London’s Southend Airport is seeking a new owner after struggling to establish itself as a hub serving the UK capital.
Current owner Esken Ltd. said it has started a breakup of its main businesses following a strategic review, including a sale of its aviation business. It has also begun a sales process for the biofuels unit, its other main business, and said it was in discussions with a number of interested parties, according to a statement.
Southend, about 40 miles (64.374 kilometers) from central London on the North Sea coast, had sought to turn itself into London’s sixth commercial airport but failed to compete against much bigger and more established rivals like Heathrow or Gatwick. Carriers including Wizz Air Holdings Plc and Ryanair Holdings Plc pulled out of Southend during the pandemic, leaving only a skeletal summer service offered by EasyJet Plc.
The airport said that it had agreed a new, multi-year contract with EasyJet in January to ramp up operations, which will see the carrier offer as many as 18 departures a week this summer. While Southend targets a return to annual pre-pandemic passengers numbers in excess of 2 million, that compares with 5.1 million at the London City business hub. The capital’s other airports are far larger, with Heathrow attracting 81 million passengers in 2019, Gatwick 47 million, Stansted 28 million and Luton 18 million.
Esken plans to use the proceeds from the sale to pay down debt and provide liquidity until the disposal program has been completed.
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