Britain's Stobart considering bid for airline Flybe

LONDON (Reuters) - British infrastructure and support services firm Stobart Group STOB.L is considering bidding as part of a consortium to acquire struggling regional carrier Flybe FLYB.L.

FILE PHOTO: An airport worker examines a flybe aircraft before it takes off from Liverpool John Lennon Airport in Liverpool northern England, May 19 , 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Shares in Flybe soared 26 percent on Thursday on the news to 43.5 pence by 1541 GMT, valuing the carrier at almost 105 million pounds.

“A number of potential structures have been considered including taking a non-controlling interest in a vehicle to acquire 100 percent of Flybe likely to be in cash,” Stobart said in a statement.

Reuters had reported earlier on Thursday that Stobart was in talks about a possible deal.

Flybe said it had not received an approach from Stobart about a possible offer and added: “Flybe shareholders are strongly advised to take no action at this stage.”

A spokesman for Stobart declined to identify possible partners in any bid for the airline.

Stobart is eyeing Flybe after the carrier was left vulnerable by a slump in its share price.

Shares traded at more than 90 pence in 2015 but had plunged to as low as 30.75 pence in December 2017, according to Thomson Reuters data, after the airline was hit by faltering demand for its flights.

Christine Ourmieres-Widener, appointed chief executive in January 2017, has been working to reduce the carrier’s fleet of aircraft in an effort to cut costs.

Stobart already has close links with the airline as its aviation arm operates some European flights for Flybe from London Southend Airport, which the infrastructure company owns.

Stobart started life as haulage business Eddie Stobart but has switched its focus away from lorries in recent years.

Trucking firm Eddie Stobart Logistics, best-known in Britain for its distinctive green and red lorries, is now separately listed on the London stock market, although Stobart retains a 12.5 percent stake in the company.

Reporting by Ben Martin; Editing by Adrian Croft and Edmund Blair