George Best Belfast City Airport has been put up for sale by its Spanish owners, it was confirmed today.
Grupo Ferrovial which bought the airport in 2003 said it was “considering strategic alternatives” to its shareholding.
A price tag of over £100m (€125m) has been put on the airport it paid £35m (€43m) for.
It is understood that business advisors and accountancy firm KPMG have been tasked with overseeing the sale .
Insiders say there has already been considerable interest and that a sale should be completed within the final three months of the year.
Ferrovial insisted the day to day operations of the business, and employment levels, were not affected by their decision.
Business at the airport has never been better – it expects to see 2.7 million passengers through its doors this year.
Last month it recorded a 29% increase in passenger numbers over the previous month.
The decision of Ryanair last October to set up four routes from Belfast – and to base itself at the City Airport rather than the rival International Airport has helped business jump.
A feasibility study for an extension to the runway, to allow aircraft with a larger payload to land, is being carried out and a planning application is anticipated before the end of the year.
A massive internal reorganisation of the terminal building opened in 2001 is also being undertaken.
Belfast City Airport opened for commercial operation in 1983 under the ownership of aircraft manufacturer Shorts – operating from little more than a collection of sheds and wartime buildings.
Ownership passed to Ferrovial five years ago and in 2006 it was renamed in honour of the Belfast- born soccer legend George Best.