Wales politics

Cardiff Airport purchase 'absolutely' the right decision

Cardiff Airport Image copyright Cardiff Airport

It is impossible to know whether the £52m the Welsh government paid for Cardiff Airport was the right price, the airport's chairman has told AMs.

But Roger Lewis said that buying the airport in 2013 was "absolutely" the right decision by Welsh ministers.

In January, the Conservatives accused them of wasting tens of millions of pounds by purchasing it for around double an initial valuation of £20-30m.

Mr Lewis said "one will never know" if the price was correct.

Giving evidence to the assembly's public accounts committee on Tuesday, he said: "Could one have paid less for it? Perhaps.

"Could one have paid more for it? Perhaps. One will never know.

"Because what's in the mind of the seller - and you need a willing seller as well as a willing buyer - one will never know."

Mr Lewis added: "The headline for me, was this the right decision for Wales? Absolutely, absolutely.

"Can we enhance the value of the enterprise going forward? Yes."

'Tipping point'

Debra Barber, the airport's managing director, said the site was becoming "worn down" under its Spanish owners Abertis, and the idea of closing it had been raised at board meetings.

Ms Barber, who worked for Abertis as operations director, said the airport had submitted a £3m programme for "critical infrastructure" that needed to be replaced.

"We actually got about a fifth of what we required, which just about enabled us to do the stuff that we were required to do by regulation," she said.

Mr Lewis told the committee: "Was it heading towards a tipping point where it could have headed for closure? The answer is yes."

Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies has accused Labour of a "stunning failure to safeguard taxpayers' money" in paying £52m for the airport.

A Welsh government spokesman said reporting of the £20m-£30m valuation had been "entirely selective and misleading" and accountants KPMG had "modelled a range of scenarios during the due diligence process".

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