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pounds 7m take-off for former footballer

A FORMER amateur footballer who helped launch an airline with an aircraft borrowed from a German musuem will be pounds 7m richer when the business floats on the stock market next month.

Terry Liddiard, who played centre-half for Headington United FC (the forerunner of Oxford United) in the old Southern League, will have a stake of around 7 per cent in British Regional Airlines, which is expected to be valued at pounds 100m.

Mr Liddiard, chief executive, and 1,450 staff at British Regional Airlines will own about 10 per cent of the business in total. The current owner of the group, the British Midland chairman Sir Michael Bishop, is reducing his holding from 90 per cent to just under 30 per cent through an institutional placing.

The flotation will raise about pounds 25m of new money, enabling British Regional Airlines to expand its operations rapidly with a fleet of Embraer 145 jets.

The group operates 86 routes under the Manx Airlines brand and as a franchisee of British Airways, and carried 2.5 million passengers last year. Mr Liddiard joined Manx as a founder director in 1982 when the airline was relaunched with just three aircraft, including a Vickers Viscount and a turboprop Fokker F27 on loan from a German museum.

It is already BA's biggest franchisee and the flotation is expected to see a further strengthening of its links with BA with British Regional Airlines taking over more BA services from Manchester and Southampton.

The group made pre-tax profits of pounds 3.8m on sales of pounds 165m last year but analysts are pencilling in profits of more than pounds 5m for the current year.