Bournemouth airport has been bought by Regional & City Airports for an undisclosed sum.

The site has been sold by Manchester Airports Group, which is believed to have been looking for a buyer for some time.

The deal by the airports management division of Rigby Group brings its portfolio up to four regional airports – Norwich, Exeter and Coventry. The company also has contracts to operate Solent, City of Derry and Blackpool airports.

The Bournemouth takeover expands a network of growing passenger and commercial aviation facilities across the south of England, creating a combined entity capable of offering passengers a “highly credible alternative” to the major London airports.

Rigby Group chief operating officer Steve Rigby said: “While already a well-run and robust operation, Bournemouth airport is ripe for growth.

“Growing demand for both UK and International flights in nearby Southampton offers significant scope to increase passenger numbers, while the site’s potential as a regional business hub also represents a clear opportunity for expansion.

“We’re here to do business, and have already reached out to key regional stakeholders with a view to driving forward to growth of the airport.

“As part of RCA, the airport will benefit from the economies of scale and sharing of best practice normally only available to larger hub airports – providing job security for existing staff and opening up a range of exciting new opportunities for both the facility itself and the region as a whole.”

Bournemouth airport currently offers flights to 22 destinations across Europe, with 700,000 passengers using the airport in 2016.

A base for Ryanair and Tui, the airport has undergone a £45 million investment and supports 900 full time equivalent jobs contributing more than £24 million to the local economy.

Rigby Group chairman and founder Sir Peter Rigby said: “The acquisition of Bournemouth airport represents an important landmark in our strategy to create a robust and credible group of regional airport assets and services across the UK.

“Not only does it expand our catchment to include the major regions of south England, but also focuses operations on a core market poorly serviced by the major aviation players.”

The group recently recorded its best ever year in the 12 months to March, handling 1.7 million passengers with 189,000 flight movements connecting directly to more than 60 destinations across its operations.

MAG chef executive Charlie Cornish said: “Bournemouth airport and its people have been part of our company for a long time.

“RCA has a detailed integration plan in place to ensure a seamless transition of ownership and operations at Bournemouth which will maintain business as usual for passengers and customers.

“We wish the new owners every success and are confident that the airport will continue to flourish as we continue to focus on improving Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports.”