The initial public offering (IPO) would value the budget carrier, Europe’s largest regional airline, at about £240m and marks another stride in its ambitious growth strategy.
“We are delighted to bring Flybe to the market. The company has come a long way in a short time,” said Flybe’s chairman and chief executive Jim French.
The company said the flotation proceeds would provide capital both to grow its fleet of aircraft and to strengthen its cash position, to give it greater “strategic flexibility to pursue additional growth opportunities,” it said. These could include strategic arrangements with European airlines but also acquisitions.
The news ends weeks of speculation, with reports suggesting 25 per cent of the business could be floated.
Exeter-based Flybe has chased growth opportunities in recent years, buying British Airways’ regional UK business, BA Connect, in 2007 in a deal that doubled the company’s size.
In July, it announced that it had ordered and secured options on up to 140 new aircraft with manufacturer Embraer for up to $5bn (£3.2bn).
It has indicated its wish to list several times since 2005 but delayed plans due to the acquisition and then difficult market conditions.
It is one of just a few European airlines to report profits throughout the recession, with turnover of £570.5m and £5.7m profit before tax in the year to March 2010. It now services 215 short-haul and niche routes.
FAST FACTS | FLYBE
65 per cent owned by Rosedale Aviation Holdings; family trust for Jack Walker.
16 per cent employee-owned.
BA retains a 15 per cent stake and will buy enough new shares to maintain that stake.
BANK OF AMERICA MERRILL LYNCH
FLYBE has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch as sole sponsor, global coordinator and bookrunner on the offer, with Investec and Execution Noble as managers.
Justin Anstee (pictured), head of EMEA transport, business services and infrastructure investment banking at BoA Merrill Lynch, is lead adviser. He joined the firm in 2000, and has advised British Airways on its merger with Iberia and National Express on its defence against multiple bids.
Rupert Hume-Kendall, global capital markets chairman at BoA Merrill Lynch, is the capital markets banker. He has led the funding of clients including BT, RBS, ICI, WPP, Lloyds, Diageo, Standard Life and Banco Santander. In 2008, among others, he led two rights issues for RBS that raised $24bn and $35bn respectively.
Prior to joining Merrill Lynch in 1998 he was syndicate head at UBS, and prior to that worked at Schroders. A lover of golf, water-skiing and running, he holds an economics masters degree from the LSE and is a member of Annabel’s.