Budget carrier EasyJet has started suspending voting rights for certain shares which are still held by non-European Union interests, in order to comply with EU ownership regulations.
EasyJet holds an EU operating licence and, as a result, needs to be majority-owned by EU and associated nationals.
But EasyJet’s shareholder structure at 1 January, when a new UK-EU trade agreement took effect, shows that the non-EU shareholding amounts to 52.65% – above the company’s own 49.5% limit.
EasyJet says it has activated a contingency plan and “commenced steps to suspend voting rights” with respect to certain shares held by non-EU interests.
It says this involves sending “affected share notices” to the relevant shareholders, and says that shares most recently acquired by these shareholders will have their voting rights suspended first.
Similar measures have been taken by Wizz Air and Ryanair.
Holders of the affected EasyJet shares will not be permitted to attend, speak, or vote at the company’s general meetings.
EasyJet also warns that, if the non-EU ownership continues to exceed the 49.5% maximum over a sustained period, it will “compel” the affected shareholders to sell their stock to EU nationals.
“There can be no assurance as to when, or if, the [permitted maximum limit] will be removed,” it adds.
EasyJet has acknowledged that the new UK-EU agreement does not include any alleviation from the airline ownership and control requirements, although there is a clause indicating that discussions will be held over the potential for mutual liberalisation of the ownership requirements.