UK-based Invesco Asset Management has become a major shareholder in Aer Arann, the Irish Independent has learned.
The airline underwent a major ownership overhaul before Christmas as chairman Padraig O Ceidigh, who'd been the face of the airline for almost 20 years, sold the bulk of his remaining stake in the business and stepped back from his involvement in it.
Aer Arann – which now operates all its flights under the Aer Lingus regional brand through a franchise agreement with the former state-owned airline – emerged from examinership in 2010 with a deal that saw UK logistics group Stobart take a small stake in the firm.
Businessman Tim Kilroe Jnr also invested in Aer Arann as part of that process. However, he is no longer a shareholder in the business.
Last year, Stobart approached Mr O Ceidigh about buying out most of his remaining stake in the airline. That has resulted in Stobart boosting its holding in Aer Arann to 42pc. Invesco also owns 42pc of the carrier. Another new shareholder in the airline is London-based Cenkos Securities. It has taken about a 10pc stake.
Mr O Ceidigh has retained a 5pc holding. Invesco is already a shareholder in Stobart which is a listed company.
A spokesman for Aer Arann also declined to comment.
Under an agreement reached with other shareholders, the firm through which Mr O Ceidigh owns his 5pc stake will be paid a minimum of €100,000 if shareholders holding more than 50pc of shares in Aer Arann agree to sell the business to a third-party purchaser.
That minimum payment to Mr O Ceidigh's company is guaranteed under a so-called 'drag along' clause.
Aer Arann interim chief executive Sean Brogan said last week that the airline was embarking on a "new beginning" after completing a successful restructuring.
It aims to double its annual passenger figures to two million by 2018 and to become one of Europe's leading regional airlines by 2015.
The airline is launching new services from Dublin to both Manchester and Birmingham this summer and will also boost the number of services to Scotland.
Aer Arann has also signed a 10-year extension to the franchise agreement that it has with Aer Lingus. Chief executive Christoph Mueller has on a number of occasions ruled out making a direct investment in Aer Arann.
However, Aer Lingus has taken a 33pc equity stake in a company that will acquire eight aircraft that will in turn be leased to Aer Arann.
Aer Lingus will pay an initial $14.2m (€10.5m) for its stake in the firm and may boost that if a further two aircraft are acquired.