EasyJet founder presses for dividend to shareholders

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EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou has formally stated that the budget airline's dividend policy should be amended, to pay a dividend to shareholders by around 2011.

Haji-Ioannou, in a statement accompanying today's release of EasyJet's full-year financial results, says: "It just makes good business sense for every properly-run, mature company to plan to pay a dividend to its loyal shareholders one day."

He has also outlined disagreements over the airline's accounting, prompting his refusal to approve EasyJet's accounts - a decision which comes on top of last week's public spat with the board over the carrier's strategy, and a reminder from Haji-Ioannou of his right to appoint himself chairman.

In the statement today he reiterates his conviction that EasyJet should "focus on cash-flow forecasts and not on carrying more passengers", adding: "I believe that with careful cash management and, in particular, more prudent capital expenditure, EasyJet and its shareholders will be the winners in European short-haul aviation."

Despite the disagreements, Haji-Ioannou clarifies that EasyJet's controlling shareholders support chairman Sir Colin Chandler, adding that they are "impressed" with his handling of the "difficult situation".

Haji-Ioannou has been seeking to appoint two additional non-executive directors to the board, from his company EasyGroup, and publicly identifies them today as Andrew Cooper and Anthony Robb-John.

But he adds that the shareholders "do not wish to insist" on the company's chairman being someone who is "clearly not independent".

"I am happy that the board of EasyJet works as it should do," says Haji-Ioannou. "In fact, during the board meeting to approve the accounts we have reached agreement that we will use the time between now and the company's [annual general meeting] to seek to agree whether I shall appoint one or two additional non-executive directors, and who these would be."