Manchester Airport Group has announced plans to strengthen its position as the second largest airport operator in the UK by purchasing another airport through private investment.
In a joint statement with MAG’s owners, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), the airport operator said it was “exploring the opportunity to add a quality airport to the group”.
The statement said: “Following a strategic review of the group's performance and future prospects, MAG is pursuing two key recommendations: one to explore the opportunity to add a quality airport to the Group and the other, to bring in new equity investment as part of the deal.
“Both of these recommendations are interdependent and one will not happen without the other.”
The move would mean that MAG – currently still completely publicly-owned – would be partly privatised.
AGMA is made up of 10 different councils in the Manchester region which together own MAG.
These councils include Manchester, Bolton, Rochdale, Stockport, Wigan, Salford, Tameside, Oldham, Trafford, and Bury.
Manchester City Council is the largest stakeholder with 55%, while the others own a 5% stake each.
If private investment is found then all the separate parties would have to relinquish some control of the airport group.
AGMA said: “To make this possible, new governance arrangements are necessary, which each of the 10 Greater Manchester authorities would have to consider.
“AGMA has agreed an in-principle framework for a new structure which will be considered by the individual local authorities over the coming weeks.”
In parallel with this process, MAG said it would begin to invite detailed proposals from private investors.
The statement added: “No final decisions will be taken - and no further substantive statement issued - before a potential investment partner has been identified and detailed arrangements progressed. We anticipate it will take a few months to reach this point.”
Meanwhile, BAA, the largest operator in the UK, has been forced to sell its Edinburgh and Stansted airports by the Competition Commission, although it is appealing against the ruling on Stansted.
AGMA refused to comment on speculation that the move is part of a plan for MAG to buy Stansted Airport if it is eventually put up for sale by BAA.
MAG, which currently operates Manchester, East Midlands, Bournemouth and Humberside airports, handles around 25 million passengers annually.