Aer Lingus offloads Spanish charter airline firm Futura in ?35m deal
AER Lingus yesterday said it had sold its Spanish charter airline business Futura to its management team in a deal valuing the company at ?35m.
The firm is headquartered in Palma Majorica, has a Spanish management team, and employs 600 people.
Aer Lingus will retain a 20pc stake in the business, while the remainder of the shares will owned by the local management.
The Irish airline's chief executive Willie Walsh and treasurer Brian Wheatley will have seats on the board of Futura.
The Irish state-owned carrier decided to sell the firm because it was not a core business.
But it is understood the venture capital group behind the management buyout, Corpfin Capital, wanted the input of the airline at board level.
Futura had profits of between ?4m and ?6m per annum, but it is operating in an industry which is suffering from declining margins.
It deals directly with tour operators and does not work with the public.
The management buyout has been under negotiation for a number of months.
Aer Lingus is expected record profits of ?50m for 2002, although earlier it had been forecast to suffer a loss of ?27m as a result of the downturn in the aviation sector following the September 11 airline crisis.
Confirming the conclusion of the sale agreement, Aer Lingus chief financial officer, Brian Dunne said: "As part of the Aer Lingus survival plan, it was decided to focus exclusively on the core scheduled airline business. He added Futura has made a significant niche in the charter business with a good brand.
During the past year, Aer Lingus has consolidated by selling Aviation Services, Timas (Galileo Ireland), two aircraft, a number of freehold and leasehold properties, and the company's collection of art.
He said the improved trading position of the airline, together with a number of financial restructuring steps, have led to a significant improvement in the cash position of Aer Lingus.
Mr Dunne concluded: "The sale of Futura concludes a very significant period in the financial restructuring of Aer Lingus.
"Through a number of measures taken by the airline, our overall financial position is much stronger than a year ago."