Icelandic group disposes of £220m stake in easyJet

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The Independent Online

Prospects of a takeover bid for easyJet appeared to evaporate yesterday after the Icelandic investment group FL disposed of its 16.9 per cent stake in the no-frills airline, raising more than £220m.

JP Morgan Stanley Cazenove is understood to have placed FL's 65 million share stake in the market at between 340p and 343p. EasyJet shares closed at 358p yesterday before news of the accelerated placing emerged.

Hopes the Icelandic investors would bid for the whole of easyJet have fuelled a 70 per cent rise in the airline's shares over the past 12 months. They peaked at 408p earlier this year after Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of the airline whose family still holds 40 per cent of the shares, refused to rule out a sale of his stake.

However, the shares failed to hold above 400p amid indications that Mr Haji-Ioannou was seeking a bid at 500p or more.

The Icelandic firm was unavailable for comment yesterday but also revealed that it has raised its stake in the state-controlled airline Finnair to above 10 per cent. Mr Haji-Ioannou told the news agency Bloomberg: "If it is true that they have sold close to today's market price, I would like to congratulate them for making a profit."

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