Stobart Air (RE, Dublin Int'l) is at an advanced stage in negotiations with a potential buyer, but Emerald Airlines (Ireland), a start-up carrier founded by former Stobart non-executive chairman Conor McCarthy, is not the purchaser, according to the Irish Independent.

Currently owned by the UK’s Stobart Group, the sale of Stobart Air, which also includes Propius Leasing, is expected to close in February 2021.

However, McCarthy, whose Emerald Airlines has secured preferred bidder status to operate the Aer Lingus Regional brand when Stobart Air’s franchise contract expires at the end of 2022, is not the potential buyer. McCarthy, who also owns MRO firm Dublin Aerospace, told the newspaper that neither he nor his colleagues at Emerald have had any talks on the issue with Stobart Air or Stobart Group.

Aer Lingus Regional flights are currently Stobart Air’s only business. Stobart Group CEO Warwick Brady told the Irish Independent in November that his company was willing to commence negotiations with a new Aer Lingus Regional franchisee “given the anticipated interest in those assets”. He said at the time that he hoped to sell the Irish regional carrier by March 2021.

Emerald Airlines is in “advanced discussions” with five lessors, McCarthy said, to secure a fleet initially on a “power-by-the-hour” basis to take over the Aer Lingus Regional service from the start of 2023. As previously reported, McCarthy said last month that the start-up would eventually have a fleet of fifteen-plus Avions de Transport Régional turboprops.

“We’re looking at power-by-the-hour to begin with, which allows for a flexible cost base as we ramp up. We’ve got our senior management team in place and have also secured office accommodation,” he said, adding that Emerald Airlines may also be in a position to hire air crews currently at Stobart Air or other operators.

ch-aviation has contacted Stobart Group for comment.