easyJet pays first dividend as profits fly

 
Marion Dakers
EASYJET said it will pay its first ever dividend in 2012 yesterday, as it posted a near three-fold rise in full-year profit thanks to rising passenger numbers and a lower fuel bill.

The budget airline will also launch flexible fares this year in a bid to boost its share of business travellers, the company’s new chief executive Carolyn McCall said yesterday.

Pre-tax profit at the firm rose to £154m for the year to the end of September, up from £54.7m last year, on revenues up 11.5 per cent to £2.97bn.

McCall, who joined from the Guardian Media Group in July, said the decision to shell out for a dividend was not entirely down to pressure from the firm’s founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

“The time is right to set in place a formula to trigger a dividend payment in years when the company is profitable whilst at the same time ensuring that it retains a conservative capital structure,” said McCall.

“I think [Stelios] has been extremely constructive and we have a working relationship and a dialogue, which is a move forward,” she said yesterday.

Stelios released a statement welcoming the dividend, though he added that the payment should be increased to 50 per cent of earnings per share over time.

McCall said her wholesale review since joining the business has revealed “a strong business model and sound strategy with which to build”.

She said easyJet would start to publish punctuality statistics from January 2011 and improve the crew rota to try and minimise disruption from outside events such as industrial action or volcanic ash.