Stelios to pocket £72m from easyJet payout

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The Independent Online

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou will reap a £72m windfall from his family's stake in easyJet after the budget airline he founded bowed to his campaign to pay dividends rather than expand its fleet.

The airline's largest shareholder, with a 38 per cent stake, has been locking horns with the easyJet board for the past three years over how to spend its profits. Sir Stelios resigned from the board last year and, in his latest offensive, called earlier this month for the Rigas Doganis, a non-executive director, to be removed.

His windfall is part of a £150m payout easyJet announced yesterday, as the airline raised its pre-tax profit guidance for the year to between £240m and £250m from its previous forecast of £200m-£230m. The payout is made up of an ordinary dividend of £40m, or 9p a share, alongside a special dividend of £150m, making a total of 44p a share. Carolyn McCall, easyJet's chief executive, said: "Our performance continues to be robust, with particular strength on city routes used by business and short-break leisure travellers."

The increase in total revenue per seat for the second half of the year is likely to come in towards the upper end of our expectations – at about 6 per cent – and will be about 3 per cent for the full year, Ms McCall said.

She added that increasing uncertainty about the outlook of the eurozone economy had increased investors' appetite for cash, prompting the airline's special dividend. She denied that the payout was due to pressure from any single shareholder.

Gerald Khoo, an analyst at Espirito Santo, said: "Current trading is encouraging and contrasts clearly with the recent profit warning from Lufthansa," which on Tuesday reported disappointing booking trends and said it no longer expected to improve on last year's operating profit.

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