Great Britain

Company behind Stobart Air closes in on deal to sell third of Southend Airport

The company behind Stobart Air has said it is close to raising £120 million by selling a slice of London’s Southend Airport.

Esken, which was known as Stobart Group until February, said that it was “in the final stages of agreeing the documentation” with US private equity firm Carlyle Group.

The deal would give Esken a loan that Carlyle could convert into a nearly 30% stake in the airport.

It would inject about £100 million into the rest of Esken, which has been struggling in recent months amid Covid-19 disruptions.

It comes shortly after Esken pulled the plug on the struggling firm because a potential buyer lost its funding to take over the business.

The company said that it had become clear that suitor Ettyl would be unable to conclude a deal, so it pulled out of the transaction.

The business then told Stobart Air’s board that it would pull support from its subsidiary, a move that has disrupted the travel plans of many people from the UK and Ireland.

The board of Stobart Air terminated its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus which had helped operate flights to and from Dublin, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds among others.

Aer Lingus’ Heathrow flights are not impacted by the cancellation of the contract.

Heathrow flights are not impacted (Steve Parsons/PA)

Esken said that it would continue to fund the leases on eight planes through until 2023, but will try to find someone to sublease the aircraft to.

It added: “The continuing impact of the pandemic which has resulted in almost no flying since April 2020 and the decision taken by Aer Lingus to award preferred bidder status to another party for the franchise agreement beyond its expiry in December 2022 significantly hampered the exhaustive steps taken to secure a future for the business and its staff.”

Executive chairman David Shearer said: “It is disappointing for all stakeholders that we have been unable to conclude the sale of Stobart Air as a going concern despite the tireless efforts of my executive colleagues, the management team of the Airline and the team of advisers who have supported them.

“I am acutely aware of the impact this will have on the staff, customers and the businesses associated with the Airline but the continuing impact of the pandemic in terms of lockdown and limited travel has prevented us from achieving a better outcome.”

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