Politicians today welcomed news that Glasgow Airport's owner is in line to buy its struggling rival Prestwick.
AGS Airports, which also owns Aberdeen and Southampton, is understood to be the preferred bidder for the South Ayrshire airport which calls itself Glasgow Prestwick, as The Scotsman revealed yesterday.
Transport secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs he was unable to disclose the bidder "to protect the integrity of the process".
Sources said Scottish Government-owned Prestwick hopes the sale process will be completed by the end of January - three months later than scheduled.
It is believed two other groups were invited by ministers to bid for the airport among those who had expressed interest - French firm Vinci and a foreign consortium.
A comment from Vinci has been requested.
BACKGROUND: Glasgow Airport owner in line to buy Prestwick
Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Jamie Greene said: "I can see the logic in expanding through acquisition of a neighbouring site, and that particular group has an excellent track record of turning around airports.
“The value in this businesses is the uniqueness of its aviation assets, runway and location.
'Loans must be repaid'
"Whatever its future, I’m hopeful these continue to be its main purpose and any new owner cannot simply mothball the site to eliminate competition."
But Mr Greene added: “It’s disappointing such an important announcement was snuck out the door before Parliament closed for the holidays.
He also said: “It’s vital the huge sums of money loaned to the business are repaid, regardless of who the new owner is."
An aviation source said: "This would be a great outcome for both Prestwick and Glasgow airports.
"Glasgow could focus on its core business of passengers and offer other operators an auditable alternative for freight, fuel stops and possibly low-yield passenger flights."
'Reconsider rail link'
South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: “ Buying Prestwick airport would be an obvious choice for the owners of Glasgow airport and would potentially offer them a solution to their desire for a second Glasgow airport runway.
BACKGROUND: Prestwick Airport cuts losses but still no sight of a sale
"It’s just a shame the Scottish Government have vetoed proposals for a direct rail link to Glasgow airport.
"Such a link would mean you could travel between terminals at Prestwick and Glasgow in less than an hour, which would open up a whole host of opportunities.
"If any sale of Prestwick to the owners of Glasgow is successful, then I hope the Scottish Government would rethink their opposition to a direct rail link.
"However, the Government must ensure any sale be to a buyer who has clear plans to maintain and grow jobs at Prestwick and pays back the more than £40m of taxpayers money loaned to the airport.”
Prestwick was officially put up for sale in June, six years after the Scottish Government bought it from New Zealand owners Infratil for a token £1 to avert its threatened closure with the loss of hundreds of jobs.