Cardiff Airport likely to return to profit only in ‘long-term’, Edwina Hart suggests

By Graham Henry,

Economy Minister was giving evidence to National Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee on performance of publicly-owned hub

Cardiff Airport likely to gain a profit ‘long term’, Economy Minister Edwina Hart has suggested

Ministers only expect the publicly-owned Cardiff Airport to return to profitability as part of a “long-term” strategy, the Economy Minister has suggested.

Appearing before an Assembly committee, Edwina Hart said the hub – which was bought by the Welsh Government for £52m at the end of 2012 – was working well under public ownership, but cast doubt on a quick return to profitability.

She also suggested there wouldn’t be a quick sale of the hub back into the private sector, which the Scottish Government is seeking for the newly-nationalised Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire.

“I’m confident that the model we have currently suits us,” Ms Hart told AMs on the Enterprise and Business Committee.

She added she wanted the airport to be “viable”, adding: “That is the key issue for us. Our reason for intervening in the airport is we could see a downward spiral all the time, which we didn’t wish to continue. That downward spiral is not continuing.

“We’ve put in a private-sector management board, we’re not managing it ourselves. We have the expertise in there.

“We’re seeing changes in the airport. They will take a long while. But this is not something that was to make a decision that you turn a quick profit in overnight. Obviously there were people interested in partnership with us. With the private sector our door is always open for anybody who wants to approach us.”

Pressed by Plaid Cymru economy spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth on when the government expected the taxpayer to recoup its investment, Ms Hart said: “We have always made it clear it is a long-term investment. So the answer is it is a long-term investment”.

Cardiff Airport has recorded a loss in the last two sets of audited accounts, with the Welsh Liberal Democrat business spokeswoman Eluned Parrott expressing alarm at a “huge increase in the loss” the airport was making.

But there have been signs the downward spiral of passenger numbers may have been stemmed, with the Welsh Government claiming a 9% projected increase in the year since it took it over.

Ms Hart’s comments come after Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said it would take “a number of years for taxpayers to see a return on public investment in Prestwick”, but said it was a “working assumption” it would look to seek a private sector buyer.

She said the Budget announcement for support for regional airports to set up new routes would apply to Wales and that they would “wait for the detail of it”, but confirmed the Welsh Government is likely to bid in for funding.

Chancellor George Osborne announced a £20m annual fund will be used to encourage new routes from regional hubs like Cardiff.

Sourced from walesonline

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