Preferred bidder chosen for Prestwick Airport

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Prestwick AirportImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Prestwick Airport was taken into public ownership in 2013

The Scottish government has chosen a preferred bidder for Prestwick Airport.

The airport was taken into public ownership in 2013, after being threatened with closure following heavy losses.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said he had accepted a recommendation from the airport's operators to appoint a preferred bidder.

However, he said that he was not able yet to disclose the identity of the bidder involved.

In June, the Scottish government announced plans to sell the airport.

Mr Matheson revealed last month that bids for the state-owned airport were still being considered, despite a 4 October deadline having passed.

In a written statement on Thursday, the minister said the Scottish government had made it clear in 2013 that it intended to return Prestwick to the private sector "when the time was right".

What's been happening at Prestwick Airport?

Image source, Prestwick Airport

The Scottish government bought Prestwick Airport for £1 in November 2013 after its former owner, Infratil, earmarked it for closure following heavy losses.

Ministers said at the time that the deal would help protect the airport and safeguard thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

The government has since invested tens of millions of pounds in an effort to turn around its fortunes, including applying to carry out horizontal space launches from its 2,986-metre concrete case runway.

Ryanair remains the only scheduled passenger carrier at Prestwick but the airport is also used for transatlantic freight and for fuel stops.

Mr Matheson said: "We were pleased that the opportunity to buy the business, set out in the Official Journal of the European Union, attracted considerable interest.

"Following careful consideration of the bids received, I have accepted a recommendation made by TS Prestwick HoldCo to appoint a preferred bidder.

"To protect the integrity of the process I am not able to disclose the identity of the bidder at this time but we remain satisfied that good progress is being made in the interests of the business."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Michael Matheson said good progress was being made

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Jamie Greene said: "If there is positive news about a potential buyer for Prestwick Airport then that process should be allowed to take course and progress.

"But the Scottish Conservatives have been clear since the airport was nationalised, a significant amount of taxpayers' money has been loaned, not gifted, to this business and we fully expect that any deal which comes to fruition will seek to recover that cash."

Last week, Prestwick Airport reported a "major improvement" in its financial performance in the last year.

Accounts filed with Companies House showed the Scottish government-owned airport cut its operating losses from £3m to £1m.