January 21, 2020 / 12:55 PM / a month ago

EasyJet's Stelios plans 'token vote' against expansion strategy

LONDON (Reuters) - EasyJet’s founder and biggest shareholder Stelios Haji-Ioannou said he planned to vote against the re-election of the budget airline’s chairman in order to express his view that higher profits should be prioritized over capacity growth.

Haji-Ioannou’s “token vote” against chairman John Barton is meant as constructive criticism, he said, and will represent his opposition since 2017, when he challenged fleet expansion.

Haji-Ioannou says that by 2021, easyJet will have 352 planes and will generate an estimated 110 pence of earnings per share, which is disappointing as more planes are not translating into higher profits. In 2015, the airline had 241 planes and made diluted EPS of 138 pence.

His family own 33.7% of easyJet shares according to Refinitiv data.

The tone of the protest vote is in sharp contrast to the early 2010s, when Haji-Ioannou, who is better known simply as Stelios and who founded easyJet in 1995, quit the airline’s board after a row over strategy and then opposed pay packages for its top executives.

He said he will make the token vote at easyJet’s annual general meeting on Feb. 6, but was otherwise complimentary of Barton.

“I believe that he is doing a good job listening to all shareholders and he has agreed to accept this token vote as a constructive criticism at the annual general meeting,” Haji-Ioannou said in an emailed statement.

EasyJet said in response that it listens carefully to the views of all its shareholders.

“The board believe that our current strategy will drive future returns and we will continue to deliver value for both customers and shareholders,” said a spokeswoman.

Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Stephen Addison

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