easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) has increased its EU ownership to 49% so that it can continue to operate in Europe after Brexit, according to a statement made at the airline’s annual general meeting on Thursday morning.
John Barton, chairman of the FTSE 100 carrier, said the firm was confident of its ability to keep flying whatever the outcome of Brexit, adding that it had “undertaken significant preparations” for Brexit since the result of the referendum in June 2016.
“To allow us to continue flying within Europe after Brexit, we are required to ensure ongoing compliance with EU ownership and control requirements. To this end, our active investor relations programme continues to focus on Europe and we have now increased our EU ownership to 49%. This level of EU ownership is only marginally below the 50% plus 1 share that would be required if there is a "no deal" Brexit and there is no adjustment period for compliance with EU ownership requirements” Barton said.
He added that the company had set up new operating companies in Austria and the UK and ring-fenced them to protect the operations, as well as transferring over 1,000 pilots and re-issuing 3,300 cabin crew licences.
The company also said that if the EU did not grant airlines any adjustment period to comply with ownership and control regulations, it was ready to “activate existing provisions of our Articles of Association to ensure that the Company will comply following Brexit”.
“This would be achieved by exercising the Company's existing powers to suspend shareholders' voting rights, in respect of a small number of shares. For the period of any such suspension, the relevant shareholders would not be permitted to attend, speak or vote at shareholder meetings in respect of the shares subject to the suspension.”
As Brexit approached, easyJet said it was “operationally well prepared” but would remain focussed on broader external risks that could emerge, including any impact on consumer confidence or the potential costs of increased friction in travel between the EU and the UK.
In lunchtime trading Thursday, easyJet shares were down 1.4% at 1,301p.