Glasgow Prestwick Airport 'may be given away for nothing'

Glasgow Prestwick Airport Prestwick has been making a loss of nearly £2m a year

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The owners of Glasgow Prestwick have suggested they may give away the airport for nothing.

The Scottish government announced on Tuesday it was negotiating to buy the unprofitable airport from New Zealand owners Infratil.

But in a statement on its website, the company said it did not expect any transaction "to give rise to material proceeds".

Prestwick was put up for sale last March after heavy annual losses.

Several investors expressed interest but no offers were made.

Infratil has also been trying to sell its other UK airport, Manston Kent.

The airport operator said: "In March 2012 Infratil announced its intention to sell its two UK airports, Glasgow Prestwick Airport and Manston Kent Airport.

"On 15 May 2013, Infratil announced that it had written down the value of both airports to £11m.

"Infratil does not now expect any transaction completed for Glasgow Prestwick Airport or Manston Kent Airport to give rise to material proceeds."

Negotiations

The Scottish government hopes to conclude detailed negotiations with the company by 20 November.

Infratil has agreed to ensure the airport is kept fully open and operational during the negotiation process.

On Wednesday, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon argued that Prestwick Airport could be profitable if the right approach was taken.

Ms Sturgeon said she believed that "over time" Prestwick could go "back to profit".

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We are embarking on commercial negotiations with the current owners of the airport so things like purchase price for the airport will require to be resolved in terms of the negotiation."

'Only realistic alternative'

The minister defended the government's decision to step in to buy the airport, saying it was the "only realistic alternative to closure".

She explained that, once the airport was in public ownership, there would be a detailed business case made which would include levels of investment and a timescale on turning around its fortunes.

Ms Sturgeon added: "With the right financial investment, with the right commercial management, the right marketing over a period of time, Prestwick can be brought back into profit."

The Scottish government's bid to buy Prestwick comes just months after struggling Cardiff Airport was sold to the Welsh government for £52m.

Although publicly owned, Cardiff Airport is being managed by an "arm's length" body rather than by the government, and "on a commercial basis".

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