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Renegade Stelios defeated in plans for easyJet board revolt

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou's plans for a shareholder uprising at easyJet were dealt a blow yesterday after a major investor backed the airline's management.

Standard Life, whose 9.45% stake in the company is the largest behind the Haji-Ioannou family, said it did not share his criticism of the growth strategy at the airline, which has 189 planes and another 59 on order.

Sir Stelios quit the company's board on Friday and said he would consider calling a general meeting to ask shareholders to reject the management's strategy of "relentless growth" in aircraft numbers.

He wants the company to increase its focus on profit margins and said the lack of progress in terms of share price and dividend payments over the last 10 years supported his calls for change.

EasyJet said its fleet plan will enable the airline to grow its share of the European short-haul market from today's figure of around 7% to approximately 10%. It also pointed out that it was one of the best performing airlines during the recession with profits of £44m.

David Cumming, Standard Life's head of equities, said the company was on the right track: "We're happy with the current management team, we're happy with the strategy, things are improving.

"They're doing a good job given what's happening in the airline industry, and we're not supportive of Stelios's views at present."