SOUTHEND Airport bosses have revealed they have had an encouraging “level of interest” in the sale of the business to a new owner.

Esken, previously known as the Stobart Group, is in advanced talks to sell the renewable energy leg of the company.

Once that is complete, auctioning off Southend Airport will become the firm’s number one priority and a business update from Esken revealed there has been an “encouraging level of initial interest received in relation to the airport”.

In a business update, Esken said the “return of pre-pandemic demand” is leading to improved performance at Southend, with the “outlook for Summer 2024 travel looking strongly positive”.

Daniel Nelson, Conservative councillor responsible for economic growth and investment, said: “The level of demand in a buyer for the airport gives me confidence it can go on to become the best airport in the country.

“I want the airport to be better than ever before, with new destinations and airlines, and, hopefully, this will be the start of it.

“If buyers are considering expressing an interest in taking over from Esken, I would strongly urge them to get in quick.”

The renewable energy branch of the business – known as its biomass division – could be sold as early as this week to a independent infrastructure investor.

It has been valued at £100million.

Esken’s renewables unit supplies biomass fuel processed from waste wood and by-products, which is then delivered to power plants.

Daniel Cowan, leader of Southend Labour, added: “Hearing there’s a level of interest in a buyer taking over the airport is positive because it gives confidence the site can boom again.

“From a residents’ perspective, who owns the airport is far less important than how they operate it.

“As long as they’ll be conscientious neighbours and a good employer in the city, it can only be positive to attract more airlines and launch new and exciting routes for travellers.”

The £100million valuation, of which Southend Airport will be higher, includes debt, as well as equity.

Esken is pursuing the sale of the airport, with a “view to finding the right long-term strategic owner of the airport”.

If successful, the process would see an “early redemption” of the Carlyle Global Infrastructure Fund’s, a lender of the airport, convertible loan and would “realise value” for Esken shareholders.