Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Flybe going public in bid to finance growth plans

Airline Flybe has revealed plans to take the company public in a bid to raise £60m.

The privately-owned carrier, which claims to be one of the few European airlines to report profits since the financial crisis, said it will put some of the cash raised towards a fleet of new aircraft.

The airline, which will use the rest of the proceeds to support growth plans, such as codesharing and takeovers, would not comment on the expected value, but a recent report suggested it could be in the region of £200m.

The current shareholders, which include the founding Walker family, British Airways, and chief executive Jim French, are not expected to sell their interests in the airline.

The Exeter-based carrier, which employs more than 2,900 people and operates 215 routes across Europe, posted pre-tax profits of £6.8m in the year to March 31, down from £12.8m the previous year.

It flies to 17 destinations from George Best Belfast City Airport.

Flybe recently signed codesharing agreements - in which a seat can be purchased on one airline but is actually operated by a co-operating airline - with BA and Air France.

The company is looking to continue its expansion into continental Europe and has hinted at further flight-share agreements with airlines such as Swiss firm Flybaboo and an unnamed Finnish carrier, as well as potential acquisitions.

The airline, which flew 7.2m passengers in the last financial year, put in an order in July for 140 Embraer E175 jets to support its planned expansion.

Mr French, who joined the firm in 1990 under its original moniker Jersey European Airways, said: "We are delighted to bring Flybe to the market. The company has come a long way in a short time, from its origins as a provincial carrier to being one of Europe's leading regional airlines."

The Flybe brand is eight years old but has traded under various names since Jersey European was founded in 1979.

It later became British European Airways as it expanded with the backing of Sir Jack Walker, the steel tycoon who owned Blackburn Rovers football club.

The Walker family trust owns nearly 70% of Flybe, while British Airways owns 15% and Mr French has 7%. The remaining 8% of shares are owned by Flybe staff.

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