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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Simon Hunt

Esken puts Southend Airport up for sale as it warns on finances

The beleaguered owner of Southend Airport has confirmed the site has been put up for sale as it sounded the alarm on the stability of its finances.

Debt-ridden Esken, which is also putting its renewables business up for sale, warned “there is a material uncertainty in respect of [its] going concern assumption and the directors have exercised a significant degree of judgement in concluding that the group remains a going concern.”

Esken shares plummeted 25% to 2.79p. The stock is down 67% over the past year.

The firm, which last year arranged a £50 million borrowing facility to keep its finances afloat, said it “concluded that the interests of all stakeholders would be best served by seeking a new owner for each of the core businesses through a managed sale process.”

It comes despite the fact that the company recently secured a multi-year agreement with easyJet, which will see the airline will operate a new route to Amsterdam, in addition to the three existing destinations of Malaga, Majorca and Faro.

The airport had been closed to commercial passengers during coronavirus travel restrictions until it reopened last summer.

Revenue for its renewables business, which includes the production of biomass fuel, climbed 17.7% for the year to the end of February to £93.7 million, while its airport revenues rose 8.7% to £25.5 million.

Pre-tax losses narrowed slightly, from £35.7 million to £27.7 million.

The airport was bought by Esken, formerly known as Stobart Group in 2008 for £21 million. But since 2020, a string of airlines have pulled operations from Southend, including EasyJet, Ryanair and Wizzair. So far, only EasyJet has returned.

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