Stobart's former CEO buys 10 percent stake in Flybe

14 January, 2019, 02:14 | Author: Regina Silva
  • The takeover comes two months after the airline put itself up for sale

Along with Cyrus Capital the airlines will create a new company Connect Airways, within which will sit Flybe, as well as Stobart Air and aircraft leasing business Propius.

The regional airline put itself up for sale a year ago after after a profit warning.

Speaking about the merger Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic said: "The Virgin Atlantic brand is built on the foundation of putting customers at the heart of everything we do, providing them with the choice they deserve and a travel experience they love".

Talks have been going on for several weeks but now a deal has been reached that will see Virgin Atlantic (30%) and Stobart Group (30%) come together with hedge fund Cyrus Capital Partners in a group that will be called Connect Airways.

Connect Airways believes that combining Flybe and Stobart Air in a "more integrated commercial cooperation" with Virgin Atlantic's long-haul operations will create a "fully-fledged United Kingdom network carrier under the Virgin Atlantic brand, alongside Stobart Air's wet lease operations and aircraft leasing business, which will continue to operate as it does today".

This will be followed by a further £80 investment in future months.

Cyrus will own 40% of the new company, while Virgin and Stobart will take 30% each.

Flybe to fly on but under the name Connect Airways.

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It will operate under the Virgin Atlantic brand, meaning the likely return of the Virgin brand to Scottish routes.

Flybe's October profit warning wiped £20m off its market capitalisation, while its 48p share price in March 2018 had shedded value to hit just 11p in November, before interest from larger airlines helped push it up to 16p.

Flybe will continue to serve customers and communities across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Christine Ourmieres-Widener, chief executive of Flybe, acknowledged that the airline had "suffered from a number of legacy issues" which were still negatively impacting cash-flows.

"The combined entity will be a powerful combination with sufficient scale to compete effectively in the United Kingdom and European airline markets. We aim to provide an even better service to our customers and secure the future for our people".

Warwick Brady, boss of Southend Airport owner Stobart Group, advised by Barclays, said the takeover is an "excellent opportunity" to grow passenger numbers at the airport, and to "play an active role in United Kingdom regional flying". Mr Branson sold a 31pc stake in Virgin Atlantic to Air France-KLM in 2017, and retains a 20pc holding in the airline.

Flybe has 78 planes operating from smaller airports including London City, Southampton and Norwich, and flies to destinations across the United Kingdom and Europe.

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