EasyJet's maiden dividend is a win for Sir Stelios

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The Independent Online

Having slain one dragon in the form of easyJet's previous chief executive, you would think Stelios Haji-Ioannou would be happy with the pot of gold he has received. Buoyed by a princely looking set of results, the low-cost airline is giving £195m back to shareholders in the form of its first regular dividend, plus a £150m special payout.

Plans to expand the company's fleet – much criticised by Sir Stelios – have been scaled back from the 7 per cent increase per year once mooted by easyJet's former boss Andy Harrison, who may be happily raising a glass at one of the pubs run by his new company, Whitbread, now he is clear of the mess.

The easyJet fleet, with 204 aicraft, is about 4 per cent bigger than last year and the company says it will stay at that size for the next year or so.

Yesterday, the airline's results won a warm reception from the City. Pre-tax profits for the year to 30 September were up 61 per cent at £248m, despite a £100m rise in unit fuel costs. Revenues rose 16 per cent to £3.45bn. When one-off costs, such as the disruption caused by Iceland's volcanoes in 2010, were stripped out, underlying profits were up 32 per cent.

"Despite the headwinds of higher fuel costs and a weak and uncertain economic outlook, our focus on customers, robust operational performance, the strength of easyJet's network combined with cost control and capital discipline means that easyJet is well placed to succeed," said the chief executive, Carolyn McCall.

Howard Wheeldon, a senior strategist at BGC Partners, said: "Rightly, [Ms] McCall needs to be conciliatory in her dealings with Sir Stelios just as she must with all major shareholders.

"But she is the person on the board and she has the overall responsibility of looking after all shareholders' interests."