LONDON (Reuters) - Three investors in easyJet (EZJ.L) have thrown their weight behind the British airline’s management in their battle with the founder and biggest shareholder Stelios Haji-Ioannou over a 4.5 billion pound plane order.
The dispute is due to come to a head on May 22 when the results of an investor vote on whether to remove easyJet’s chief executive, chairman, chief financial officer and another director will be made public.
The vote, forced by Haji-Ioannou, is a proxy vote on management’s strategy to still buy more planes from Airbus (AIR.PA), one of many areas of broader corporate conflict sparked by a race to save cash during the pandemic.
Haji-Ioannou, whose family own just over a third of the stock, wants the airline to scrap the plan to buy 107 new planes, arguing that the coronavirus pandemic means the carrier cannot afford them and they won’t be needed.
INVESCO, which according to Refinitiv data owns 10% of easyJet’s shares and is its No.2 shareholder; Ninety One UK Limited, which has 5.2% and is No.3 on the list plus Phoenix Asset Management, with 3.3% and the fifth-biggest, all said they were backing management in the vote.
To win the votes, Haji-Ioannou’s resolutions need backing from over 50% of the shares voted.
EasyJet has agreed to defer the delivery of 24 of the new aircraft, but its chairman John Barton says it needs to stick with the order to modernise its fleet and because any termination would be costly. He has added that removing directors at this time would be “damaging and destabilising”.
EasyJet published the investor letters supporting its management on its website.
Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Stephen Addison