Manston airport offer rejected

An offer to buy a regional airport which is threatened with closure with the loss of up to 150 jobs has been rejected, it has been announced.

Up to 150 jobs were placed at risk in March following the announcement that Manston Airport in Kent could close.
Up to 150 jobs were placed at risk in March following the announcement that Manston Airport in Kent could close.

North Thanet Conservative MP Roger Gale said an unnamed American firm had come forward yesterday with a formal bid to buy Manston airport in Kent as a going concern.

Efforts have been under way since March to find a buyer for the airport to save up to 150 mainly part-time jobs at Manston, which has suffered losses of £10,000 a day.

But in a statement Manston Airport said the proposal had been rejected for "a number of reasons".

It said: "Following reports made public about an offer to purchase Manston Airport, we confirm a conditional written offer was received yesterday.

"The basis of this proposal had already been put to the shareholders verbally on Friday and had been rejected.

"The written proposal has been rejected this afternoon. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that some of those associated with the offer have approached the shareholders previously and have consistently failed to substantiate their proposals.

"We have clearly demonstrated our willingness to consider credible and viable offers and have engaged with a range of interested parties over the last couple of months which unfortunately have not come to fruition."

Earlier, Mr Gale said he felt the offer was "viable" and "realistic", and that he believed negotiations between the firm and airport owner Ann Gloag would centre on the price.

He told BBC Radio Kent Breakfast: "I hope and believe that it will prove viable. The owners of the airport have said they will consider any offer that has been made.

"Let's hope it succeeds."

On the firm, he said: "It's reputable and it's an American company, and I believe it has the resources necessary to buy, and not only to buy, but to run the airport because that's important as well.

"We have to wait and see. I must stress that this is an offer and negotiations will have to take place and I'm not privy to the detail. I'm very cautiously optimistic."

The rejection of the offer is another blow to threatened employees at Manston after a previous bid for the airport was withdrawn last month.

Manston airport has said it would "continue to consider all credible and viable offers".

Scottish businesswoman Mrs Gloag, who co-founded the Stagecoach Group, bought Manston airport for £1 last year.

She drafted in a team of experts, including Alastair Welch, to help revive its fortunes and various options were explored.

These included holding discussions with low-cost airline Ryanair about possibly bringing in new routes to Manston.

But the plans were hit late last year when Ryanair issued its second profits warning in as many months, as it warned it would be hammered by downward pressure on fares.

The owners at Manston had also held out hopes of pursuing opportunities with cargo flights but they failed to materialise too.