Stelios to bank £27m from shipping deal

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The Independent Online

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of the low-cost airline easyJet, said yesterday he would vote in favour of the £452m takeover of Stelmar, the Greek shipping business he created 12 years ago, adding that he would put his proceeds from the sale into the building society.

The 20 per cent stake which Stelios and his brother hold in Stelmar is worth £90m based on the agreed $48-a-share offer made by Overseas Shipping Group. Stelios' 6 per cent holding is worth £27m.

Stelios, the chairman of easyGroup, said he would use the funds to expand his other "easy" branded businesses but said he had no immediate need for the cash. He has already bought the cruise ship he will use to launch easyCruise and has built the first hotel in his planned easyHotel venture.

The first easyCruise ship, now completing its refit in Singapore, is expected to start sailing in the Mediterranean in May.

Stelios flatly denied renewed rumours that he was preparing a bid to take easyJet private. The entrepreneur and his brother and sister own 41 per cent of easyJet and there was speculation last summer that he was considering a bid to seize control of the airline following its double profit warning last year.

Stelios said it was "complete rubbish" to suggest that he had retained financial advisers to raise funding for a bid for easyJet. "I have not instructed any financial institution to do any work in that respect," he said. He added that if any investment banks were touting such a plan they were doing it without his authorisation.

Persistent speculation about his intentions towards easyJet forced Stelios to issue a statement last July saying there was "no current plan on the part of easyGroup or my family to take the company private".

Stelios reiterated that was the position in November when Icelandair swooped to take a 10 per cent stake in easyJet. Yesterday he said that remained his position, adding that the "risk reward ratio was not right" for him to make a bid, partly because easyJet shares had risen. He said: "My position has not changed since the statement in July. I am working with the company to improve the share price. I don't need to buy back the company to achieve that."