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Travel industry news

14 Nov 2018

BY James Chapple

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Flybe sale: Brexit fears and rising fuel costs spark sell-off bid

Flybe has placed itself up for sale citing ongoing uncertainty over Brexit and rising fuel costs.

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Flybe sale: Brexit fears and rising fuel costs spark sell-off bid

The beleaguered domestic carrier made the announcement to the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday (November 14).


Financial advisor Evercore has been appointed to oversee the sale, or a merger process.


The airline said it was in discussions with a number of “strategic operators” over a potential sale.


Sky News reports Stobart Group, which signed a five-year franchise deal with Flybe in March 2014 under the Stobart Air banner, could be in the frame.


This is despite Stobart abandoning a takeover bid mounted earlier this year and reporting significant costs from the franchise arrangement.


Flybe issued a dramatic profit warning last month, in which it said full-year losses could spiral to £22 million, sending shares tumbling.


Its warning said faltering consumer demand, rising fuel prices and a weak pound would cost the airline £29 million.


Announcing its availability on Wednesday, the same day ministers are due to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the airline’s board said leaving the EU remained “a major uncertainty for the sector and the wider economy”.


"The government continues to negotiate the UK’s exit from the European Union but has not yet reached an agreed deal,” said Flybe. “In relation to aviation, the various government papers on Brexit set out the issues facing the industry and failure to reach an agreement may put at risk, or damage, parts of the business.”


The board said while it was confident an “appropriate deal” would eventually be reached, it was also “developing contingency plans” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


Interim results published on Wednesday show pre-tax profits for the six months to September 30 fell 54% to £7.4 million, while revenues declined 2.4% to £419.2 million.


The results value the airline at around £25 million, a fraction of its £215 million valuation when it was floated in 2010.


Christine Ourmieres-Widener, Flybe chief executive, said the airline had cut capacity in the first half of the year 9%, which had grown revenue per seat 7.2%.


"However, there has been a recent softening in growth in the short-haul market, as well as continued headwinds from higher fuel and currency costs,” she said.


"We are responding to this by reviewing every aspect of our business, especially further capacity reduction, cash management and cost savings.


"This is already starting to have a positive impact, as shown by the improved first half adjusted profit before tax; however, we must do more in the coming months. We remain confident in the vital role that Flybe plays in UK connectivity."


The board statement said it was undertaking a “comprehensive review” of the “various strategic options” available to the airline against a backdrop of the current challenges facing the airline industry.


"These options include further capacity and cost-saving measures, initiatives to strengthen the balance sheet and preserve cash resources, as well as a potential sale of the company.


"The board has appointed Evercore as its financial adviser to assist it with this review. The company confirms, at the time of this announcement, it is in discussions with a number of strategic operators about a potential sale of the company.”

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