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EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ionnaou to launch package holiday venture

EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ionnaou is planning a new business that will compete with the budget airline's latest package holiday venture.

The Greek Cypriot billionaire is in the early stages of planning the launch of easyHoliday, an online cheap flights and hotels internet portal that is expected to open for business late next year, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

Sir Stelios's planned venture would bring it into competition with easyJet Holidays, a recently announced joint venture between easyJet and accommodation provider Lowcosttravelgroup to offer package holidays.

Sir Stelios owns the rights to use the 'easy' brand name, but allowed easyJet to set up easyJet Holidays under a brand licensing agreement in return for receiving 0.25% of easyJet's yearly profits.

Under the terms of the brand licensing agreement signed with the airline last month, the entrepreneur cannot launch a competing business within a year, but will be free to do so from mid-October 2011.

The licensing agreement also allowed easyJet to carry on using its brand name and was thought to be the end of a long-running dispute over between the airline and its founder.

EasyJet is expected to announce full-year results on Tuesday at a resurgent time for the airline industry.

The group lifted its profit expectations last month after seeing an increase in the number of sunseekers travelling to beach destinations.

The wider airline sector has also enjoyed a boost recently thanks to a recovery in premium traffic as the global economy picks up pace.

Embattled British Airways announced a return to half-year profits growth for the first time in two years in a further sign of a turnaround.

After its profit upgrade, easyJet is now expected to deliver annual pre-tax profits of £154.5 million - nearly three times the £54.7 million seen the year before.

This comes despite the financial impact of the volcanic ash cloud crisis earlier this year, which grounded flights for a week in April.

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