Council set to invest in US airport

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WIGAN Council could be set to benefit from an investment in an American airport.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG), of which Wigan Council has a five per cent stake, has expressed an interest in Chicago’s Midway International Airport.

MAG – which is privately managed on behalf of its shareholders, the 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester – is one of 16 parties to have expressed interest in the Chicago hub, according to official documents.

The consortium responded to a formal process, known as a request for qualifications, indicating that members were keen to lease, operate and improve the airport for up to 40 years.

Sources said that MAG’s involvement would not be financial, but could involve helping to run operations there.

Midway carried 19.5m passengers last year – only slightly fewer than Manchester.

A City of Chicago spokesman said: “We can confirm that Manchester Airports Group was one of the 16.”

It is understood that Midway bosses want to lease their airport out for up to 40 years.

The private operator would be expected to pay an upfront fee and share revenue with the city.

Lois Scott, the City of Chicago’s chief financial officer said: “The response generated from the request for qualifications process is encouraging and provides the city with a sense of the strong level of interest in a potential lease.

“We must evaluate fully if this could be a win for Chicagoans and ensure that certain conditions and criteria are met, including a strong benefit to taxpayers and a travellers’ bill of rights.”

MAG recently hit the headlines by taking over London-based Standsted Airport.

Recession-hit Wigan Council has been under pressure from some opposition representatives to sell its share in the group to help pay for local services. But authority leaders point out that the investment has been generating a £1m a year return of late.