Flybe Group plc, Britain’s largest domestic airline and Europe’s largest regional carrier which just went public, has a famous investor – billionaire hedge-fund manager/financier George Soros has invested 7.2-million pounds sterling into the company
Soros made the acquisition through this Quantum Partners investment firm, providing him a 3.4 percent stake in the carrier, reportedly making him Flybe’s fourth-largest investors.
The biggest investor, the family of founder Jack Walker, owns 49 percent, followed by British Airways, which has 15 percent; and Flybe management, led by chief executive Jim French, who together own 7 percent.
The company raised about 66-million pounds (including exercise of the over-allotment) in its London offering and is widely seen a giving a boost to Britain’s IPO market which has endured a disappointing year.
The airline said it will use half the proceeds of the offering to fund fleet expansion, with the remainder to be used to finance “growth opportunities”, including potential acquisitions in mainland Europe.
The company is now engaged in talks to offer “feeder services:” to the hubs of major European carriers. In July, Flybe had entered into a code-sharing agreement with Air France-KLM.
CEO French has stated he wants Flybe to remain an independent operator, in cooperative deals with as many European airlines as possible.
“We’re not going into Europe to challenge Ryanair, EasyJet and Air France,” French said. “We have a substantial airline that can give a lot of feed into the hubs, but we’re not a subsidiary of anybody. We set out to create this new generation of regional airline that took the key elements of the legacy carriers and the key elements of the low-cost carriers.”
In November 1983 British businessman Jack Walker acquired control of Jersey European Airways and later rebranded itself as Flybe in 2002.
Flybe became Britain’s top domestic carrier in 2007 when it completed the acquisition of British Airways’s BA Connect unit for 521 million pounds, which added more than 50 routes and doubled its number of customers.