U.K. Carrier Flybe May Get Bid From Airport Operator Stobart

A Flybe aircraft, operated by Flybe Group Plc, taxis at London City Airport in London, U.K.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Logistics specialist and airports operator Stobart Group Ltd. said it’s looking at putting together a bid for Flybe Group Plc, Britain’s biggest domestic airline, as the regional carrier grapples with declining earnings.

Flybe shares rose the most in four years Thursday as Stobart said options include taking a non-controlling interest in a business that would make a cash bid for all of the airline. The Carlisle, England-based company will announce any decision by March 22, it said in a statement

Stobart, which owns Southend and Carlisle airports, is looking at Flybe after saying in October that that it was examining alternative structures that would allow its own carrier, the former Aer Arann, and a plane-leasing business to play “an important part” in consolidating the regional airline sector.

Flybe shares closed up 36 percent at 47 pence after their biggest advance since November 2013, valuing the company at 102 million pounds ($142 million). The stock has gained almost 50 percent in 2018 after losing value in each of the past three years. Stobart closed 2.2 percent higher at 255.5 pence.

Flybe is cutting capacity and shrinking its fleet after struggling to compete in a regional market that serves smaller cities with limited passenger flows. The strategy is aimed at lifting occupancy levels after a glut of seats last year led to the demise of carriers including Monarch Airlines and Air Berlin Plc.

Stobart’s businesses include a stake in the Eddie Stobart trucking arm for which the name is best known, and supplying waste wood to biomass power plants. The airline unit, renamed Stobart Air, operates some flights for Flybe, which also serves Southend, promoted by Stobart as a new London gateway.

Exeter, England-based Flybe said in a statement that it has not received any approach from Stobart and that shareholders should take no action.

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