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Virgin Atlantic and Stobart led consortium to takeover Flybe

11 January 2019

There had been speculation that Virgin would make an offer for Flybe, since the carrier put itself up for sale late previous year.

Flybe has recommended shareholders accept a cut-price £2.2m takeover offer from a consortium led by Virgin Atlantic, after the regional airline struggled with rising fuel costs, currency volatility and political uncertainty.

Flybe, which has 78 planes, received interest from multiple parties for all or part of the business.

Warwick Brady, chief executive of Stobart Group, said: "The board of Stobart Group believes that bringing Stobart Air together with Flybe and partnering with Virgin Atlantic and Cyrus Capital is the best way for us to play an active role in regional airline consolidation".

Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, added: "The Virgin Atlantic brand is built on the foundation of putting customers at the heart of everything we do, providing them with the choice they deserve and a travel experience they love".

The carrier started life in 1979 as Jersey European Airways, offering flights from the Channel Islands to the UK. Its fleet is mainly comprised of smaller turbo-prop aircraft that carry fewer than 100 passengers.

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John Strickland, director at JLS Consulting, said: "It's still a hard part of the airline market to operate in".

"It will provide much needed certainty for numerous UK's regions for whom these air services are so important", Strickland told Skift via email.

It will lend £20m to keep Flybe afloat and following completion of the acquisition will provide a further £80m to invest in its business and support its growth, as well as a contribution of Stobart Air.

A consortium of industry big-hitters has struck a deal to buy Flybe in a move created to help the airline "be better placed" to withstand certain pressures including higher fuel costs, currency fluctuations and significant uncertainties presented by Brexit, all of which have put pressure on the company's short-term financial performance.

"We have been affected by all of these factors which have put pressure on short-term financial performance", she said.

Virgin Atlantic will count itself the victor after reports of a bidding war between Sir Richard Branson and International Airlines Group boss Willie Walsh sent Flybe shares rocketing back up in late November. At the same time, Flybe suffered from a number of legacy issues that are being addressed but are still adversely affecting cashflows. "We aim to provide an even better service to our customers and secure the future for our people".

Virgin Atlantic and Stobart led consortium to takeover Flybe