Easyjet's CEO Johan Lundgren has said he does not think UK nationals will be forced to sell their stake in the airline after Brexit, saying he is "confident" a deal will be reached with the EU.
Speaking exclusively to City A.M., Lundgren said his decision to amend Easyjet's articles of association was a "precautionary measure" and that any forced sale of UK investors' shares to their EU counterparts "won’t need to happen".
As part of its Brexit contingency planning, Easyjet announced at the end of last year that it was amending its articles of association, which currently give directors the power to limit the ownership of the firm's shares by non-UK nationals.
The new plans extend this to apply to non-EU shareholders, "which will exclude UK holders once the UK has left the EU" , effectively giving Easyjet the power to force UK shareholders to divest their shares if need be.
However, in a move that will reassure investors, Lundgren said this was unlikely. "I don’t anticipate that we will need to use articles of association," he said. "It was there as a precautionary thing and because it was a responsible thing to do to make sure that you stay as an European airline at a time of the transition period. But I think this is something that won’t need to happen. We want everyone to be able to invest in Easyjet."
Lundgren said Brexit was "business as usual" and that his airline was better equipped than some of its competitors to deal with any fallout.
He is one of a number of airline executives who appear confident the UK will reach an aviation deal with the EU.
The CEO, who has been in his post for three and a half months after taking over from Dame Carolyn McCall, said he has been "in discussions" with politicians in Brussels and "nobody has said to me that they have any intention of doing anything differently from now".
"I am confident there will be a deal," he added.
Last month Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs was forced to clarify remarks from CEO Michael O'Leary that the airline might ground flights in protest at Brexit, saying: "We're not planning any stunts."
Jacobs told City A.M. that Ryanair would not be grounding flights in April 2019 but warned there was a risk this could happen if negotiations between the UK and the EU fell apart.
Lundgren said he had met "no Brexiteer or Remainer who has anything to win by flights being grounded." Asked whether he thought some in the EU 27 might use Brexit to overturn UK dominance in aviation, Lundgren said: "Can you imagine the horrible consequences for Spain which is so dependent on UK tourism?"
Last month aviation minister Baroness Sugg rebuffed concerns over the state of talks for airlines post-Brexit, saying discussions so far "have been positive" at an industry dinner.
However, concerns still linger over whether an aviation deal will be struck in good time and what the regulatory landscape will look like for the UK post-Brexit.