First dividend for EasyJet as profits rise

Marion Dakers
BUDGET airline EasyJet confirmed its first ever dividend payout yesterday, as it revealed a 31.5 per cent surge in annual pre-tax profits to £248m on the back of a rising number of lucrative business passengers on its flights.

EasyJet, whose biggest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has long pushed for a dividend, will dole out £195m to its shareholders, but warned the payment might be a one-off if the firm’s financial position worsens next year.

Stelios himself will pocket £51m from the dividend, on top of more than £4m a year from a deal to licence the “easy” brand name.

But sources close to him said he was still worried about capital expenditure, and could still exert pressure.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall tried to play down the dispute with the firm’s founder, telling reporters: “The EasyJet team... are ruthlessly focused on what we do to deliver. We would obviously listen to our largest shareholder and we would like to do that in private.”

The firm’s revenues rose 16.1 per cent to £3.45bn in the year to the end of September, while ancillary revenues jumped 12.9 per cent to £11.52 per seat.

The firm said this was partly due to its campaign to attract more business customers, leading to 1m more people using EasyJet flights for business and taking the total to 9.5m for the year.

The company also said it was trialling allocated seating on some routes early next year, in response to demand.

The firm expects mid-single-digit revenue growth in the next half on a “conservative and cautious” outlook.

EasyJet shares rose yesterday morning but closed down 2.3 per cent.