Sunday 15 September 2019

Flybe shares rocket as Virgin enters fray

Virgin is thought to be vying with Stobart to buy Flybe.

Flybe shares are on the rise (PA)
Flybe shares are on the rise (PA)

By Ravender Sembhy, Press Association City Editor

Shares in Flybe took off on Friday following confirmation that Virgin Atlantic is in talks about a takeover bid for the struggling airline.

Virgin, part owned by Sir Richard Branson, is vying with Stobart to buy Flybe and is interested in its take-off and landing slots at London’s Heathrow Airport.

The domestic airline said on Friday: “The board of Flybe Group notes the recent media speculation and confirms that Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited is one of the parties it is in discussions with as part of the formal sale process.”

Flybe shares were up nearly 70% in afternoon trade at 16.15p.

The regional airline put itself up for sale last week after warning over profits earlier in the year.

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Virgin Atlantic is reportedly in talks over a takeover bid (Hannah McKay/PA)

The Exeter-based carrier is battling challenging conditions in the airline industry and has been hit with falling demand and a £29 million hit from rising fuel costs and the weak pound.

Flybe has 78 planes operating from smaller airports including London City, Southampton and Norwich, and flies to destinations across the UK and Europe.

It carries around eight million passengers a year and Virgin would look to attract customers into its long-haul network via Flybe’s domestic routes.

Virgin said in a statement: “Virgin Atlantic has a trading and codeshare relationship with Flybe and confirms that it is reviewing its options in respect of Flybe which range from enhanced commercial arrangements to a possible offer for Flybe.”

Trade unions have already raised concerns over the impact of a Flybe’s sale on the carrier’s 2,300 employees.

In half-year results announced last week, Flybe saw cost-cutting help lift underlying pre-tax profits to £9.9 million from £9.2 million a year earlier.

But statutory pre-tax profits for the six months to September 30 more than halved to £7.4 million from £16.1 million a year earlier.

It saw group revenues fall 10% or 2.4% on an underlying basis to £409.2 million after it cut capacity by 9%.

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