Stelios fumes after shareholders back easyJet plane deal

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The Independent Online

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has threatened easyJet's directors with legal action after losing a shareholder vote on the budget carrier's $13bn (£8.6bn) plane order.

The billionaire founder of the airline is starkly opposed to the jet-shopping spree, and used his family's near-37 per cent stake to vote against the deal at its extraordinary general meeting in Luton yesterday.

However, easyJet's board secured the backing of institutional investors and the vote, which needed 50 per cent agreement to be approved, was passed by 192 million votes in favour, to 144 million opposed.

"It's a disgrace that shareholders were not told the full facts of this transaction," a spokesman for Sir Stelios said.

"Clearly the board got its way – for now. But if in the coming years Sir Stelios believes this deal has been destructive of shareholder value, he will hold directors to account, legally if necessary."

Only four people voted in person at the meeting – which lasted just 15 minutes – at easyJet's orange Luton hangar. And the City said that the backing of the vote was a victory for chief executive Carolyn McCall's strategy at the airline.

"Stelios has effectively admitted defeat in his battle to turn easyJet into a slow-to-no-growth cash machine," the Investec analyst James Hollins told Bloomberg. "EasyJet has every reason to build out and improve its fleet size and efficiency," he added.

Easyjet's deal sees the budget carrier buying 135 new passenger jets worth about $13bn from Airbus, with 35 A320s for delivery by 2017, 100 new A320neos for delivery from 2017 to 2022, and options on 100 additional A320neos.

The FTSE 100-listed airline claimed it had secured a bigger discount on the list price than with its last major plane purchase, more than a decade ago.

Speaking after the meeting, easyJet's 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."