Budget airline easyJet got the green light to modernise its fleet after shareholders backed plans to order up to 235 new aircraft – defying objections from founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
The airline said 57% of votes backed the multibillion-pound order for new Airbus planes at a meeting yesterday - despite vocal objections from Sir Stelios, who with his family controls a near-37% stake. Although not at the vote he had argued it was a good deal for Airbus and a bad deal for easyJet shareholders.
With about 85% of the company’s shareholders voting, 43% of votes were cast against the plans at the meeting held at its Luton headquarters, short of the 50% needed to overturn the plan.
Chairman John Barton said: “The vote in favour of our new fleet arrangements will allow easyJet to continue its successful strategy of modest, profitable growth and sustainable returns for our shareholders.”
EasyJet will upgrade and expand its fleet by acquiring 135 Airbus planes over the next nine years with an option to buy a further 100 Airbus planes. The no-frills carrier said it had got a steep discount.
Sir Stelios, who founded the airline in 1995, described it as a “secret deal with Airbus” and threatened to hold the board legally to account should it damage shareholder value.
He told them: “I am not against replacing aircraft that have reached the end of their economic life. However I am against buying aircraft that are three times more expensive than the ones I bought with my own money in the early 2000s. Nor am I against directors trying to engineer some top line growth – but not at the expense of the profit margin.”