Flybe brand to disappear as Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Group agree takeover

Flybe shareholders urged to accept Virgin Atlantic's £2.2m takeover offer

Connect Airways, a consortium comprised of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and USA private equity firm Cyrus Capital Partners, has agreed to acquire distressed United Kingdom regional airline Flybe for £2.2 million.

The purchase will value Flybe's equity at just over £2m (€2.2m), with the buyers having pledged to plough as much as £100m (€111m) into the airline to keep it flying.

The news comes less than two months after the struggling airline put itself up for sale.

Councillor Ian Thomas, leader of East Devon District Council said: "I welcome this latest development towards confirming future ownership of Flybe".

Stobart Group, which includes Stobart Air will use its fleet, along with Flybe's fleet of regional jets and turboprops to operate flights but it is likely that routes that aren't central to Flybe's operations such as flights to European countries such as Italy and Germany from Cardiff, Leeds and other smaller airports will lose out to an increased focus on Domestic operations.

Cyrus will own 40 per cent of the new company, while Virgin and Stobart will take 30 per cent apiece.

Following which Connect Airways will acquire the entire issued, and to be issued, share capital of Flybe.

The group intends for Flybe to continue as an independent operating carrier with a separate UK Air Operator Certificate under the Virgin Atlantic brand.


Flybe put itself up for sale in November previous year after issuing a profit warning.

Flybe CEO Christine Ourmieres-Widener said: "By combining to form a larger, stronger, group, we will be better-placed to withstand these pressures".

The statement said the new airline would "continue to serve customers and communities across the United Kingdom and Ireland", but stopped short of making any specific pledges about whether all the routes FlyBe now services would continue to exist in the new world.

"We are pleased to have this opportunity to partner with Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital to bring Virgin Atlantic service excellence to Flybe's customers".

"The combined entity will be a powerful combination with sufficient scale to compete effectively in the United Kingdom and European airline markets", added the former Easyjet executive.

As part of the new growth strategy, Flybe's network will be altered to improve connectivity with Virgin Atlantic's long-haul flights out of London Heathrow and Manchester airports, according to a document on the acquisition. Mr Branson sold a 31pc stake in Virgin Atlantic to Air France-KLM in 2017, and retains a 20pc holding in the airline.

Warwick Brady, chief executive of Stobart Group, said it would also be an opportunity to get more passengers to fly from Southend airport, which it owns, along with Carlisle airport.

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