Birmingham Airport to get £18.5m emergency loan from some of the councils that half own it
Birmingham Airport is to get an £18.5m emergency loan from Birmingham City Council, approved by the cabinet, to help avoid the threat of insolvency. Since the start of the Covid pandemic, the airport has seen passenger numbers fall by 91%. However, some councillors questioned whether the airport would want more money in future, as the pandemic restriction on flying continues. The fear is that if the airport becomes bankrupt, without a loan, even more money would be lost, and the councils could lose their control over it. The 7 councils of the West Midlands county – including Birmingham City Council – own a 49% stake in the airport’s holding company, BAHL; a further 48.25% is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the remaining 2.75% belongs to an employee trust. Four of the local authorities will contribute to the loan, with the other shareholder, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. The airport is getting public money already, through the government’s Job Retention Scheme.
Birmingham Airport to get £18.5m emergency loan
Birmingham Airport is to get an £18.5m emergency loan from the city council to help avoid the threat of insolvency.
Since the pandemic, the airport has seen passenger numbers fall by 91%.
The loan was approved by the cabinet group on Tuesday when councillors were told the site was enduring the most “severe downturn” in its history.
However, some councillors questioned whether more funding might be needed in future due to on-going uncertainty about air travel.
Birmingham City Council is one of seven local authorities in the region that are shareholders of the airport’s holding company BAHL.
All of them were approached for financial assistance and the meeting heard four will contribute to the loan along with the other shareholder, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, LDRS reported.
Councillor Meirion Jenkins asked if £18.5m was sufficient, while suggesting councils perhaps had “no choice” but to approve the loan to stop the airport going insolvent and more money being lost.
In response, council leader Ian Ward said the airport had taken a conservative approach to the return of passengers and he was “reasonably confident this is a number that we will not have to revisit”, although the situation was still uncertain.
“The risk here if we don’t put this loan in and ensure the liquidity of the airport is that we would lose control of the airport as seven metropolitan authorities,” he said.
“I think it is in the interests of all of the West Midlands authorities and the people across the West Midlands that we do continue to exercise influence over the airport.”
The airport said it had taken measures to preserve cash and manage costs, including suspending capital projects and using the government’s Job Retention Scheme.
“Any support is very much welcomed as the airport deals with the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and rebuilds post-pandemic to support the region’s economic recovery and air transportation needs,” a spokesperson said.
Birmingham Airport to receive £18.5m council loan
Birmingham City Council agrees funding package with more capital expected from other shareholders to support airport hit by travel ban
Birmingham Airport will receive an emergency loan worth up to £18.5 million from the city council as the travel industry continues to suffer under the coronavirus lockdown.
The local authority has agreed to the funding support following what it called the most severe downturn in the airport’s history.
The seven councils of the West Midlands county own a 49% stake in the airport, a further 48.25% is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the remaining 2.75% belongs to an employee trust.
Passenger volumes between April and December were down by 91 per cent, according to the airport.
Birmingham City Council’s cabinet approved its contribution at its meeting this week but opposition councillors have expressed concerns that even more funding might be required further down the line.
The meeting heard that all seven of the West Midlands councils were approached to make a contribution with three others and the pension plan also agreeing to do so.
Cllr Meirion Jenkins (Con) said: “I see that we are having to provide a loan to maintain liquidity and we perhaps have no choice about that because, if we don’t and they become insolvent, we could lose more.
“How much analysis has been done in terms of whether this is going to be sufficient?
“Whatever we think about Covid and how it has been handled and strategy, I think one thing we can perhaps all agree on is it has taken us all a bit by surprise in terms of the duration and severity which has hit the UK.
“Right now, looking at the prospects for air travel, I really don’t know what the future holds. If we put this money in, how confident are we that more won’t be required?
“Because the impact on tourism travel and business travel might be worse than even we think it is going to be.”
In response, Birmingham City Council leader Cllr Ian Ward said: “The risk here if we don’t put this loan in and ensure the liquidity of the airport is that we would lose control of the airport as seven metropolitan authorities.
“I think it is in the interests of all of the West Midlands authorities and the people across the West Midlands that we do continue to exercise influence over the airport.
“We would not want to see anything happen to the airport that was to the detriment of the economy and it is a significant contributor to the economy.
“The airport itself has taken a conservative approach to the return of numbers flying so I think we can be reasonably confident this is a number that we will not have to revisit.
“Having said that, we don’t know with any certainty what will happen with the pandemic so there is always a possibility that this sum of money will not be sufficient. But we have taken all of the expert advice around that.”
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Birmingham Airport said in a statement: “The pandemic has led to Birmingham Airport’s most severe downturn in its history, with passenger volumes in April to December last year resulting in a 91% decline.
“To limit the impact of significantly reduced passenger numbers, there have been a range of measures the airport has taken to preserve cash and manage costs, including limiting spending, suspending capital projects and maximising the use of the Job Retention Scheme.
“These actions have been designed to protect the airport’s long-term interests and ensure it is well placed to respond to the recovery when passengers resume flying again.
“Any support is very much welcomed as the airport deals with the ongoing impact of covid-19 and rebuilds post-pandemic to support the region’s economic recovery and air transportation needs.”
Up to 546 Birmingham Airport jobs at risk as Swissport announces huge cuts to staff
Swissport’s announcement it is making drastic cuts to its workforce could result in almost 500 roles based at Birmingham Airport being lost. The baggage handler announced its plans to axe 4,500 roles earlier this week, after the coronavirus crisis affecting its operations. Birmingham Airport, situated near the NEC, in Solihull, has been hit hard. It is the second hardest hit airport in the world for Swissport job losses. As many as 546 jobs are at risk, which represents 65% per cent of its Birmingham-based workforce of 750. GMB union said: “Sadly this has not come as a shock to anyone, the aviation sector has been battered by coronavirus and will take a long time to recover unless the Government steps up and saves our industry … There are nearly 750 highly-skilled workers at Swissport Birmingham and they’re essential to making sure everyone gets on their holidays without a problem. The existing furlough scheme is not enough for aviation; we need extended support to keep our international airport and local economy healthy for the future.” They want action to save their jobs, as a matter of urgency.