EasyJet Cuts Holding as Warning Against Aircraft Orders

EasyJet Plc founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou reduced his holding in the low-cost U.K. airline and threatened a further cutback in the stake should the company seek new airplanes in five years.

Haji-Ioannou family members sold a total 600,000 shares last week, cutting their combined stake in the Luton, England-based airline to just under 37 percent, the entrepreneur, who goes by his first name, said in an e-mailed statement today. EasyJet should refrain from buying more airliners and focus on increasing profitability, he said.

“If the board places another order for aircraft, it will destroy shareholder value into the future,” Stelios said. “Instead of ordering new aircraft, EasyJet should aim for a 10 percent profit margin” compared with 7 percent currently.

Stelios, EasyJet’s biggest shareholder, has criticized investor returns and argued for more than four years that the carrier should resist expansion amid economic turmoil in Europe. EasyJet’s fleet of 217 Airbus A319 and A320 planes is “too big for the winter season,” and the models are largely “brand new” and don’t need to be replaced, he said today.

Anne Knowles, an EasyJet spokeswoman, declined by phone to comment on Stelios’s statement.

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