EasyJet gives investors £175m as profits surge

Marion Dakers

EASYJET shareholders welcomed a £175m special dividend yesterday after the budget airline’s move into allocated seating helped push profits up a whopping 51 per cent.

The FTSE 100 firm said revenues per seat were up seven per cent, surpassing a four per cent rise in passengers, as reserved seats and other add-ons proved popular.

Boss Carolyn McCall said retirees, families and business travellers that spurned EasyJet in the past are now buying tickets, pushing the average age of the firm’s passengers to 40.

Pre-tax profits soared 50.9 per cent to £478m, at the top end of forecasts, while revenues rose 10.5 per cent to £4.26bn.

The special dividend is on top of an ordinary dividend of £133m, and comes two years after EasyJet started returning money to shareholders.

“Another victory for all the shareholders of EasyJet,” said Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the firm’s founder and biggest investor. “The directors have now accepted that more money has to be returned to the shareholders – if only they would accept that less cash should go to Airbus for more planes.”

McCall told reporters that the company has the financial firepower to both invest in growth and return funds, ending the year with £1.2bn in cash.

McCall said EasyJet is “paranoid about competition from wherever it comes”, but that the former flag carriers like Air France are the rivals on EasyJet routes rather than Ryanair, which has recently issued two profit warnings.

She added that the firm’s business model is hard for traditional airlines to copy: “They work in very nice offices – they don’t work in a hangar in Luton.”