Welsh Government to buy airport

AirplaneThe Welsh Government has announced plans to buy Cardiff Airport.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said his officials have entered into an exclusive due diligence agreement with the airport's current owner, TBI.

Subject to the satisfactory completion of financial, legal and "value for money" considerations, the Welsh Government may then proceed towards a purchase of the airport.

Announcing the agreement, Mr Jones said: "Over the past 12 months, I have repeatedly emphasised the importance to Wales of a dynamic international gateway airport in Cardiff.

"During the course of the year we have developed a very constructive and positive relationship with TBI. Together we have been discussing how best to develop the airport to position it for the challenges ahead.

"I can today announce the Welsh Government has agreed with TBI to progress towards the purchase of Cardiff Airport. Such an arrangement would enable us to develop a more coherent approach to our national infrastructure planning, and integrate the airport into our wider economic development strategy."

Cardiff's airport, which is nearer the seaside town of Barry than the Welsh capital, was previously owned by three local councils but was privatised in 1995.

TBI is a company owned by Spanish conglomerate Abertis (90%) and AENA (10%), the Spanish airports operator. Over the past few years it has seen its fortunes dwindle, with continued decreases in passenger numbers and lost routes.

Earlier this year, Mr Jones publicly criticised the airport's owners and urged them to properly invest in it or put it up for sale. Over the past few months, Welsh Government officials have been locked in buy-out talks.

Mr Jones would not be drawn on the airport's price tag - but said it would be run on a "commercial basis" by an independent operator on behalf of the government. He added it would not receive subsidies and must "demonstrate a return to the taxpayer".