business and for the Scottish Government as shareholder.”



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