Peel has retaken control of the loss-making Liverpool John Lennon Airport less than four years after selling to Canadian group Vantage.
The Peel Group said on Thursday it had acquired the 65% it sold in June 2010 in Vantage Airports UK, in which it retained 35%, from Vantage Airport Group. The change of ownership is effective immediately and Peel will now become the sole owner of the airport company.
LJLA posted a pre-tax loss of £7.1m on turnover of £31.6m in the year to 31 March 2013. In the 2013 accounts, auditor KPMG said the airport faced "material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt on the company's ability to continue as a going concern". Negotiations with banks were ongoing with a 31 March deadline. Robin Tudor, head of PR at the airport, said talks with the banks were progressing and he expected a positive conclusion in the coming weeks. He declined to give details of the size of the bank facility or the banks involved.
Tudor said Vantage had decided to focus solely on the North American market and was exiting the UK. Vantage had already sold its interest in Doncaster airport.
Liverpool's passenger numbers, dominated by easyJet and Ryanair, have suffered from growing competition for low-cost carriers through Manchester and other airports in recent years. Passenger levels through Liverpool peaked in 2008 at 5.4m and fell to 4.2m in 2013, down from 4.5m in 2012. Tudor said the airport was confident of restoring passenger numbers, targeting the charter holiday market among others.
Peel said in a statement: "Over the past four years, under the ownership of Vantage Airport Group, Liverpool JLA has undergone significant improvements and now provides a best in class airport experience for both passengers and airlines. Vantage now wishes to focus on projects that position the company for growth in North America and other markets.
"Peel believes that by investing in JLA, the business can be taken to the next level, attracting new airlines and new services by capitalising on the excellent operational and commercial performance. It will remain business as usual for airport employees, airlines and passengers, with JLA continuing to serve the needs of the travelling public in Merseyside and the North West.
Matthew Thomas, chief executive of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, said: "The Airport is a key project in Peel's Ocean Gateway programme, which will see £50bn of investment in the North West. As part of one of the region's largest and most successful organisations, the Airport now enters an exciting period in its development as we work with partners across the City Region to grow services and passenger numbers."