Tuesday 14 April 2020 1:26 pm

Easyjet founder refers airline to watchdog over Airbus deal

Easyjet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has referred the airline to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for not showing “the highest standards of disclosure and transparency” in its decision to defer the order of 24 new aircraft from Airbus.

Haji-Ioannou has been locked in a spat with the budget carrier’s executives over a deal for 107 planes from the French-German giant for weeks, but has now hired a legal team in a bid to force Easyjet to put the deal to a shareholder vote.

The Greek-Cypriot businessman has been trying to coerce the airline into cancelling the order altogether amid fears it will decimate Easyjet’s revenues, which have already slumped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The low-cost carrier has grounded its entire fleet due to the crisis, which has decimated the aviation industry around the world.

Last week the airline announced that it would defer the delivery of 24 new planes over the next three years, with the option to defer a further five more in 2022.

The move means that Easyjet will not take any deliveries of new planes in 2021. In a statement, it said: 

“Exact dates of future deliveries of the deferred aircraft are to be agreed in response to the demand environment”.

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Chief executive Johan Lundgren said that the deal will provide “a significant boost to the company’s cashflow and a vast reduction to the company’s near term capex programme”.

However, today Sir Stelios’ legal team has written to the FCA calling on the watchdog to force the airline to reveal further details of the deferral deal.

The letter said that if the FCA does not comply with Sir Stelios’ request he will take the body to judicial review.

Haji-Ioannou said: “The scoundrels at easyJet simply do not have the corporate authority to cut such a deal given the collapsed share price and the monumental size of the Airbus order. 

“If the FCA does not force them to call a shareholder vote, my company, easyGroup, will not hesitate to take the regulator to judicial review as the law provides.

“In plain English that means going to a High Court judge to ask for an injunction requiring the regulators to do their job properly.”

An Easyjet spokesperson said: “The company is well aware of its obligations and constantly reviews its obligations under the Market Abuse Regulation”.

City A.M. has contacted the FCA for comment.