Optimism over Exeter Airport sale

Exeter Airport in Devon, UK, has been sold to Patriot Aerospace, a division of Rigby Group Plc.

The value of the deal, which will see ownership of the airport transfer from multi-national infrastructure group, Balfour Beatty, has not been disclosed, but the airport’s managing director, Matt Roach, speaking on behalf of the 305 workers employed by the airport, said that the sale was a ‘really positive development.’

The Rigby Group, headed by its chairman, Sir Peter Rigby, already has aviation interests with British International Helicopters, a helicopter operator with 25 aircraft and 100 employees, based in Newquay, Cornwall, UK, and a part ownership of Coventry Airport in the West Midlands.

Belfour Beatty had owned its 60 percent stake in Exeter Airport since its purchase from Devon County Council for £60 million in 2007. Galaxy, a fund comprising French and Italian investors and the European Commission, owns the remaining stake in the airport.

Matt Roach said, ‘There’s been a lot of speculation recently and this shows the airport has a viable future. We have a new owner that believes in the success of the airport, and for the staff that’s really positive. The Rigby Group have a passion for aviation so it’s a really good partnership to build on the existing strengths of the airport and further develop it in the future.’

Sir Peter Rigby said, ‘We believe in the importance of regional airports and of their value to the local and regional communities and of their important contribution and place in the local economies. We are intent on developing our aviation business within the Rigby Group and we have made a significant acquisition here, and recently with the acquisition of British International Helicopters in the course of the last month or so.

‘We now intend to consolidate both of these opportunities with a view to being a leading group in the sectors of regional airports and helicopter operations. Approximately 450 jobs are now sustained in our aerospace activities.’

British low-cost regional airline, Flybe employs 900 people at the airport and is its major carrier. Flybe’s managing director Andrew Strong, said, ‘Flybe welcomes the sale of Exeter airport to the Rigby Group Plc and looks forward to working with the new owners to develop services from Exeter and improve the passenger experience at the airport. Given the recent fare increases at Bristol Airport, Exeter should be able to capitalise on its position as the premier airport in the South West and the next few years at the airport look set to be an exciting period.’