Top easyJet investors are backing a deal for up to 200 new aircraft despite opposition from founder and largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
Six institutional investors with significant holdings in the budget carrier told the Financial Times they were willing to support a major order, which suggests Carolyn McCall, chief executive, has a reasonable chance of gaining approval for a deal.
Management must secure a simple majority of votes cast at a special shareholder meeting for large aircraft orders. With Sir Stelios’s family holding a 37% stake, the company has to obtain strong support from institutional investors on a large turnout.
The easyJet board has not yet made a final decision on whether to buy more aircraft from Airbus or Boeing.
But analysts expect the airline to place a multi-billion-dollar order for at least 100 aircraft and secure options to purchase a further 100.
One top 10 shareholder at easyJet, who declined to be identified, told the FT: “EasyJet has been a model company in terms of providing strong revenues and good returns. As long as there is growth, they should expand.”
Another said growth must be accompanied by improved returns, adding: “We would not want growth for the sake of it but it does seem sensible to expand the fleet.”
A spokesman for Sir Stelios said: “He believes any new aircraft order would be destructive of shareholder value and that the money would be far better spent on improving returns to investors, either through dividends or share buybacks.”
EasyJet has a fleet of 214 Airbus aircraft and is looking to replace older 156-seat A319s with larger, more fuel-efficient aircraft that can carry 180 passengers.
EasyJet saw passenger carryings rise by 2.5% in April to more than 5.2 million.
Underlying load factors were broadly flat after adjusting for the early Easter this year against 2012 and the impact of French air traffic controllers strikes in April last year, the airline said.
The like-for-like load factor was down by 2.6% to 86.7%. Total carryings for the 12 months to April rose by 6.5% to 59.8 million.
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