EasyJet disputes Haji-Ioannou claims over slot, fleet valuation

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EasyJet has rebuffed concerns raised by founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou over its accounting procedures, which prompted him to abstain from approving the carrier's full-year results.

Haji-Ioannou had expressed concerns over the way EasyJet recorded the value of London Gatwick slots it picked up from its acquisition of GB Airways, as well as the value of the GB Airways aircraft it plans to sell.

But in a conference call with analysts today, EasyJet group finance director Jeff Carr countered that Gatwick was "slot constrained - this is not open to speculation". He adds that, following the collapse of an airline, the "go back in the pool but are snapped up quickly".

Carr also takes on Haji-Ioannou's claims that the GB Airways fleet might be overvalued, stating that EasyJet has discounted the seven aircraft by 10% from a February valuation. He adds: "In terms of who's right or wrong, this won't become clear until we sell the aircraft."

The rift between EasyJet and its founder emerged last week when Haji-Ioannou informed the carrier that his company, EasyGroup Holding, had increased its shareholding in EasyJet from 15.6% to 26.9%, and was unhappy with the rate of expansion of the airline.

EasyJet chief executive Andrew Harrison says the carrier's contract with Airbus gives it the flexibility to defer half of its planned deliveries, and points out that the airline has already decided to defer four aircraft deliveries scheduled for mid-2010.

"We shall continue to take a prudent approach to growth and take advantage of the flexibility of the Airbus contract," he says.

Harrison adds: "Everybody on the board recognises that we're facing a difficult economic situation and we all feel that it's normal and healthy to have a rigorous debate...we're all committed to finding a consensus as to how the company deals with the uncertainties we face."