The owner of Southend airport is exploring funding options as it seeks to safeguard the business from the impact of coronavirus.

Stobart Group has furloughed around half of its 1,500 staff, frozen all but critical expenditure, introduced 20% pay cuts to top bosses and imposed a recruitment freeze.

The company, which also runs a separate energy business, said in a Covid-19 trading update: “These steps have been taken both to maintain the operational capability of our core businesses and ensure they are well placed to gear back up when the recovery takes place. At all times we have committed, as a responsible business, to follow all government advice.

“The safety and wellbeing of our staff and the communities we operate in have been at the forefront of the board and management’s thinking.

 “The cumulative effect of these actions is to preserve the group’s liquidity and provide cash headroom.

“Given the level of current uncertainty, particularly regarding the potential duration of the crisis, the board is also taking prudent steps to explore further funding options.

“The board has determined it is not possible to provide financial guidance for the full year at present and is withdrawing all previously made guidance.”

Southend airport is operating a skeleton of services with just three flights a week by Wizz Air to Bucharest and Loganair links to Aberdeen and Londonderry three times a week.

More than 20 aircraft are laid up on the airport’s stands while the airport’s global logistics operation continues to operate as normal.

Stobart added: “Strict safety protocols and procedures are in place throughout our operations in order to protect people working there.

“The Holiday Inn hotel at the airport remains open and is providing accommodation for key workers and we are seeking further opportunities to support community groups.”

Group chief executive Warwick Brady said: “The challenges presented by the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus have been significant.

“However, I am immensely proud and humbled by the response of our people to this global crisis.

“We have acted at pace to put in place steps to safeguard our business in the immediate term, and our people have consistently understood and supported the actions we have taken.

“Despite the current challenges presented by the Covid-19 virus, we continue to own and operate aviation and energy assets with significant underlying value. There remain significant medium and long-term opportunities to further increase the value of the assets for our stakeholders.

“We are maintaining regular communication with our partners and ensuring we are well placed to get back to full operation quickly once this exceptionally challenging time has passed.”